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Rays Monczka Monthly

November 2019

7 Fabulous Dollar Store Finds


Before we get into the top 7 Fabulous Dollar Store Finds, we here at Ray Monczka Painting, LLC have an announcement to make: We’ve launched a $4,000 Raffle Giveaway. Please click here for all the details.

Okay, where were we? Oh, yeah, dollar store finds.

You know how the ‘ol saying goes: You get what you pay for.

And while that certainly rings true—at least in some instances—the flip side of the coin is that it is indeed possible to find real bargains on good, quality items. We see it all the time: Visit a department store the day after Halloween or Christmas and you’ll find slashed prices on a plethora of goods and décor…the very same goods and décor that were marked up three times as much before the holidays.

But there is one place to find deals everyday: dollar stores.

In fact, there are three main stores that are commonly referred to as the dollar store—and they all sell discounted items. But there are subtle differences between each of these retailers:

Dollar Tree: Every single item costs $1 or less.
Family Dollar: Cost of items range from less than $1 to $10.
Dollar General: Most items cost less than $10, but there are still plenty of items that cost $1 or less.

You may even want to shop at all three—because if you can’t find something for $1, less than $10 is still a pretty good deal.

The following list is comprised of items from Dollar Tree that cost only $1 each…

  1. Gift bags

    Paying five bucks (or more; ouch!) for a gift bag is for the birds. Save big during holidays and birthdays by purchasing these at the dollar store, every single bag is only $1. And Dollar Tree also sells sets of three mini gift bags also for $1.

  2. Greeting Cards

    When you start buying your greeting cards at the dollar store, there is no turning back. The selection is quite impressive, and nowadays, you can find Hallmark and other brand names for even less than a dollar: some greeting cards at the dollar store fall into the two-for-a-dollar category.

  3. Seasonal décor

    From wall hangings to themed garland, it all costs $1. And don’t think for a second that all dollar tree décor looks cheap…it doesn’t. To the contrary, you may just find that special something that you can’t find anywhere else.

  4. Reading glasses

    Every pair is only $1. Yes…reading glasses…for a buck. And considering how easy it is for us to misplace a pair, you can certainly spring for two or three pairs (to keep in your desk, purse, or car)—just in case.

  5. Hair accessories

    Two words: rubber bands. Nothing grows legs and disappears faster than a rubber band when you need one. Stock up at the dollar store, and you’ll never be without one again.

  6. Tableware Mugs and glasses

    Now this is where shopping gets really fun. From wine glasses to cute coffee mugs, you’ll find ‘em all for a buck. Why, you could easily buy enough stemware for a special occasion. And here’s the kicker: Your guests won’t even know that the glasses they’re drinking out of cost less than the jumbo pack of paper towels in your closet.

  7. Boxed Candy

    Perfect for quaint gestures and stocking stuffers, you’re likely to find the perfect box of candy at the dollar store. Pssst: Last year, Dollar Tree sold $1 bags of individually wrapped Godiva chocolates during the holidays. Just sayin’.

October 2019

4 TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP


Honestly, tell the truth: Is the quality of your sleep satisfactory?

If you’re like most Americans, the answer is no.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, forty percent of people age 40 to 59 reported that they are getting less than recommended amounts of sleep. Sleep Advisor reports that 50 to 70 million people in the US suffer from one or several sleep disorders. And lack of sleep costs the United States over $411 billion annually, according to Fortune Magazine.

We all know that sleep is necessary for our physical and mental health, of course, but we still take sleep for granted. The good news, however, is that even small, subtle changes to our nighttime routine can help us achieve the deep, restful sleep our bodies deserve.

Here are four tips that can lead to waking up feeling refreshed:

  1. Establish a routine – and stick to it


    We’re creatures of habit, so if we create a routine for ourselves, we will reset our internal clock to expect sleep after a certain time each night. One way of achieving this is by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. Another way is to find one calming activity that works for you and make that your pre-bed ritual (i.e. dim the lights, read (even if it’s just a page or two), or listen to soft music).

  2. Be mindful of what you eat and drink


    What we eat and drink prior to bedtime can greatly affect our sleep. Of course, we already know to nix the caffeine. But do you also know to say no to alcohol, too? While an alcoholic drink in the evenings may help you fall asleep, studies have shown that it can prevent you from entering the deep stages of sleep that are vital to restoring your mind and body. And then there’s this: High-fat and high-protein foods (steak), as well as those containing high amounts of fiber (broccoli or cauliflower), shouldn’t be eaten too close to bedtime because these kinds of foods take longer for our bodies to digest, which can cause discomfort while we sleep. It’s best to eat dinner earlier in the evening, and if you’re still hungry, have a light snack before bedtime.

