December 25, 2006

Food as Medicine: Cinnamon


Cinnamon taken daily (2t either in pills or added to food) may prevent or inhibit diabetes because it increases the body's efficiency in metabolizing glucose twentyfold - yes, that's 20-fold. It is also very effective with the metabolizing of cholesterol, as it removes free radicals from the blood, which act to damage the vessels, and also assists small blood vessels in their performance.

Cinnamon acts as an anti-inflamatory and an anti-microbial agent that is especially effective against Candida. Just smelling the stuff helps brain function.

From WholeFoods:

"A study published in the February 2004 issue of Hormone Metabolism Research showed that when rats fed a high-fructose diet were also given cinnamon extract, their ability to respond to and utilize glucose (blood sugar) was improved so much that it was the same as that of rats on a normal (control) diet. Cinnamon is so powerful an antioxidant that, when compared to six other antioxidant spices (anise, ginger, licorice, mint, nutmeg and vanilla) and the chemical food preservatives (BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), and propyl gallate), cinnamon prevented oxidation more effectively than all the other spices (except mint) and the chemical antioxidants. (May 6, 2004)."


See: WebMD; DiabetesHealth(describing the US DOAStudy, 2000, WholeFoods (describing the 2004 USDA study).

December 22, 2006

Cheap Eyeglasses

Get the actual eye exam and prescription from Walmart for $35.00 (if you can find a cheaper exam, please let me know).

Then, go online and order the actual glasses from Zenni Optical, where the basic eyewear is sold for $8.95 and provides the following: Quality eyeglass frame; High 1.57 index Rx lens; UV protection; Anti Scratch coating; Hard Eyeglass case; Lens Cleaning Cloth; and Full Guarantee.

The whole kit and kaboodle for under $50.00 with a guarantee. Sweet.

October 8, 2006

Fresh Herbs Year Round

Quick tip on having fresh herbs year-round: freeze portions in either water or stock using ice cube trays. Once the cubes are made, store them in the freezer and they'll keep for around a year. (Try bagging the cubes in individual, labelled and dated freezer bags and then place all your cubes in one larger bag or container.)

Great not only when you harvest your own plants, but also might make buying those $2.00 teensy bits of lemon grass, dill, thyme, etc. in the produce section worth your while.

October 3, 2006

How to Root From Cuttings: Plants for Free

Friends and family share cuttings; you can also pick up a cutting on a nature walk or hike. Your own yard may have plants that can be harvested for additional landscaping. Whatever the source, a small leaf, stem, or root cutting can provide you new plants, for free. Gardeners call this "multiplying" your plants.

Root
Choose a plant that is large and well-established. Pull up a piece of root, and cut it off, then cut it into three-inch pieces. (Each piece gives you a new plant.) Take
the piece, or "cutting," and put it into a little container of water or potting soil. Make sure it's completely covered with soil/water. Use some root starter (see below). The thick part of the cutting should be at the top, and the thinner portion at the bottom of the water/soil. If you've planted in soil, give it a good watering. Then, wait. Wait for months if need be -- little white roots will be forming in the soil that you can't see for awhile. Once you have a little plant, you're ready to move it to your pot or bed.

Leaf
This only works with some plants, but it's worth the experiment. For plants like African violets, you pull off a leaf along with about 1.5 inches of the leaf's stem. Put the stem end into water or potting soil. New plants will pop from the base of the stem. There will be more than one. If you're really into this, you can take these little new plants, pull off a leaf with stem from each of them, and build yourself quite a collection.

For plants like Aloe Vera, you don't have leaves with stems. Here, cut off a leaf, and then cut that leaf into 3 inch pieces. Put each piece vertically into the soil or water. Each piece, new plant.

Stem
This works for some trees. Cut off a twig from the current season's growth. Dip it into rooting solution, and then bury all but a third of the twig into good soil. Keep the soil warm (around 85 degrees) if you can. For hardwood trees, do this in winter. For softwood trees, do this with new, spring growth.


What is Rooting Solution?

Cuttings create their own roots faster if a rooting solution is used. IBA is the most popular one, and it comes as a powder, liquid, or gel. Don't use too much: you can "burn" your cutting with this stuff.

Source: NCStateUniversity; Auburn Dept. of Forestry; GardeningOrganic.Com; GlobalGarden.com.

September 29, 2006

Fake Out Recipe No. 1: Bottled Starbucks Fraps


Instead of buying those expensive four-packs of Starbucks Fraps, you can make your own version at home, which is not only cheaper but healthier, too. The secret is in the pectin ....

1. brew pot of strong decaf coffee after stirring 1T cinnamon into the grounds.

2. Fill two-thirds of 1 qt. container with unsweetened soy milk. Add 1T vanilla extract. Add chocolate syrup, to taste. Add 1T pectin. Shake it up.

3. Add the brewed, dense coffee to the soy milk mix, filling the container. Add stevia, sweeten to your taste. Shake well.

4. Let set in the fridge for 24 hours. This lets the flavors mesh plus it lets the pectin create that consistency that Fraps have which regular old coffee-milk doesn’t.

September 25, 2006

Freebies - Finding Free Events

If you live near an urban area of any size, there are free events which have inadequate publicity and at which you will be most welcome. And, they are quality events, too: these are things worth your time.

It's up to you to find them. Here are some upcoming examples, using my locality of San Antonio:

Grown-Up Stuff

1. Book Signings (go to book store sites, input your zip code, scroll through their events or check CelebrityBookSignings and search for your town):

Authors of all kinds do book signings as part of their promotion. This can be a great way to actually converse with the author, too: it's amazing how often signings have just one or two people show up (there are the Joel Osteen exceptions, of course).

In the past year, Wynonna Judd came through San Antonio to promote her book, just like true crime novelist and Edgar Award nominee Diane Fanning, and in the next week:

Sept. 28, 2006, at the San Pedro Barnes & Noble: Gary Stromberg will discuss his book, The Harder They Fall, detailing celebrities who dealt with addiction and recovery. Interviews included such famous folk as: Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, Grace Slick, Dr. John, and Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night), Malcolm McDowell and Mariette Hartley, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright, writer Anne Lamott, and athletes Doc Ellis and Gerry Cooney.

Sept. 30, 2006, at the Quarry Market Borders: Former Spurs Coyote Tim Derk will discuss his new book, Hi Mom! Send Sheep details his years as the Spurs Coyote mascot before suffering a massive stroke.

Nov. 12, 2006, 3 pm at the Barnes & Noble NW location, Kinky Friedman will be discussing The Christmas Pig and presumably, the Texas gubernatorial election results.

At both Barnes & Noble and Borders as well as the Library, there are reading groups, poetry readings, and the like, on a monthly basis. Free to join.

2. Lecture Series (search for the university or group, then search for events or lectures within the site):

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will be at Trinity University on November 13, 2006, in Laurie Auditorium as part of its Distinguished Lecture series. According to Answer.Com, Ken Burns is "is the wonder boy of modern documentary filmmaking, known for his PBS specials on the U.S. Civil War, baseball and jazz. His 1990 mini-series for public television, The Civil War, was a pop culture sensation in America when it aired in 1990. Burns's signature techniques -- particularly his use of a moving camera to explore still photos -- were quickly adopted by other filmmakers and led to something like a renaissance in documentary films. Burns's other major mini-series for public television include Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001) and Mark Twain (2003). He won Academy Award nominations for his documentaries Brooklyn Bridge (1981) and The Statue of Liberty (1986)."

