Picnic Ideas – Pack a Picnic From Your Pantry

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Summer is on the way. You need to start thinking about being prepared for picnics, especially those times when everyone, at the last minute, cries, “Let’s go on a picnic!” Oh dear. A picnic. Whatever will we take to eat?

There are some things you can do to plan ahead for a picnic. Then, with a few items stocked and a game plan to follow, going on a picnic at the drop of a straw summer hat will be a piece of cake!

Picnic ideas– what to do to plan ahead:

  1. Pack a box or container with all the reusable, plastic dishes and utensils your family needs for a picnic. Don’t forget a knife to cut food, a pitcher for drinks, a can opener, serving utensils, etc.  In your picnic box, you could include an old bed sheet for a table cloth. Twin-size bottom sheets work very well for this, as the elastic corners help it to stay on the picnic table without blowing off. Close up this box when packed and label “picnic.” If you will be using a park BBQ to cook food while out, then pack another box for the utensils needed, including pot holders, and label it also.
  2. Pack a box or two to put in the pantry with nonperishable food items such as: juice, cookies or crackers, pork & beans, canned fruit, canned fish or meat. Tuna in foil packets works well because it doesn’t need to be drained. Chips or pretzels could be included but go easy on these as they don’t deliver much nutrition. If you go somewhere that doesn’t have drinking water available, you could either pack bottled water or take a large water canteen.
  3. Keep some reusable freezer packs in your freezer to avoid having to buy ice at the last minute. They also don’t create the mess that the melting ice does. Keep your picnic cooler clean and in a handy place. Also, freeze some water in small empty yogurt containers, which are not bigger than the mouth of your water canteen. These can be emptied into the canteen to make instant ice water to take on your picnic.

Once you have planned and packed the items above, going on a picnic at the last minute really is a piece of cake. You’ll be ready in only a few minutes to head out the door. No muss, no fuss, no going to the store.

  • Open your clean cooler and put ice packs inside.
  • Throw in whatever you can find in the fridge: apples, carrots, cheese, leftover cooked chicken, etc.
  • Place bread or buns on top.
  • Cover food with a towel and facecloth and close the lid. The towel and facecloth are for washing sticky hands later.
  • Grab your picnic box with all your utensils and dishes in it.
  • Grab your pantry box with the nonperishable food and juices in it.
  • Fill up your large water canteen with the ice cubes you made and some water.

Picnic Ideas: Brainstorm about where to go to enjoy your family picnic:

A picnic can be a fun, inexpensive family activity to do in the summertime. One thing extra you could do to be prepared is make a list of all the places you could possibly go on a picnic. Include your favorite parks and see what else the surrounding area offers. Decide how far away you are willing to travel and then make a list of all the possible picnic places within that area. One fun idea is to make a goal to visit each place once over the summer vacation. Don’t forget to encourage your family to give you input for new and exciting picnic ideas to try for next year.

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Summer Is the Season of Mobile Search

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It’s Summer and that means that people will start coming out of hibernation and frolicking more (at least in the Midwest anyway). From patio to picnic more people will be turning to their phone and performing mobile search to find things to do.

To capitalize, you’ll need to be easy to find. That means it might be time to take a closer look at your mobile marketing strategy. Mobile marketing is more than just having a mobile website. It also means being easy to communicate with via a mobile device.

For example, when I land on your mobile website, chances are all I want to know is if you’re open or not and how to reach you. So, your phone and hours should be front-and-center.

With more than 8.4% of all global websites visits coming from a mobile device, you can’t risk losing me when I stop-by. Make it easy for me, please?

In the last twelve months, customers around the world have ordered more than $1 billion of products from Amazon using a mobile device,” – Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com (July 2010).

I know, I know, that’s Amazon. But you know what, those people that do business with Amazon also do business with you. They have been spoiled by brands like Amazon and now expect something similar from everyone. That’s a trend that will continue.

As smart brands continue to raise the bar, stupid brands will appear even more stupid.