  3. Tune out and unplug


    Make an effort to disconnect from the outside world. A lot of us are guilty of trying to relax via TV, tablet, or by scrolling through social media on our phone in bed, but this can actually have the opposite effect. Turn off devices—the light they emit can activate our brain and cause our body to think it’s time to wake up instead of go to sleep.

  4. Get regular exercise


    Regular exercise, especially when done earlier in the day, can help us fall asleep faster and increase the amount of time we spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The key is, though, to complete any moderate to vigorous exercise more than three to four hours before bed. If done too late in the evening, exercising can make falling asleep even more difficult.

September 2019

"Make 'Em Your Way" No Bake Bites


Are you a horrible cook? Great! Then this newsletter is for you.

Are you a terrific cook? Excellent! This newsletter is for you, also.

Because here’s something we all have in common: Saving time is generally seen as a benefit—and ease isn’t frowned upon, either, particularly during this time of year when the transition from summer to fall generally means a reintroduction to a stricter schedule and a faster pace.

Enter this recipe for “Make ‘em your way” No Bake Bites.

They’re great for a quick breakfast—or to snack on during the day.

This easy recipe packs a powerful punch: These bites are full of protein, fiber, and flavor. And by adding certain ingredients and omitting others, you can pretty much customize these bites specifically to your liking.

This recipe yields approximately 20 1-inch balls, takes roughly five minutes to throw together, and involves zero cook time.

And best of all you cannot screw this up if you tried:

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup flax seed meal (Tip: See if the baking aisle of your grocery store carries flax seed meal—and it generally will—and you’ll find that it’ll cost than in the health food aisle).
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (these are optional, feel free to pass; or add M&Ms or, say, shredded coconut instead)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (use almond or cashew butter, or for a nut-free alternative, try Wowbutter Creamy Peanut Free Toasted Soy Spread (Walmart) or Sneaky Chef™ Creamy No-Nut Butter (Target)
  • ¼ cup honey (maple syrup works just fine, too. Another tip: Spray a little non-stick spray in the measuring cups before measuring the honey and peanut butter: it'll make the ingredients slide out of the cup, and make cleaning up easier.)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup to one full cup of any kind of chopped nuts (skip this step, too, if you’re not a fan of nuts)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. The mixture will become very thick quickly, which will make it quite easy to form into small balls (approximately 1 to 1½ tablespoon-sized.) Then place the balls in a container in layers separated by wax paper or place them in rows on a cookie sheet. Lastly, cover the container or tray and store it in the fridge...or not: These bites don't have to remain refrigerated; simply do so for about 15 minutes or so immediately upon making them to enable the balls to remain intact.)

So, whether you’re home-bound or on the go, keep a few of these bites to munch on during the day to keep your hunger at bay.

August 2019

4 CHEAP WAYS TO LIVE HEALTHIER

Thanks to advances in science and technology—as well as the advent of social media, we know more now about healthy living than ever before.

And here’s the best news: It doesn’t have to break the bank.

Here are four frugal ways to live healthier…


  1. Visit Your Locals Farmers Market

    Local produce tastes better, lasts longer, and is more nutrient-dense. “Locally grown produce is fresher and therefore more nutritious than produce trucked in from across the country or from around the globe,” says Kim Hutchinson, PhD, MBA, executive director of the Virginia Farmers Market Association. Furthermore, shopping local better enables you to eat what’s in season, which some nutritionists and scientists recommend because it’s better for you. Think about it: Humans ate seasonal produce for thousands of years before refrigerated shipping changed all that. Lastly, wouldn’t it give you peace of mind to know firsthand where your food comes from? Says Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York, “You can ask questions of the farmer that will help you to feel comfortable with the foods you are feeding your family.”

  2. USE SULFATE-FREE SOAP

    Have you heard of sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS? Even if you haven’t, you already know what SLS does: It's an extremely common ingredient in personal care products that allows cleansing products to foam and create suds. And it's in nearly EVERYTHING, including body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergent. SLS has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. Now, to be fair, there have been countless studies on SLS, and some researchers insist that "regular" exposure to SLS (whatever that means) is not the problem; rather it's the gradual, cumulative effects of long-term, repeated exposures that pose real concern. But nowadays, many consumers—particularly those who suffer from allergies and/or eczema—aren’t taking any chances and now sing the praises of having switched to SLS-free soaps and shampoos, which are readily available now at retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Marshalls, and even Dollar Tree.