Margaret Atwood will be at the Charlene McCombs Empire Theatre at 7pm on October 30th for a free public reading from her latest work plus a question and answer session, hosted by Gemini Ink.


3. Museum Events (search their sites for calendars, and read through for things of interest as well as days when they offer free admission):

Witte Museum offers free jazz every Sunday from 4 to 8 for those who bring their lawn chairs or blankets, since seating is on the grassy area between the Museum and the San Antonio River, there in Brackenridge Park.

Admission is free at the McNay, although a five dollar donation is "suggested" for those wishing to view certain collections. The San Antonio Museum of Art has free admission on Tuesdays from 4-8.

4. The Library (Your local library should have a list of events as well as a calendar at its site.)

Learn to make flour tortillas from the master down at the Central Library as Olga Flores of Taco Haven teaches a free class on October 2nd at 6 pm.

Listen to classical guitarist Ray Tamez at 2pm on Saturday, October 7th at the Cortez branch of the Library.

Get the skinny on college applications and financial aid from university representatives at various times during the month at various branches of the Library.

Discuss the border minutemen on October 9th at at 6:30 pm the San Antonio Indiginous Forum, meeting at the Forest Hills branch of the Libray.

There's an unbelievable amount of activity at our local library: lots of family fun events, adult events, kid and toddler events. Storytimes to Small Business Networking. Too much to list here.


Kid's Stuff:

1. Locally, one Barnes & Noble has Pajama Storytime on Saturdays at 730pm for children ages 3-8. Meanwhile, the Borders in Quarry Market has a weekly storytime on Saturdays at 3:30. In October, both stores are having Lemony Snicket parties.

2. Home Depot offers free kids workshops (see last week's post).

3. Visiting the Alamo is free, although donations are most welcome.

4. Tour a vaquero's ranch on the first Saturday of the month for free, although you have to get yourself to Floresville for the caravan and it's best to have a rugged vehicle for the trip. This is offered as part of the Missions National Park, and the ranch is Espada's Rancho de las Cabras.

5. Attend the UTSA Archaeology Fair on October 13th, from noon to 4pm, and do things like participate in a mock dig and visit the buffalo soldier's encampment.

6. The San Antonio Zoo offer free admission on the first Tuesday of every month to one adult and up to two children younger than 5.

7. The San Antonio Library offers free admission to the first 20 kids ages 12 or older that sign up for its Papel Picado class. Artist Kathleen Trenchard shows the kids how this paper-cutting art form works, and each child gets to create his own papel picado art piece.

8. Teens are invited to learn ghost-hunting with San Antonio Paranormal Investigations on October 3d at 7pm at the Westfall Branch of the Library.

Again, the Library has an amazing amount of stuff for kids, from toddlers to teens, involving a wide variety of interests. Too much to list here.

September 22, 2006

$4 Drugs: Target Joins Walmart's Bandwagon

Effective today, Target will follow Walmart's lead and offer $4 generic drug prescriptions in the Tampa Bay area, although it's not clear if Target intends on going nationwide with the program. Walmart has already announced that it will take the bargains into all its US stores, a step that CVS has dismissed as involving "older generics" that "represent less than 10 percent of the more than 3,000 unique generic products that we stock."

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies see Walmart's action as threatening, putting Walmart in the same battle trenches as the US Senate in the war against high drug prices.

What drugs are involved? Walmart provides an online list here.


Sources: TradingMarkets.com, Walmart.com, Canada's NationalPost.com.

September 21, 2006

Designer Fashion at Very Low Prices

Target may be considered the frontrunner to "affordable fashion": Isaac Mizrahi and Mossimo have had lines at Target stores for awhile now. This has been so successful that Target is increasing its designer fashion by offering ninety-day windows of opportunity to scarf up clothing, accessories, and shoes by the likes of Luella Bartley and Sophie Albou (Paul & Joe) in its GO International Collection.

This fall, Target spotlights Behnaz Sarafpour. Sarafpour is known for feminine designs, including flowing dresses each priced in excess of $2000.00. Her Target collection will offer jackets for under $80.00.

Kohl's has a deal with Vera Wang for a line called "Very Vera." Payless has entered the race with Laura Poretzky’s Abaeté line, to be sold as the "Abaeté for Payless" shoe collection.

Walmart is doing things a bit differently. Walmart is offering its Metro7 line, which imitates existing fashion lines. It's being taken seriously enough that Walmart partnered with ELLE magazine to open this year's NYC Fashion Week with a Metro7 show in Times Square. Walmart also formed a distinct marketing campaign for this "cheap chic" line to entice a fashion-conscious clientele that would otherwise distain shopping at its stores.

Walmart appears to be succeeding. Reports Samantha Smith of England's News & Observer, "some of the best items in the collections were the handbags and shoes. Both were surprisingly good copies of the trendiest looks around. Most notable were the oversized, slouchy bags in black, tan and white with tassels and faux gold hardware, and the faux patent leather pumps and chunky cork heels that looked remarkably like those by Christian Louboutin."

Shown above: Walmart's Lock Doctor Bag, sold online today for $12.00, regularly $17.50.


Sources: Target.com, Walmart.com, businessweek.com, Marketwire.com, CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Behnaz Sarafpour.com.

September 16, 2006

Kids Get Free Fun at Home Depot

On the first Saturday of each month at each and every HomeDepot store, free "How-To Clinics" are offered for kids ages 5-12, from 9:00 a.m. till noon. Kids must be accompanied by an adult.

What happens here? Cool stuff is made. From pre-fabricated kits, kids make toolboxes, stepstools, fire trucks, mail organizers, window birdhouses, bughouses, and frames - among other things.

Each child also receives an achievement pin and his own orange HomeDepot apron. There's no limit, either: you and your child can go every month, if you'd like.

For more info, see HomeDepot.Com.

September 13, 2006

EverydaySimplicity.Net - the Website Debuts

EverydaySimplicity.NET debuted today. Its purpose is to coordinate with Everyday Simplicity, the blog.

Among other things, the website provides a complete posting index to what is found here, on the blog, by topic. A complete index can't be included here - the listing on the left-hand margin is incomplete, and without cross-referencing.

In time, EverydaySimplicity.NET will expand to include a message forum, a newsletter, and more.

Thanks for your patience as this work in process continues.

Rebounding: Simple and Great 4 U

"Rebounder" is simply another word for "mini-trampoline," with rebounding becoming more and more popular these days. Yes, there are infomercials.

However, rebounders are not receiving the same criticisms as OmniGlides or AbTwisters. Rebounders are receiving rave reviews from expertsand laypeople alike.

User reviews are good: people are reporting that they stay with rebounding because it's fun and easy. And, some are reporting almost miraculous benefits from using a rebounder.

Jordan Rubin, author of The Maker's Diet, and nationally-recognized physical trainer JB Berns, creator of the UrbanRebounder, are both promoting rebounding as excellent exercise for all ages. Dr. Mercola admits to rebounding in front of the TV during the winter months. The Pacific Health Center has been recommending rebounding since the 1970s.

What's the big deal? Weather can't stop you. Age doesn't matter. Rebounders aren't that expensive. And the health benefits are enormous.

First, there's no structural trauma: going down, you hit the mat at 2X the force of gravity, but going up, you're weightless. Cool, huh?