Does not take a rocket scientist to get going either. Here are a few quick tips on how to make your small business more mobile friendly:

  1. Keep the most relevant information for customers on the home page and easy to find. Stuff like hours and a phone number are absolute musts.
  2. Consider building a mobile version of your website that can detect a mobile device when it’s loaded and serve a special “mobile friendly” website. If not a website, consider at least building a landing page dedicated to mobile.
  3. Think about the 3rd-party sites that most often appear in search. Yelp, SuperPages, Facebook all come to mind. Make sure that you’ve updated these platforms as well. They’re gonna show up so you might as well tend to them.

That’s a good start.

Later in the game you start dabbling with SMS campaigns and QR codes and jazz like that. For now, just master these basics and you’ll be more mobile in no time.

For more mobile usage statistics, check out this post.

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Swimming With Maya – A Story of Resilience and Love

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Swimming with Maya appeared on my TBR (to be read) pile toward the end of my pregnancy. The memoir was said to be “heartbreaking and heart-healing,” but I was pretty sure I would never be able to handle the heartbreaking part under the circumstances. I picked up Swimming with Maya and put it down after a few pages. I loved the story but was fearful of how I might deal with the loss and heartache Eleanor had to endure. Vincent’s writing and her triumphant spirit kept pulling me back in. I was so drawn in by the heart-healing part of the story that I found myself enjoying the memoir so much I couldn’t put it down.

No parent wants to think of the unthinkable death of a child; and yet each of us does. We don’t want anything to happen to our children, and yet as we carry them we fear miscarriage, after they are born we worry about sudden infant death syndrome, then there are school shootings, traffic accidents, etc… since death is a fact of life, we encounter thoughts and fears of loss each and every day. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent and in my opinion this makes the mother-daughter bond even stronger.

It’s impossible to imagine what Eleanor Vincent was feeling when her 19 year old daughter, Maya falls from a horse and is left in a coma which eventually took her life. Eleanor’s made the courageous decision to donate Maya’s organs. Eleanor uses her difficult situation and Maya’s death to tell an inspirational and motivational story and Eleanor is even stronger (as is the reader) at the end of the story.

Swimming with Maya was more about triumph than I had imagined. I was thankful to have read through the difficult times to see the memorable and motivational message. I admire Eleanor Vincent for being able to put her story down on paper for all to read. I cannot imagine the tears that were shed as she relived those moments that would forever change her life. Thank you to Eleanor, Maya, and Dream of Things Publishing for sharing this triumphant story with readers everywhere. My personal thanks to Eleanor for writing in such a way the healing is more pronounced than the hurt – it was this reason alone I was able to read and finish Swimming with Maya.

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History And Background Of Betta Fish

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Historically speaking, Betta Fish are said to have gotten their name from an ancient clan of Asian warriors called the “Bettah.” They were given these warriors’ names because about 150 years ago people enjoyed participating in a popular sport that involved the fighting of two of these warrior fish. (In fact, the sport was so popular that it was regulated – and taxed – by the King of Siam!)

One interesting note about Betta fish fighting is that, unlike cock or dog fighting in the west, at Siamese fighting fish tournaments, the actual fight was more to test the bravery of the fish, rather than a fight to see how much damage would be inflicted, or a death match.

Spectators bet on how long a particular fish would fight, and which one would give up first. (In fact, most fish would only fight once or twice, and then live out the remainder of their lives being pampered and used for breeding.)

Natural Habitat

A Betta fish’s natural habitat is in shallow, tropical water. This is because they need to be able to surface frequently, in order to breathe air. They can be found in nature in rice paddies, drainage ditches, slow moving streams and fresh water ponds. Betta fish have even been known thrive in large puddles! Their natural food source is insects and mosquito larvae.

How Breeding Began

According to historical accounts, a close friend of the King of Siam, Dr. Theodore Cantor received a pair of breeding Bettas from the king in 1840. The doctor bred them and studied them for several years, and then wrote a scientific paper about them, giving them a Latin name of “Macropodus Pugnax.” However, shortly after his paper was published, Dr. Cantor discovered that a species by that name already existed, and so the fish were renamed “Betta Splendens.”