  3. GET A HOUSEPLANT (OR SEVERAL)

    When we breathe, our body takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas use makes plants and people natural partners. Adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels. Plants release moisture vapor (roughly 97 percent of the water they take in), which increases humidity of the air around them. So, placing several plants together can increase the humidity of a room, which helps keeps respiratory distresses at bay. Studies at the Agricultural University of Norway document that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs. If you don't have a green thumb, relax. There are plenty of low-maintenance houseplants to consider, including a snake plant, aloe vera, ficus, and more. For a complete list of The 15 Easiest Houseplants That Won’t Die On You, click here.

  4. BUY A YOGA MAT

    You don’t have to become a yogi. You don’t even have to commit to establishing a full-blown yoga practice (Although, if you did, you’d surely reap a ton of benefits). Simply buy a yoga mat. Get an inexpensive one from the discount store Five Below. Or, if you can afford to spend a little more, go to TJ Maxx and spring for a twenty-dollar mat (which typically retails for twice as much). Just make an effort to unroll your mat a couple times a week. Do sit-ups on it. Or sit on your behind, bend forward, and touch your toes for a count of 20. Do something. Anything. If you do this with even a modicum of consistency, you will come to look forward to the time you spend on your mat. And your body—and overall health—will thank you.

Here’s to healthier living…with money to spare.

July 2019

Do This ONE THING More This Summer

Why Walking barefoot is more healthy


It’s true: Enjoying “long walks on the beach” is likely the most heavily referenced activity in singles ads.

But, turns out, there appears to be evidence of why placing our bare feet on the earth is such a calming, peaceful exercise.

Walking barefoot—also known as earthing or grounding—has gone from being considered hippy-dippy hogwash to a scientifically-researched practice with a number of remarkable health advantages. But more on the perks of the practice in a second. First, let’s define what earthing/grounding is.

One of the most eloquent and easily-understood descriptions of grounding comes from a website called MindBodyGreen.com: “Our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water, which is great for conducting electricity. The earth has a negative ionic charge. Going barefoot grounds our bodies to that charge. Negative ions have been proven to detoxify, calm, reduce inflammation, synchronize your internal clocks, hormonal cycles and physiological rhythms.”

As Certified Holistic Health Coach Rupina Meer put it, when our feet’s over 200,000 nerve endings actively respond to the ground, it’s like living reflexology.

According to Gaia, a health and wellness network, walking barefoot on either moist grass or the beach immediately produces a warm, tingling sensation or a sense of well-being that can trigger a multitude of health benefits, often within minutes. These benefits include relieving muscle tension, headaches and menstrual symptoms, a boost in immunity, a reduction in inflammation, and reduced stress hormones and improved blood pressure. Furthermore, for people who are ill—and therefore have the most free radicals—the benefits of grounding can be dramatic. And those who are healthy usually report sleeping better and having more energy after doing a bit of earthing.

Grounding/earthing is pretty self-explanatory, but here are some additional tips:

  • DO walk on grass that is slightly moist, as the water helps conduct the electrons; dry grass won’t be as effective
  • DON’T walk on grass or soil that is littered with dirt, dog/bird droppings etc. Because the soles of our feet are very effective at absorbing the earth’s energy, they can also absorb toxins. Clean grass, pristine forest, or beach soil is ideal
  • DO engage in grounding after flying, as our bodies bioelectrical rhythms are thrown out of balance in flight and grounding restores that electrical equilibrium
  • DO wash your feet with soap and water, after grounding, to get rid of soil detritus that you may have picked up
  • DON’T go barefoot if you have any open cuts/sores on your soles, as that can be an entry point for parasites/fungi

Well, here’s something that’s hard to deny: Walking barefoot is fun and carefree. It evokes happiness. Like finding a crumpled dollar bill in the pocket of a long-forgotten sweater—or hearing a Jimmy Buffett song during happy hour.

And, c'mon, walking barefoot just plain feels good.

Have a safe, and happy Fourth of July!

June 2019

Supersize Your Curb Appeal

Spruce up your yard a cinch!


Admit it: You’re not exactly trying to keep up with the Joneses, but you do admire their landscaping.

Or at the very least, you know your own yard is due for an upgrade. Not only is landscaping important to the overall beauty of your home, it also impacts resale potential.

Consider these money-saving tips when giving your home’s surroundings that much-needed face-lift:

Take measurements of your space and know where the sun is

First, measure your space, and then draw it out to scale on grid paper, which will be very helpful when placing plants. Next, ask yourself how much sun or shade each area gets. Keeping in mind whether the area faces north or south, etc. is also important: Putting a shaded plant in a spot with plenty of sun will likely kill the plant.