This gravity business causes a pumping-type response inside your body that removes waste from cells and infuses them with oxygen and other nutrients. This gravity component makes rebounding a unique exercise.

Rebounding also reduces stress and creates nervous system equilibrium that stays with you after you stop rebounding. NASA reports that rebounding is 68% more efficient than regular running.

It is also unique in how it impacts your lymphatic system. This is a part of your circulatory system that deals with immune response and drainage. "Lymph" is a clear liquid, and it takes toxins, wastes, fat, viruses, and other mess away from the cells.

What rebounding does is move the lymph in three ways: muscular contraction from exercise and movement; gravitational pressure on the lymph vessels; and internal massage of the lymph vessel valves. And rebounding can increase lymphatic movement up to 15 times, better than than any other exercise, according to the experts.

How do you do it? After choosing a good rebounder, try these exercises from the Pacific Health Center:

1. Health Bounce - Just simple bouncing, even with your feet not leaving the surface of the rebounder, greatly stimulates lymphatic flow. The elderly or infirm can do this holding optional hand rails or a chair back next to the rebounder. They can also bounce in a seated position initially to get the lymph moving.
2. Running in Place - Perhaps the most basic exercise. It helps to alternate running in place with other exercises, so as not to get bored.
3. Twisting - Twist left and right with the hips and legs going one direction and the arms and chest going the other.
4. Kick Step - Alternately kick the left and right feet out in front of you as you bounce.
5. Jumping Jacks - Just like you would do on the ground, only you're bouncing on the rebounder while doing them.
6. Cross Crawl Bounce - This is great for left-brain, right-brain coordination. On the bounce, with straight, extended arms like a marching soldier, you place your left foot forward and right arm forward and across to the left. Reverse on the next bounce. Stimulating this bilateral motion is very energizing to the body.

September 10, 2006

The Honest Food Guide

The Honest Food Guide is shown here, and is available as a downloadable pdf file at TheHonestFoodGuide.Org site. It promises to provide information that is:

"1. Free from the corruption and influence of various food industries (dairy, beef, junk foods, etc.);
2. Designed to benefit you, not Big Business; and
3. Offers genuine nutritional information, not watered-down information designed to boost the sale of milk, beef and grains."


Created by Mike Adams, The Health Ranger, this Food Guide provides an easy reference regarding what to eat, for what result. On its right, your choices result in optimal health. On its left, the choices result in disease.

The site also offers to ship laminated copies of the HFGuide, as long as you pay shipping and handling. You get other free stuff too -- CDs and such. Worth a looksie.

September 9, 2006

Very Skeery Stuff

Simplicity in Kansas has a great blog and one of its recent posts discusses this infamous housing bubble - a topic so big that Ben Jones has dedicated his entire blog to the topic, over at HousingBubbleBlog.com. (The bubble is deflating if not outright bursting, by the way.)

US Debt is monitored over at the US Debt Clock. As of September 9, 2006, at 5:16:33 pm GMT, the debt was $8,533,794,901,315.96 according to the clock - and it grows $1.75 billion a DAY.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Economic Analysis keeps track of savings. Savings have been at a negative since 2005 -- and prior to that, they hadn't been over 3% of disposable personal income since 2000. During this decade, at our best, the country was only saving 3 pennies out of every dollar.

Is all this skeery stuff news? No. MIT was calling the American economy a "Ponzi scheme" almost ten years ago - you can read the essay by F. Kreisel at MIT's site.

[Thanks to MBHunter for pointing out that the debt is growing by billions, not trillions, a day. I've edited this post accordingly. RK]

September 8, 2006

More Free Movies Online

Everyday, more and more movies are being downloaded for free viewing ... and there are some great ones out there. Considered to be in the public domain, there is no copyright violation for sharing them online.

PublicDomainTorrents.Com offers up John Wayne in McClintock and seven of the Sherlock Holmes classics.

emol.com has just added My Man Godfrey with William Powell and Carole Lombard; Happy Go Lovely with David Niven and Cesar Romero; and Our Town with William Holden in the title role of the movie classic based upon Wilder's Pulitzer-Prize winning play.

OpenFlix has a film noir section with some of the great ones: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers with Barbara Stanwick, Van Heflin, and Kirk Douglas; Orson Welles' The Stranger; Whistle Stop with George Raft and Ava Gardner; and DOA with Edmund O'Brien. The site has other sections as well: musicals, action, adventure. Lots to choose from.

September 7, 2006

The Nest Egg Index & 12 Tips On Saving

Stockbrokerage firm AG Edwards has released its second Nest Egg Index. In it, they rank what they consider to be the 500 top-saving communities nationally.

Ranking is based upon 12 factors, retirement plans and home ownership being two of them. The report reveals what parts of the country are doing well -- and not so well -- in building financial "Nest Eggs", according to the company.

934 communities are included this year, with the top five states being: New Jersey, Connecticut, Minnesota, Maryland, and Massachusetts, and the top five cities: Los Alamos, New Mexico; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut; San Jose, California; Torrington, Connecticut; and Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota.

In tandem with this, AGEdwards has compiled a list of 12 Tips on Savings, details on the site and headings shown below:

Start early.
Get over the planning hump.
Prioritize your long-term nest egg needs.
Pay yourself first.
Participate in employer-sponsored savings and retirement plans.
Diversify.
Control and reduce your debt.
Compare what you spend with what you want.
Monitor your savings plans and progress.
Review your income tax withholding.
Team up.
Expect the unexpected.

You can check your community online at their site as well as the criteria used for the study.

September 6, 2006

Off Season Travel Deals

The travel off-season is fast approaching, and with it some of the best vacation deals to be had. You get the best bang for your buck if you're ready to go at the last minute - and aren't afraid of hurricane season.

Cheaptickets.com offers a variety of deals for flight, hotel, and car - plus they have their "Cheap of the Week" pick.

Skyauction.com may offer the best deals, however. It's an online auction and as the date and time of this post, had a very intriguing deal: $1 (yes, one buck) per night at a luxury resort in Curacao. Sweet.

If you're interested in surfing around, there are other online sites to check: vacationstogo.com, Last Minute Deals at travelocity.com, Deals at expedia.com, and Deals at orbitz.com.

September 5, 2006

Food Codes

Even fresh fruit and vegetables are coded, and it's good to know what those codes mean. "PLU" stands for "Price Look Up" and these PLU codes reveal if the fruit and veggies are (1) conventionally grown -- these have a code of four numbers; (2) genetically modified - these have a code of five numbers, all beginning with the number 8; or (3) organic -- these have a code of five numbers, beginning with the number 9.

What is genetically modified? "GM" foods are engineered foods: the genetic make-up of food is altered by scientists, without the protection that selective breeding allowed in the past. It is science's own form of instant gratification.

GM foods are very controversial - there are lots of safety concerns. Meanwhile, Dr. Mercola points to an ABC News piece which informs us that 75% of all processed food in the United States is now made, in part if not in whole, from GM crops.

Organic foods, meanwhile, must be free of anything GM.

If you'd rather avoid GM foods, then (1) don't eat processed foods and (2) buy organic. That means, all your fruits and veggies should have codes starting with the number 9.


See: PLUCodes, mercola.com, HowStuffWorks.com, Human Genome Project.

September 4, 2006

Practical Indulgences

In a recent article at blackenterprise.com, reporter Ann Brown explained how their site is expanding to include a new "Practical Indulgences" feature.

Its purpose?