Several breeding pairs of Bettas where sent to Germany in 1896 and then in 1910, Mr. Frank Locke of San Francisco California imported several Bettas to the U.S.A.

One of the fish that he received had unusual red fins – and he excitedly thought he had discovered a new species, and named it “Betta Cambodia.” In reality, he had one of the first of the Betta splendens that had naturally developed new colors and characteristics through breeding.

Since that time, breeders have been able to develop Bettas with all of the vibrant coloring and varied fin shapes that we find today. Betta breeding has become a profitable and ongoing passion for many people today, many of whom started with just one or two Bettas in a small aquarium.

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How Long Does it Take to Paint a Wood Window?

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Well it’s all going to depend on the size and the design of the wood window, but you can plan on spending quite a bit of time, painting these intricate architectural items.

Let me give you an idea, I had to paint 7 wood windows, one time and these didn’t have any architectural details to them, they were simply plain old wood windows. The type of windows that were installed through out the 1950s and would need to be replaced or repaired, in the near future.

You’re going to find this hard to believe, but I used to paint the outside of the house, a small house, for $300, and a homeowner would supply me with the paint. I had to buy the rest of the materials, but I could paint the exterior of these small homes, in about a day and a half.

Except for the wood windows, this was a totally different story and I wouldn’t paint the wood windows each time I painted the house. I would often touch the windows up, but the amount of time that it would usually take me to paint these windows, was unbelievable.

Keep something in mind here, I could paint the entire house in about 12 hours, but it would take me about the same amount of time, just to paint the exterior of these windows and more than half of them wouldn’t open, because they were previously painted shut.

If the wood window has any sort of architectural detail, or any grids or divided lites, you could plan on spending quite a bit of time, painting each window. If you’ve never painted a wood window before, plan on spending at the least four to six hours, for window smaller than 3′ x 3′ and plan on spending at least eight to 12 hours, or more, for larger wood windows.

If you’re a contractor, who’s going to be bidding a job, you might want to contact a professional painter or at least get someone else’s opinion, before signing the contract.

If you’re a homeowner, and you hire a professional painter and they gives you a ridiculous bit, now you know why.

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The Hangover Part II – Completely The Same, But Exactly Different

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You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have The Hangover Part II, a movie that takes everything clever and amusing about its first part and turns it into something of a retread. We’ve seen it all before, and we certainly know the story: a few friends get way too drunk, wake up with no memory of anything that happened, and have to go on a fact-finding mission to recover the pieces of the night before. The film falls into the trap of its formula and can’t seem to get out. It worked in the first one because there’s no reason that any of that stuff should have happened – it wasn’t in the nature of those characters – but now it is in their nature, we’re taught to expect it, and there’s no reason it should have happened. Again. Maybe that’s funny to some people, but it belies the originality of the characters, characters I grew to love in the first film.

The Hangover was a character study, if you think about it. Yeah, it was a buddy movie, and a road movie, and a raunchy, R-rated comedy about a night of heavy drinking, but, at the risk of spoiling the joke, it was also about four guys with severe personality disorders learning about themselves. Given that, the film was interesting, and not just funny. It was a character-driven comedy, with dialogue carefully designed for the moment. Comedies are funniest when the situations are organic. The Hangover took that idea and flipped it on its head, making the punchlines the joke and the jokes the punchline, telling the entire film backwards, and placing our characters in situations that weren’t organic, but became organic because of another unknown situation that they had already been through. Part II does the same thing, but it’s expected, so the punchline that was the joke the first time around is now the punchline, but the situations they didn’t know about while they were drunk are still the punchline. It’s all about the payoff, but when there isn’t any buildup, how can we get the joke? Because we’ve heard it before? “Why the long face?” isn’t funny unless the horse walks into the bar.