Choose Your Focal Point

What is the focal point of your landscape? Whether it’s a large tree or a wide picture window, knowing your focal point is the first step of ensuring the flow of your entire landscape.

Consider Plants Native to Your Climate

Visit the gardening center of your local home improvement store for recommendations. When in doubt, always choose a native plant.

Use Coupons (online codes and apps!) and Buy on Sale

Coupons can save you tons when food shopping – and the same goes for landscaping. The process of designing, preparing and installing your new landscape might take several months. And it’s no secret that it can be costly – even if you do it all yourself. Before you dive in, be on the look-out for coupons and specials from local retailers.

Don’t Over-crowd

When the time comes to roll up your sleeves and get to work, always remember to give plants the proper space that they need. Do not crowd the plants together. This is an easy mistake to make when plants are small, but it won’t be long before they grow to their determined size. If a plant tag says that it will grow 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide, allow for that space.

Use paper collars to identify plants

On the heels of the advice above, try this tip: Cut cardboard tubes from toilet paper into one-third sections to encircle the seed. This will keep you from plucking out your young plants. When you sow seeds, it can be hard to tell little weeds from the young sprouts.

Bury stones to make a mow strip

This nugget of wisdom will save time on yard maintenance for years to come: If you're building a fence, a retaining wall or a planter, set a course of protruding stones in the soil beneath it. That way, your mower can cut all the grass—no trimming by hand needed. The stones should protrude about 4 in. from the wall and stand at least an inch above the soil so grass doesn't creep over them. You will still have to pull out grass from between the stones occasionally.

Recycle laundry detergent containers

Got laundry? Then you’ve got a watering can. Instead of throwing away empty laundry detergent containers, rinse them out thoroughly and then recycle them for watering plants. Drill 1/8-in. holes in the top of the cap, and a 1/2-in. hole just above the handle to relieve pressure so the water flows freely.

Happy landscaping!

May 2019

How to clean out your closet
(Like, for real)


Alright, if you’re reading this, chances are, your closet(s) may stand to benefit from a much-needed thorough spring cleaning.

But are you excited about doing it? Yeah, probably not. And you’re not alone.

Closet cleaning ranks right up there with getting a root canal or potty training your kids: We dread it like all get out, but after it’s done, we feel so much better.

And so, in the spirit (and season) of organization, here are three effective approaches to getting the job done:

The Three Months Method


If your closet is chock-full of barely-ever-worn articles of clothing that you basically hold on to for nostalgic reasons, then The Three Months Method is for you. Here’s how to start: Working through your closet one piece at a time, leave be the clothes you wear on a regular basis—your go-to shirts and sweaters, everyday jeans, etc. Pull out anything that does not fall into that category and lay those clothes on your bed where you will then place them in one of two piles: The first is the No pile, which is for clothes you know right off the bat you want to part with; the second pile, the Maybe pile, is for everything you are unsure about. After everything on your bed has been put in either the No pile or the Maybe pile, bag up the No pile and prepare to donate to charity. As for the Maybe pile, bag it up—and here’s the important part—place it in a remote area of your home where you seldom go and keep that pile there for three months. If after three months you have not gone back to that Maybe pile to retrieve something you think you need, pitch the entire bag.

Swedish Death Cleaning


The name sounds a bit morbid and harsh…because it is. But it’s also ideal for those who aren’t playing around. Swedish Death Cleaning is the brainchild of Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish artist who lists her age as “80 to 100,” and here’s the crux of it: Getting rid of things that other people won’t want to deal with after you’ve passed on. This method calls for you to categorize everything in your home—clothes, furniture, you name it—and then assess every item through the prism of Would anyone really want this after I’m gone? If the answer is no—and you really don’t care for or use the item now, then toss it. Magnusson is the author of the book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which explains the method in detail.

The “Don’t Fantasy Dress” Rule


Today’s last tip comes from style expert Adam Glassman, who serves as the creative director of O, The Oprah Magazine. And as the name suggests, “Don’t Fantasy Dress,” is an approach which calls for complete and utter honesty: If an item fits the lifestyle you want but not the lifestyle you live, get rid of it. So, if your closet is filled with large-brimmed derby hats because you want to attend tea parties ad horse races—but never do, then say goodbye to the hats, Likewise, if your closet boasts an insane amount of golf wear, but you haven’t golfed in years, then pack those items up.

Do any combination of the above, and you’ll be amazed by how de-cluttered your closet will become in no time.

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Our Estimates Always Include Two Things,
"Honesty and Integrity" - Ray Monczka


Our Estimates Always Include Two Things,


"Honesty and Integrity"
- Ray Monczka

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