"Living the good life doesn’t have to be reserved for the rich and famous. From fashion and beauty, travel, food and wine, entertainment and home décor, bargains can be had – with the right information. In our new Practical Indulgences feature we'll show you how to live like royalty without ending up in the poor house."

Their first entry into the Simple Life?

An article on Sample Sales, which occur in select cities and offer designer samples at a fraction of the usual price.

Help With Just A Click A Day - Really.

Here's an easy way to help people and animals and the environment: sponsors will donate for each click at the following sites, with the limit of one donation per day from each individual:

The Hunger Site -- one click gives 1.1 cup of food
The Animal Rescue Site -- one click gives .6 bowls of food and care
The Rainforest Site -- one click funds the preservation of 11.4 square feet of endangered rainforest
The Literacy Site - one click helps get books to kids
The Child Health Site -- one click helps provide health care and preventive medicine to empoverished children worldwide
The Breast Cancer Site -- one click helps fund free mammograms for those in need

What's this all about?

"Tim Kunin and Greg Hesterberg bought The Hunger Site in mid-August 2001 and with your help, work to maintain its position as a leader in online activism and in the fight to end world hunger. In addition to The Hunger Site, Tim and Greg own and operate The Breast Cancer Site (where visitors help fund free mammograms for underprivileged women), The Rainforest Site (where visitors' clicks (where visitors' clicks help save endangered rainforest), and GreaterGood.com, the cause-related shopping portal where up to 15% of every purchase goes to charities at no extra cost to the shopper.

"Since taking ownership of The Hunger Site, Tim and Greg have also launched The Animal Rescue Site (where a click helps feed an abandoned animal), and The Child Health Site (which empowers Internet users to fund basic but critical health services for impoverished children living in developing countries."

-- From the FAQs at the Hunger Site

How well do they do? Each site's results are posted, for various time intervals. For example, during the year 2005, The Hunger Site funded a total of 52,934,043 cups of food to the hungry.

July 27, 2006

See It Free: the Movie "Super Size Me"


The award-winning documentary "SuperSize Me," is available online now for free viewing. Takes one hour, and it is definitely worth your time.

An Academy Award Nominee, the film takes you along side Morgan Spurlock as he commits to eating nothing except food from McDonald's for 30 days. One additional rule: if they ask him if he wants his meal super-sized, he must say yes. And, they do. A lot.

Watch how his health is impacted, along with his attitude, his lifestyle, his waistband. See the doctors panic, the girlfriend worry, and listen to all the additional data the film provides about fast food in our society today.

For more information about the film, visit its site: supersizeme.com. To see the movie for free, visit iklipz.com.

July 16, 2006

Sunlight and Darkness: Simple and Necessary

Your body needs complete darkness in order to produce melatonin, and even then, this will occur only after it has enjoyed some quality sunlight during the day. Melatonin is one of the most powerful antioxidants and has been found key to the prevention of certain cancers - including those attacking the breast and prostrate.

Even the tinest bit of light (a nightlight, a streetlight casting a glow through the window) will prevent melatonin production. Sleep in darkness - like everyone did until the last century or so.

As for sunshine, you need it. Not only do the UV rays lessen stress but sunlight acts to reduce blood pressure. Sunlight also acts to reduce death by Multiple Sclerosis by 76% as well as fighting against rheumatoid arthritis and tuberulosis. How? Sunlight causes your body to create Vitamin D, and this nutrient is very important for an effective immune system.

Bottom line: Get one hour of sunlight a day; you can set in the shade on a bright day and this will work. Sleep in total darkness for 8 hours. Simple, free, needed.


Sources: ThomasJeffersonUniversityStudy, Earthtimes.org, mercola.com, AmericanHeartAssociation, mercola.com [citing Lancet].

July 15, 2006

Plant Your Avocado Seeds

Those avocado seeds can be your own avocado trees without much effort.

Start by holding the seed with its pointed end up, and the little bumpie-thing side-down, and push three or four toothpicks around the sides (NSEW). Then, fill a clear-glass jar with water, and balance the toothpicks on its sides so the bumpie-thing is totally immersed. Some people put a bit of charcoal or a penny in the bottom of the water, but you don't have to do this.

Keep that water refilled, right up the brim - this keeps oxygen running through there. (Clear glass containers help you monitor the water level.) Soon, the bottom of the seed will crack open, and a root will emerge.

In about six weeks, you will have a nice little plant, with big. long roots and nice leaves. Now it's time to move your tiny tree to a soil home. It won't live forever in this water world you've created.

As an option, you can forego the water method, and just plant the seed in a 5-inch pot of good soil, with its pointy top just above the soil line. Keep the soil moist, and the temperature around 72 degrees, and a little tree should pop up.

Either way, once your baby reaches a foot in height, prune it back to about 6 inches. This makes for a nice, full tree and not a stringy, ugly one.

Your avocado tree will grow inside or out. It will need sun. If you are using pots, check for root growth and give it a bigger pot when necessary. Feed and water it regularly.

Here in San Antonio, there are several families that have backyards filled with their own home-grown avocado trees - how nice to have guacamole made with your own fruit.

Guacamole:
4 ripe avocadoes, seeded and peeled
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup chopped roma tomatoes (they have less juice)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (Vidalia, Texas 1018)
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of Tobasco or 1 small, seeded, finely chopped serano pepper
salt to taste
Serve with chips, or make chapulas, tacos, etc.

July 12, 2006

Smithsonian Podcasts

The Smithsonian Institution has a growing collection of podcasts worthy of your time at its website. There's lots of interesting stuff here, like storytelling and interviews and curator talks. Storytelling, for example, includes the following this month:

"Silk Road Stories
The Freer and Sackler Galleries' Silk Road Storytelling group is made up of volunteers from the Washington DC community who have cultural ties to various sites along the ancient Silk Road. They trained with professional storyteller Louise Omoto Kessel to learn to tell stories from their homelands, including Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan. Here is a sample of their stories. We trust that listeners will experience the many ways that appreciation for family, meaningful work, truth, beauty, and mystery are expressed through these unique voices from along the ancient trading route.

Listen now:
Dilber, the Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Filfilled (Turkey, 11:16)
How Asanga Came to See the Future Buddha (Tibet, 11:43)
Jade (Taiwan, 10:17)
Malik and the King (Bangladesh, 7:43)
Peach Boy (Japan, 8:10)
The Cow Boy and the Weaving Lady (China, 11:01)
The Discovery of Silk (China, 1:06)
The Ruti Eaters (Bangladesh, 5:34
)"

July 10, 2006

Homemade Dishwasher Soap Recipes

There are several recipes for homemade dishwasher soap. Why bother? It's much more economical than buying the stuff, even if you're at DollarTree -- plus you know what you're using here, chemically.

For each load:
1 Tablespoon Borax
1 Tablespoon Baking soda
or
2 Tablespoons of the following - 1 cup baking soda combined with 1 cup borax, and 2-3 tablespoons Fruit Fresh

For the rinse:
1 cup white vinegar, either poured into the JetDry vessel or placed into a cup securely placed into the top rack.

What's borax? It's a salt, naturally occurring in some parts of the USA as well as China, and it's used not only as a cleansing agent but also as a water softener and a preservative. Remember Twenty Mule Team Borax? It sponsored quite a few TV Westerns in the 1960s.


Sources: thriftyfun.com, naturalhomemadecleaners.com, answers.com.