When our film opens, Stu (Ed Helms) is marrying the gorgeous Lauren (Jamie Chung). Her father (Nirut Sirichanya) disapproves, probably because he saw The Hangover, but the plans go along anyway. Doug (Justin Bartha) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) are getting ready to go to Thailand for the wedding, and want to give Stu a bachelor party. Knowing that didn’t work too well last time, Stu instead opts for a “Bachelor Brunch” at IHOP. Not good enough. And as soon as Alan (Zack Galifianakis) is invited, it should be obvious to everyone involved that this isn’t going to end well. Of course, Alan was responsible for the mess in the first film, but he also saved the day, so, against Stu’s better judgment, he invites him to the wedding. They’re also given the task of looking after the bride’s little brother, kid genius Teddy (Mason Lee). They all go have a beer, and wake up hours later in a shady hostel room, with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), without Doug and, more importantly, with only Teddy’s finger, in the deep heart of seedy Bangkok.

Each character in the film is reduced to a simple version of the better characters they were in 2009. Doug is reduced to the conscience at the other end of the phone (remember Dwight Yoakam in Crank? It’s like that), and Mr. Chow is a sillier version of the effeminate gangster he used to be. He’s also pretty good friends with Alan. Phil is the only character treated with the same care as he was in the first film; he’s never been the better fourth of any of the group, but he’s a genuinely good man, and his parental care for Alan is still intact. Bradley Cooper does an excellent job in these films. I remember, in the first film, enjoying the child-like, clueless nature of Alan, and the way Zack G. played him as such. He never made fun of the character, and played it with as much conviction as Johnny Depp does Jack Sparrow, but here, the character isn’t charming anymore, and he’s a bit malicious; he’s no longer a silly man-child, just manic and unlikable. Stu, apparently, was given the proper amount of self-confidence by the end of the first film to pull any woman he wants, so he gets the picture-perfect Lauren, only to succumb to the same mess he did in the first film, almost to the letter. Instead of a good man in a bad situation, Stu just becomes a badly composed version of himself.

The Hangover Part II is well directed, just poorly written. Even the best-looking buildings can be poorly constructed. The absurdity and likability of the characters, most of them anyway, is compromised solely for eliciting laughs, and the situations aren’t   unique  or amusing anymore. It’s always sad watching a film you love become a bastardized version of itself for a paycheck. Of course, there’s always the caveat – The Hangover made me love these characters, and that was a character piece. I still do love the characters, and still do care about them, and I will see a third one, if it’s made, which it almost assuredly will be. I only hope that someone does something about Part II‘s horrendous screenplay. They need to return the characters back to their roots. Maybe Phil gets divorced, and the boys try to cheer him up? I’d see that. I heard rumors of a Mr. Chow spin-off, but I don’t see that working too well. Maybe it’s the way they left his character in this film, but I think that would just be a waste of time. Or, of course, Alan could get married. That’s a comedy in and of itself.

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How to Win at Online Slots Games

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Being a winning slot machine player is impossible. All slot machines are specifically designed in order to give the house a long term edge, so the house will always come out ahead if you play long enough. The only real way to counteract the house edge on slot machine games is to play a game with a really big jackpot, bet the max every time you play, and hope that you hit the jackpot. Then when you do hit the really big jackpot, guess what you do next? Stop playing that game.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t play slot machines. In fact, I think slot games, especially the really good ones, are a lot of fun. But you want to keep in the forefront of your mind that mathematically, what you’re doing when you’re playing a slot machine on a long term basis is paying for entertainment. You can calculate how much you’re paying for that entertainment by multiplying the house edge times your average bet times your number of spins per hour.

For example, if you’re playing a slot game with a payout of 95%, then the house edge is 5%. (The casino keeps 5% of every bet you make long term.) And if you’re average bet is $3, then you’re going to pay an average of 15 cents per spin to the house. (5% times $3.) Assuming you’re making 500 spins per hour, that game costs you $75/hour to play, which may or may not be a reasonable price for you entertainment. That depends on your bankroll.