Food as Medicine -4: Herbs & Spices

Using the following herbs or spices, either in your cooking or by making teas, will help with various ailments:

Stomach trouble? Heartburn, gas, indigestion? Caraway, cardamom, cayenne, ginger, peppermint, and thyme help relax stomach muscles, which helps food move through your digestive system. Less heartburn, better digestion, less bloating (i.e., gas). Peppermint tea will soothe nausea, as well.

Sore throat? Drink hot tea made of a combination of sage and thyme. This is also good for your gums, or any kind of mouth infections. Sage tea is also supposed to help menopausal symptoms.

Heart disease? Both ginger and garlic fight heart disease. While many drink ginger tea, garlic is usually dispensed through food or the cloves are swallowed like pills.

For more information, please refer to the sites shown below.

Sources: arthritispaintreatments.com, naturalherbguide.com, holisticonline.com.

Site to See: The Ultimate Cheapskate

For those of you who don't watch the Today show, this will be news: a man named Jeff Yeager appears there regularly, dispensing frugal living tips under the nickname of the "Ultimate Cheapskate." He's also just landed a book deal with Broadway (to be published in Fall 2007), entitled "Laugh Your Assets Off: How to Spend Less and Enjoy Life More by America's Ultimate Cheapskate."

His website is HERE if you want to check him out.

June 21, 2006

How to Cook - 3: Slow Cookers

Slow cookers, which some may know as "crock pots," are great contributors to a simple life. Not only do they free up time, they also good for the electric bill as they allow you to avoid heating up the entire kitchen (or house) with the oven. Lots of inexpensive family meals can be created in this one, big pot, too.

You can prepare desserts, soups, stews, main dishes, as well as hot drinks in your cooker. Good recipe sources include: http://www.crockpot.com/recipescatapp.aspx, http://crockpot.cdkitchen.com/, and http://www.tastycrockpotrecipes.net/.

Or, you can convert your own recipe to the slow cooker - just change the times:

recipe = high setting = low setting
15-30 minutes = 1.5-2.5 hours = 4-8 hours
35-45 minutes = 3-4 hours = 6-10 hours
50 minutes-3 hours = 4-6 hours = 8-16 hours

Some tips?

1. Never just stick meat in the pot without some liquid in the bottom. If you don't want the liquid to touch the meat, take two or three balls of aluminum foil and place them in the bottom of the pot so the meat has something to rest upon. If you avoid using aluminum, try two or three potatoes instead.

2. As for which kind of crock pot to use, the one you got as a wedding present is fine -- but if it's one of the older ones that doesn't allow the stoneware pot to be lifted from the heating bucket, consider buying one that does. It's just so nice to put that stoneware pot first on the table, and then in the fridge after dinner is done....

3. Have more than one. Cook the roast or chicken in one pot, the veggies in the other, for example. Make a casserole in one, a bread pudding in the other. You get the idea.

Personal Note

While I try and avoid personal notes here on Everyday Simplicity, I thought I would create an exception to the rule today to explain my absence during the month of June. I've had a pinched nerve injury recur early in the month which has prevented my being able to type, and today is my first day back with the keyboard.

Thanks for your patience!

June 14, 2006

Fantastic Advice Site - Smart In So Many Ways

Better than Ann Landers or Dear Abby, there is a free website that connects wise seniors with those seeking counsel or advice. The site was ranked as the number one advice site by Google in November 2005.

Elder Wisdom Circle allows you to send in a question and get a reply from an elder - who may live hundreds of miles away from you, and may be physically challenged in some way. These elders have life lessons under their belt -- and the examples of their responses to select queries exemplifies that wisdom. Plus, EWC offers one-on-one attention to your query that Dr. Phil just can't provide.

NPR covered the site in an in-depth article in February 2006. Salon magazine covered the site earlier this year, as well. As EWC elder Tom, a 62-year-old semiretired Michigan contractor, explained to Salon:

“You get older and you think, After everything I’ve done, is that all there is? Am I just going to get put on the back shelf? With the site, I can apply all of my knowledge and experience, pain and joy. I’ve laughed and cried and raised a family, what am I supposed to do, just carve some wooden ducks, or pick up knitting?”


Simplifying your life means more than cutting back on purchases and scheduling your time. It means getting real with yourself, and what's really important, and cutting out the rest. A little sage advice in that process is always welcome, and isn't it fabulous that these seniors are available?

Shown: the first page of a thank you note from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman: "I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of LEAVES OF GRASS. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed."

June 2, 2006

333,000 Free Books That You'd Actually Want to Have

Get ready. For thirty days next month (July 4 - August 4, 2006), you are welcome to download as many of the (approx) 333,000 offered at the World EBook Fair as you'd like. For free. And, mark your calendar: next year, the ante ups to 500,000 available; in 2008, it's 750,000; and the number hits a MILLION in 2008.

What kinds of books will be offered? Things you'd never buy at a garage sale? Nope. Good stuff - great stuff is available.

During the last 30 days the top 100 ebooks downloaded from Project Gutenberg included:
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen;
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle;
Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie;
Roget's Theasaurus; and
Hand Shadows to Be Thrown Upon A Wall by Henry Bursill.
The World EBook Fair will, of course, offer much more than the standard collection from which these works were downloaded.

To learn more, and to download, visit Project Gutenberg for details or just check out the World EBook Library.

May 31, 2006

Good Phone Deals - Pay as You Go Plans

Tracfone is a national pre-paid wireless phone option that includes free voice mail, free caller ID, free call waiting, and other options -- all for a very, very reasonable price. Better yet, you have no long-term contracts and you pay only for minutes you use. However, so do Verizon and Cellular and dozens of other companies. (Googling the phrase "prepaid wireless" brings up over one million hits.)

Which should you choose? Try the comparison feature offered at MyRatePlan.Com. You enter your zip code, then choose the features you'd like, and voila: a comparison chart for your consideration - but one that doesn't include all the plans available. Consumer Search has rated the various plans and votes TMobile as number one. Consumer Reports offers lots of good advice and company comparisons, as well.

I've been using a prepaid plan for over a year now - in no small part because I rarely use my cellphone - and have been very happy with it. I can pay for more minutes online, and I average about $15.00/month. The only drawback, which sometimes isn't a drawback at all: the caller does not see your name when you call them, only the number and the phrase "private caller."

May 27, 2006

Great FREE Web Hosting/Publishing Site

Bravenet.com offers a great service: not only free web hosting, but also a wide array of extras: free webpage design, including things like a photo center, a calendar, and forums, and it's relatively easy and quick to get up and running. (On a test run, I created and published a test site to the web in less than an hour. With photos.) One of the best ... a great find.

May 22, 2006

Menu Planning 102

When planning a family menu, you're really planning a collection of meals. And each meal is a collection of portions. The question of how much do you have to cook for a meal translates into how many portions do you need (or want)?

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta
1 slice of bread
1 tortilla
1/2 bagel or 1/2 English muffin or 1/2 pita
1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal
1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

Vegetable
1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw
1/2 cup of vegetable juice

Fruit
1 medium apple, banana, orange
1 cup berries, cubed melon
1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
1/2 cup of fruit juice

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
1 cup milk
1 cup yogurt (artificially sweetened)
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup cottage cheese or ricotta
1 ounce cheese

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
1 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
1/2 cup of cooked dry beans or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat.
2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts count as 1 ounce of meat.

Fats
1 teaspoon oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise
1 tablespoon salad dressing, cream cheese

Another form of reference:

Fist or baseball - a serving of vegetables or fruit
A rounded handful - about one half cup cooked or raw veggies or cut fruit, a piece of fruit, or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta
Deck of cards - a serving of meat, fish or poultry
Golf ball - one quarter cup of dried fruit or nuts
Tennis ball - one half cup of ice cream
Computer mouse - the size of a small baked potato
Compact disc - the size of one serving of pancake or small waffle
Thumb tip - one teaspoon of peanut butter
Six dice - a serving of cheese
Check book - a serving of fish

For fun, try the Portion Distortion Quiz - it's very enlightening, if somewhat scarey.

Sources: about.com, mealsmatter.org, National Institute of Health.

Menu Planning 101

Grocery shopping becomes more efficient, faster, and cheaper when you plan your week's meals in advance. Your family's health gets a boost, too, if you include a focus on nutrition as you plan. The problem: it's hard to do, and it takes time. The good news? Life can become more balanced, and simpler, once you conquer weekly menu plans.

Considerations include cost, time, your level of cooking expertise, and overlapping nutrition concerns with all of these as well as your family's taste preferences. Nutritional factors include things like the American Heart Association's daily requirements (6-11 servings of bread, pasta, and starchy vegetables) or the American Diabetes Association's Pyramid - which is slightly different than the Department of Agriculture's new MyPyramid. There are others: South Beach, etc.

Once you have your nutritional parameters determined, you're ready to plan. For one week, you will need 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners. 21 meals.

They don't all have to be that different. Plan a basic smoothie recipe, and then have a variety of frozen fruit to use during the week for variety. Breakfast is done for most of the week. Salads for dinner: have several salad bags in the fridge, with a variety of "inserts" -- chicken, nuts, egg, cheese, mandarin oranges, cranberries, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, etc. Ditto for pasta. On Sunday afternoon, cook a casserole or two and many of your week's meals are ready for you: leftovers are great comfort food. Remember gooey sandwiches are great: improvise. Meatloaf for dinner is a meatloaf sandwich lunch. Grilled chicken breasts for dinner can be a great honey-mustard chicken sandwich the next day. Get a slow cooker and you've got several meals at the ready.

Don't make menu planning harder than it is ... strive for excellence, not perfection.

For serious planning, Meals.com is a free site dedicated solely to meal planning. Susan Nicholson offers weekly plans, for free, with recipes and grocery lists, at uexpress.com. So does LightandTasty.com. ArcaMax delivers 7-day menu plans to your email inbox each week, but no grocery list. Pinespring offers a nice option: you input a food item, and it returns with various recipes to make with the item.

Finally, there's the paperwork. OrganizedHome offers a great selection of free downloads: from "freezer inventory" to "shopping list" to weekly and monthly planner sheets.

May 11, 2006

Stress 101

Stress, left unmanaged, can result in many things: fatigue, headaches, irritability, changes in appetite, memory loss, low self-esteem, withdrawal, cold hands, high blood pressure, shallow breathing, nervous twitches, reduced sex drive, insomnia, other changes in sleep patterns, gastrointestinal disorders, as well as detrimentally impacting the body's immune response, thereby contributing to cardiovascular disease, cancer, endocrine and metabolic disease, and skin disorders. Many psychiatrists report that most back problems are caused by stress.

What happens? Inside your body, stress immediately results in an increase in adrenaline; eleveated blood pressure and a rising heart rate; muscle tension; a shutting down of the GI tract/digestion as the body prepares to fight or flee; rising cholesterol as fats and sugars are released; thickening of the blood, with a tendency to clot.

What to do?
1. Exercise. This is the fastest, immediate stress reducer. Walking is fine.
2. Consider your ways. Make changes to lessen the sources of stress.
3. Consider your diet. Cut out sugar, pre-fab food, caffeine, drink more water.
4. Ask for help. No man is an island.
5. Confess your sins. Take responsibility for your life. Manage yourself.
6. Pray. Whenever you catch yourself worrying, turn it into a prayer.
7. Sleep. Take a nap, make sure you get 8 hours during the night.
8. Stop and take several long, deep, full-lung breaths during the day.
9. Make a gratitude list. Stress distorts perspective; look around and recognize the good things that exist in your life - including the basics: you can see, walk, etc.
10. Take time-outs during the day. Every hour, get up, get out, stretch for a few minutes. Move.
11. Take supplements, including: B-Complex, to help your nervous system; Vitamin C, for adrenal function; Liquid Minerals, because these are depleted within one hour of the stressful situation. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends: American, Asian, and Russian Ginseng, Brewer's Yeast, German and Roman Chamomile, Kava Kava, Lemon Balm, Skullcap, Tyrosine, and Valerian. MSM is also recommended by various health care providers to fight the effects of stress upon the body.


Sources: biotech.com, valerie saxion, mercola.com, University of Maryland.

May 6, 2006

Office Stuff - Cheap and Free

For great buys on business cards, notecards, stationery, etc., check out VistaPrint. The free business cards are nice, the only catch is a small ad ["from VistaPrint"] printed on the back.... They have a sale going on now, for various items -- and if you order, you'll get regular notices of other bargains and sales.

For free paper, take your old inkjet ink cartridges to Office Depot. Turn one in, and get a ream of paper. Free. There is a similar offer at Office Max, but only for certain ink suppliers. Office Depot doesn't care, they'll exchange no matter the source/manufacturer. The catch: only one ream per day.

For ink jet and laser printers alike, for both ink and specialty papers, try InkSell.com. If you live in San Antonio, you can visit one of their stores. Really great prices, and lots of kudos, quality awards, etc. - see the site for details.

Check out GotVMail for virtual office needs, great buy at $10/month. Lots of positive feedback for them, here.

May 4, 2006

Free Legal Help

If you live in Texas, you can get free legal advice on several issues at TexasLawHelp.Org.

AARP overs a series of FAQ-type articles, as well.

The American Bar Association has a pretty map of the entire country (yes, even Puerto Rico is included) where you can click and find free legal advice that pertains to your state's jurisdiction.

The California Courts have a nice overview of free legal services as well as practical advice that may pertain to more than Californians (e.g., "Solve a Problem Without Going to Court").

There's a lot of info over at LawGuru.Com, too - where lawyers answer questions and those answers are then compiled into categories (bankruptcy law, adoption law, etc.) with search capabilities.

May 2, 2006

Buying a Bike 101

Various news reports relate that more bikes than cars were sold in 2004, 2005, and assumedly, two-wheelers will continue to win the sales race in 2006.

How to Choose the Right Bike?

Several sites offer tips, including:

1. Know your type. Do you want a road bike, a mountain bike, a touring bike, or a racing bike?

2. Know your fit. Make sure that the handlebars and seat are positioned properly, and that you have the right frame height and length.

3. Don't forget accessories. You might want a bell, or a horn, or a basket to tote things.

And remember, you never forget how to ride a bike - but if you're picking up riding again after several years, it won't be the same at the start as it was back in your teens. Start slow and be good to yourself.

Sources: primusweb.com, slowtwitch.com, about.com.

May 1, 2006

Simple Living: the Shakers

Simple living isn't a new idea. Before the American Revolution, Shakers came to New York seeking religious freedom. They are an offshoot of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, officially calling themselves the United Society of Believers.