Something else to factor into your calculation is how much the perks and bonuses you’re getting back from the casino are worth. If you’re playing in a land-based casino where you’re getting free drinks while you play, then you can subtract the cost of those drinks from you’re hourly cost. (Or you can add the cost of those drinks to the value of the entertainment you’re receiving–it’s just a matter of perspective.) My recommendation is to drink top-shelf liquor and premium beers in order to maximize the entertainment value you’re receiving. A Heineken can cost $4 a bottle in a nice restaurant. Drink two Heinekens an hour, and you’ve just lowered what it costs you to play each hour from $75 to $68.

Slot clubs also give back a percentage of your losses each hour, so definitely be sure you join the casino’s slot club and ALWAYS use your card to track your play. There’s absolutely no reason not to do this. Casinos also reward their larger slot players with comps like meals, show tickets, and free rooms, which all add up to reduce the amount of money you’re spending each hour that you’re playing on their machine.

So how to be a winning slot machine player? I’d sum it up by saying know how much it’s costing you to play each spin and each hour, take advantage of all the comps and the perks, and go for the big progressive jackpot.

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Stephen King’s Insomnia

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Stephen King’s Insomnia was first published in 1994 and like a number of King’s other novels, it is set in the state of Maine and in the fictional town of Derry. The genre of this book is not traditional horror but rather a supernatural or sci-fi thriller. Other aspects of the book are also somewhat unfamiliar to King’s normal offerings, firstly the book is very long at over 800 pages in length and also the main characters are all in their 60’s and older.

Even though Insomnia is in the supernatural or science fiction genre, King still manages to address a number of important issues whilst continuing uninterrupted with the book’s main story. Subjects such as abortion, domestic violence and women’s rights are all covered in such a way as not to detract from the entertaining storyline.

The plot of Stephen King’s Insomnia is rather slow to get going and things don’t really pick up pace until at least 100 pages in but this allows King to really create a cast of believable characters that the reader can empathize with throughout the novel. Ralph Roberts who is a retiree starts to have problems with insomnia and the condition deteriorates as he manages to get less and less sleep until he can’t sleep at all. Ralph starts to see things that aren’t able to be seen by other people such as people’s energy fields or ‘auras’ and alien beings that he calls ‘little bald doctors’ as a result of their appearance. Ralph also discovers that Lois Chasse, a woman he has feelings for is also able to see these alternate planes of reality and the alien creatures.

As with many of King’s books, one of the main themes of Insomnia is the fight of good versus evil and in this particular case the hero is Ralph Roberts who is a retired widower and a very ordinary and believable character who faces up against the Crimson King and his followers. There are a number of highly entertaining twists as King develops the plot, one in particular where Ralph is shown a piece of the future and has to make a life altering decision based on the vision, prompting the reader to question individual morality against self-preservation. As with many of King’s novels the ending isn’t all happiness however as the main protagonist is killed and is accompanied by the consoling remark that at last Ralph can rest.

Stephen King’s Insomnia had a very important part to play in the progression of King’s series of books because when Ralph defeats the Crimson King ultimately saving the life of the young boy Patrick Danville, it sets the direction for King’s Dark Tower series. Although the first novel in the Dark Tower series was published in 1982 and there were 3 books before Insomnia was even written, Insomnia introduces the reader to the pivotal character of Danville in the future Dark tower books.

Insomnia may not be a traditional Stephen King novel, it’s length, character composition and storyline pace are somewhat different to many of his other books, it is undoubtedly an enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining read.

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Stephen King’s Cujo

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In his partially autobiographical book On Writing (Scribner, 2000), author Stephen King admits that he was heavily into alcohol when he wrote Cujo (Viking; 1981). As a result, Stephen King’s Cujo lacks the true other worldliness that marks his best novels. Dog lovers will also be appalled at the description of the book’s title character – a gentle Saint Bernard that turns into a man-eating monster after getting bit by a rabid bat.