They reached their height of popularity at the time of the Civil War, when their numbers reached around 6000. The Shaker community declined afterwards, some historians opining that their homemade works could no longer compete in a marketplace fueled by the Industrial Revolution. There is only one original Shaker community left, which was founded in 1783; it's located in Maine and has its own website.

Shaker furniture is known for its clean, simple lines and construction, which conformed to the Shaker philosophy of cleanliness, order, and economy. "Hands to work, hearts to God," is the Shaker motto; one of their most popular songs is "Tis a Gift to Be Simple."

To view lots of reproductions of Shaker furniture designs, check out Woodworks. For more on the history of the Shakers, check Wikipedia.

Sources: DIY Network.com, SabbathdayLake, Funtrivia.com, ShakerWoodworks.

April 28, 2006

Listen to the JazzFest

MSN.COM has portions of the New Orleans JazzFest available for your listening pleasure online. Live webcasts are scheduled for Sunday, April 30th, and Sunday, May 7th, from 3 to 8 pm CST. From what I can tell, the webcasts are free - though the samples (ranging from Dr. John to Elvis Costello to Louis Armstrong) are not. The site has a nice selection of videos, too: the interview with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown is a must-see.

"If it were necessary to identify one individual who best represents American music in all of its idioms and styles ... one who could single-handedly play the soundtrack that has sprung forth from a nation born from hopes, sweat, fears, blood, misdeeds and glory ... a land that grew an unheralded voice as it expanded westward and cultures clashed, cultures united, cultures bore new means of expressing their emotions - things called the blues, jazz, honky-tonk and Cajun - if we needed one person who lives and breathes all things American music and can present it in all its varied glory ... Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown is that person."

--Danté Domininick ©2004 Rockzillaworld Magazine, from www.gatemouth.com

April 27, 2006

Check the Nutrition Online: Restaurant Reality

Several fast food chains offer online charts where the nutritional components of various menu items are provided. This includes McDonald's, Jack in the Box, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Arby's, Popeye's, Church's Chicken, A&W, Taco Cabana (pdf), Dairy Queen, Sonic (pdf), Subway, Quizno's, Wendy's.

These links are to the restaurant sites themselves. For a master site providing nutritional information for 372 different food places, nationwide, try DietFacts.Com.

April 26, 2006

Blog to Check: Silent in the Morning

Silent in the Morning has great advice on how to keep your leather shoes up and running, as well as some food for thought on your relationship with food (pardon the pun). Nice daily quotes, lots to roam through and more added all the time.

April 25, 2006

Secret Helper

There's a free service that helps all you writers out there proof your works ... it also helps anyone who just wants a break from reading to the kids, as well as those with assorted disabilities. Others convert text -- like their emails -- via this software to Mp3, and then listen while they commute or exercise.

It's the Natural Reader - and while there are voices much more natural that you pay a fee to use, there is a free option with a more robotic voice. For a listen, go here and to get the free Robot voice version, go get the free download.

April 21, 2006

Great Site: The Happy Slob

For those that love or hate to clean house, the Happy Slob has a great site. Here's just an example of all she offers, on her page discussing the many uses of baking soda - and this is only a portion of her advice regarding baking soda:

"Using Baking Soda for FOOD & COOKING and IN THE KITCHEN
1. Scrub Chopping Boards Use baking soda to clean off chopping boards. It's great at removing garlicky and onion smells.
2. Clean Plastic Containers Use as a scrub to get out nasty stains from your Tupperware or other plastic storage containers.
3. Absorb Fridge Odors Everyone knows this one, but it's because it really works! Put an opened box of baking soda in the fridge and freezer to help absorb nasty fridge odors.
4. Shine Toasters (Submitted by Jude) Sprinkle baking soda on damp cloth (a mild abrasive) and shine the outside of that toaster, toaster oven, etc.
5. Clean Coated Pans (Submitted by Jude) Sprinkle baking soda on damp cloth (a mild abrasive) and use to remove brown grease spots from pots and pans - great for those coated pans.
6. Cleaning Tea Stains (Submitted by Mary Lou) Baking soda is the best for cleaning tea stains out of plastic pitchers.
7. Grease Remover (Submitted by Mary Lou) Baking soda is the best for cleaning grease off your stove top and out of greasy dishes.
8. Add to dishwasher AND good for pipes (Submitted by Mary Lou) When added to your dish water it makes more suds and good for cleaning the pipes out when it goes into septic or sewer system."


There's a blog and newsletter, too.

April 20, 2006

Judge Rickhoff's Blog

Recently, I assisted in the formation of a blog to be used locally as a community service. It's the blog of Judge Tom Rickhoff, and contains lots of good information for seniors - including an expanding links list. Organizations like AARP and the Bexar County Gold Pages are listed, along with more legal-specific sites like the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys.

The blog will also grow to include articles from probate professionals on various aspects of elder/senior issues; mental health concerns; guardianship matters, and the like.

Since both the links and the articles should be helpful to an audience larger than Bexar County, and wider than that of probate professionals, I'm sharing it here.

April 18, 2006

Free TV Guide

For those of you who watch your TV (and yes, I'm one of them), television guides are great - but who wants to pay for them? If you read your news online, then there's no insert from the Sunday paper for reference. And, those TV Guide magazines cost money. However, there are free television guides for your local area, and your particular provider (dish, cable, antenna, whatever) at various sites. My personal favorite: iwon.com. Not that it's perfect, I just can't find a better one online.

April 17, 2006

Drinking Water

Research has shown that drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day can burn off almost 35,000 calories a year, or about 10 pounds. It helps if the water is cold; then, the body has to expend some energy to heat the liquid to the body's 98 degrees. If you don't drink enough water, one doctor reports, your body fluids are out of balance, you experience fluid retention, unexplained weight gain and loss of thirst.

How much should you drink? If you are not overweight, then drink the standard 64 ounces a day. If you are overweight, then some say you should drink an additional 8 ounces for each 25 pounds you want to lose. Others report that you should drink 1/2 ounce for each pound you weigh: if you weigh 100 pounds, then you drink 50 ounces; if you weigh 200, then you drink 100. You get the idea.

April 15, 2006

Last Minute Tax Tips

The photo at the left shows a group of folk filling out their 1920 income tax returns at the Internal Revenue Office. Things have changed since then: you can download tax preparation software at sites like Turbotax.com, and you can file electronically. If your adjusted gross income is less than $50,000, then you are eligible for free electronic tax preparation and electronic filing. There's an explanation of how this works at irs.gov.

And, while those taxes aren't due till Monday, for those waiting till the last minute: did you know that you could charge that tax bill on Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express at a reduced interest rate? Pay1040.com has all the answers.

Find out if you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Maybe you owe the Alternative Minimum Tax: find out at irs.gov.

What if you can't pay the balance? Don't panic. SmartMoney tells you what to do.

April 14, 2006

Food as Medicine - 3: Folk Remedies

Folk remedies are still around, and they work - surprisingly. For example, did you know that beets lower blood pressure? Slice a raw beet, then throughly cover with freshly squeezed lemon juice. After the slices have been cooled overnight in the fridge, you can begin eating one slice per day. Dramatic drops in blood pressure result.

Chicken soup really does help with colds. It helps un-stuff your nasal passages and prevents congestion in the lungs according to two well-respected university studies.

Dandruff is cured by using apple cider vinegar, diluted with water in a ratio of 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water, as a rinse after shampooing. For severe cases, soak your hair in apple cider vinegar for one hour before shampooing.

There's lots more information at the sources listed below.

Sources: health911.com, UAB Health System, tenlinks.com.

April 12, 2006

Homemade Cat Treats

Cats may be more interested in a yarn ball than a rawhide bone, but they deserve their treats, too. There are several sites with recipes for homemade cat goodies: the crispy liver treats at petplace.com is just one of several easy offerings; cdkitchen.com includes a treat for older cats, as does Minnie; and divine recipes has one recipe that looks easy and a cat's version of ice cream, and Rebecca's Soap Deli has a nice one, too.

April 10, 2006

Homemade Dog Treats

Rather than buying your dog those rawhide bones or multi-colored dog biscuits, you can make dog treats at home - better for your pet, better for your budget.

A big carrot serves the purpose of a rawhide bone, for example. Big enough to carry around, and sturdy enough for some good chewing time. Peanut butter - wiped onto the carrot, the dog bowl, your finger ... another great treat that's nutritious and inexpensive. Bits of cheese can be dog nirvana.

For recipes to make actual cookies, hard biscuits, and things, there are several sites with nice collections: stretcher.com has a few, bullwrinkle.com has a long list, and gwi.com promises all of their recipes to have already been kitchen-tested and dog-approved.

April 7, 2006

What "Organic" Means

More and more grocery shelves are filled with products labelled "100% Organic," "Organic," "Free-Range," "Hormone-Free," and "Natural". What's the difference?

Organic food is grown, handled, and processed differently than commercially-processed food. Organic farmers use renewable resources, and they try and conserve their land's soil and water. Organic animal products (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy) come from animals who have never ingested antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food does not come in contact with conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.

Since October 2002, the US Government has offered the voluntary label of "organic" to those producing and selling organic products. However, before something is labeled "organic," a federal certifier inspects not only the product, but also the farm where the food originates to make sure all USDA organic standards have been met, as well as all the companies that handle or process the food before it gets to the supermarket or restaurant. The name and address of the Government certifier will be shown on all packaged products that are 70%-100% organic.

Those products meeting the certification standards can be identified by the word "organic" which will appear on either a small sticker showing the USDA Organic seal (shown above) on the food item, or upon a nearby display sign. If you see the seal, you know that the product is 95-100% organic.

Additionally, the products should identify their percentage of organic content. 100% organic products say so. 95-100% organic items label themselves "organic" without a percentage. Those with 70-95% organic can identify their organic components (e.g, "made with organic oats"). Less than 70% organic, then their specific, organic ingredients will be shown on the side panel of the package, but there cannot be any organic claims on the front of the package.

What about those other labels: natural, or free-range, or hormone-free? They may be true. But these descriptions do not mean that the product is "organic."

Source: USDA.GOV

April 6, 2006

Free Movies Online

Movies are available for viewing - FREE - online. No, they're not new. Yes, some of them are great. There is a nice selection at EntertainmentMagazine, including:

"His Girl Friday" Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell (1940)
"Penny Serenade" with Cary Grant (1941)
"Heartbeat" (1946) stars Ginger Rogers
"Royal Wedding" (1951) aka "Wedding Bells" (UK)
(COLOR) with Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford
"Charade" (1963) Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau
"Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon" (1943)
Sherlock Holmes "Dressed to Kill" (1946)
"My Dear Secretary" (1949) stars Kirk Douglas

as well as a selection on movieflix.com, where they've got films like:

"Of Human Bondage" starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis & Alan Hale
all the old Dick Tracy and Robin Hood Series from the 1940s
"Lady of Burlesque" starring Barbara Stanwyck (1943)
"The Man on the Eiffel Tower," starring Burgess Meredith & Charles Laughton (1949)

April 5, 2006

Create Your Free Newspaper From Huge News Site

The folk at crayola.net offer a free service that's great for everyone: you create your own online newspaper from their ever-expanding, unfiltered international collection of sources. You even name your paper: Joe's Gazette, The Turner Family Monitor, etc. and provide a slogan -- you know, like "all the news that's fit to print."

Choose selections from around the world in areas of national, local and world news; oped, weather, info-tech; religion; health; science; lifestyles. There are more.

Even comics. Peanuts, Dilbert, Calvin & Hobbes, etc. Columns. Ann Landers, Dave Barry, Rush Limbaugh, the New York Times Editorials .... Lots of stuff for you, regardless of whether you're red or blue.

Not only is this a free service, but a valuable one. Each day, the reader is provided an opportunity to read international perspectives voiced in a variety of locations, for example: the Jakarta Post (Indonesia); the Mirror and the Guardian (England); Kyoto News (Japan); Pari Business News Daily (Bulgaria); the Daily Star (Lebanon); and the Daily Telegraph (Australia), in addition to a large collection of top-tier American news sources (e.g., the New York Times, Reuters, etc).

Reading about the Tsunami from an American news source is one thing. Reading about it in the Jakarta Post is another.

You can also add your own sources. Anything with a URL can be placed on your personal, online paper.

There are some kinks with setting up the graphics, etc. and you may need to play with two-screen versus one-screen layout, things like this, before your personal paper is running smoothly. Once it's done, though, it's one click to crayon.net and a smile as you think about those subscription prices that you're not having to pay.

April 4, 2006

Easy and Cheap Recipes

There are several sites with lots of easy and cheap recipes. Cooks.com offers 38 options. Superchef Conyer offers a smaller list, but it's nice to have the estimated cost of the meal along with the recipe. CookCheap.com took down its recipe list for maintenance but promises to have it back up, soon. And, you might want to check out Rachael Ray's recipes for her TV show Thirty Minute Meals.

April 3, 2006

Your Body and the Weather

Granny Clampett isn't the only one who can predict the weather by her body aches. According to several scientific studies, both barometric pressure and humidity influence the human body's pain levels. (One of the latest being a 2005 study presented at the American College of Rheumatology.)

Wind, precipitation, and temperature also have an impact. As these increase, folk suffering from arthritis or neurological diseases (e.g., MS) can predict an approaching storm because they hurt more. Others may have an increase in migranes, asthma attacks, or escalating problems with circulatory conditions. In fact, chronic pain specialists ask their patients to log weather conditions and pain levels, to determine the patient's physical relationship with the weather.

This information is not new, of course. During the Civil War, it was documented that amputee soldiers sensed pain in their "phantom" limbs whenever the weather changed.

Online "ache & pain" forecasts are available at www.weather.com and at intellicast.com (which also offers a very nice "bad hair forecast," if you're interested).


Sources: weather.com, usatoday.com, 02/21/2005 intellicast.com

April 1, 2006

Finding Support for Simplicity

Lifestyle changes that go against the materialistic mainstream can become difficult when family and friends don't understand the how, the what, or the why of your simplicity goals. If you interested in finding others who do share your interest in living a better, simpler life, then you have several options in finding like-minded friends.

First, check with your local newspaper - call and ask for the reporter in charge of the community calendar, he/she may know of local groups near you.

From your keyboard, try finding simplicity groups, thrift-shopping groups, etc. at meetup.com. Meetup.com has groups in various topics (book clubs, hiking clubs) including simplicity. The Simple Living Network has a database of local groups to search through, as well.

If you prefer meeting online, there is a collection of online groups at Simple Living Network, as well as Yahoo Groups. Yahoo Groups offers 256 different groups under the heading of "simplicity" on the date of this post. ICQ has a group that has been active since 1998.