But still, a bad book by King is still better than a good book by most other horror and suspense writers, including Iris Johansen, Dean Koontz and Edgar Allan Poe. Stephen King’s Cujo offers some interesting tidbits for diehard King fans to discover. It’s set in a fictional town familiar to King fans, Castle Rock, Maine, the home for many King books, or is the town next door to the book’s action, as in Under the Dome (Scribner; 2009.)

Strong Characters

King’s great characters are his core strength. Even if a situation seems completely implausible, readers will still keep those pages turning to find out what happens to the characters. Stephen King’s Cujo is no exception. There is a town maniac, a beleaguered cop and a young couple with a small son trying to keep going after the wife admits to an affair. Even though King claims to have been drunk while writing the book, he has some touches that makes a character seem more real than a real person.

Even the title character is fleshed out. His unusual name gives a slight hint at the dark weirdness to follow. Cujo was named after one of Patty Hearst’s kidnappers, who everyone called Cujo but was really named Willie Wolfe. Cujo’s white trash owner at first doesn’t seem to be capable of making the logical leap to name his dog after a kidnapper, but then nothing in Cujo is quite as it first appears.

Problematic Plot

The main downfall of the book is the plot. Anyone who has kept dogs or bothered to learn anything about rabies knows that no matter how rabid a dog is, they do not become a Cujo. Although the book at times hints at otherworldly forces at play (such as the son’s persistent fear of a monster in his closet) they never materialize. This teasing with the reader goes on for quite a bit of Stephen King’s Cujo.

A good part of the book is taken up with the wife’s affair, perhaps in an attempt to show which was the worse monster – the guy she has an affair with or Cujo. But these two plot lines never merge, as they would in most other King books. This is another annoying tease for the reader to put up with.

Another stumbling block is that many problems facing the young mother and her son in their showdown with Cujo is that it just wouldn’t happen today in the age of mobile phones. Modern readers have to keep reminding themselves that things like the Internet, standard air-conditioning in cars and mobile phones did not exist back in 1981.

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Do Not Buy the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” Book Until You Read This!

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Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kyosaki

“What the rich teach their kids- that you can learn too.”

What is the book about?

Rich Dad, Poor Dad introduces you to the basic principles of investing, explains why investing is so important, and explodes the myth that you need to earn a high income to become rich.

Who is this book written for?

If you have little or no financial education and want to learn the basic rules about investing, read this book!

Robert Kyosaki, a self-made millionaire, successful business owner and international best-selling author, teaches you about investing, by recounting the story of his financial education from two strong role models:

Poor Dad (his natural father), a well educated and highly paid government official.

Rich Dad (his best friend Mike’s father), a high school dropout and successful businessman

Each Dad had a very different attitude and approach towards the subject of money. One ended up jobless and in debt, the other, one of the richest men in Hawaii.

Robert describes, how as a small boy, he made the decision to listen to his Rich Dad who subsequently taught him how to think, act and become rich.

“One dad had a habit of saying ‘I can’t afford it’ the other ‘how can I afford it’…One statement lets you off the hook, the other forces you to think”

Robert writes in a simple, non-assuming style without complicated words and financial jargon. Through amusing stories and simple diagrams he explains the six basic lessons his Rich Dad taught him about money.

“Most of us learn about money from our parents, so what can poor parent tell their child about money? Stay in school and study hard? Schools focus on scholastic and professional skills but not on financial skills. This explains how smart bankers, doctors and accountants who earned excellent grades in school, struggle financially all of their lives”

I say:

Never read a book about investing? This should your first one.

I came across “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” completely by accident, in my local bank.

It immediately stuck out from the boring “money magazines” and after flicking through a few pages, I was so impressed (and surprised) a book about finance could actually hold my attention, that I bought it and finished it in one sitting.

For anyone (like me) whose parents never taught you about financial matters, I suggest you buy this IMMEDIATELY!

There are no definitive, practical instructions of how to get rich, but it will open your mind to the possibility. More importantly it will change the way you think about money forever.

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