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:,, Canada's

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:,,,,,, Behnaz

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 (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. 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.
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. offers a variety of deals for flight, hotel, and car - plus they have their "Cheap of the Week" pick. 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:, Last Minute Deals at, Deals at, and Deals at

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,,, Human Genome Project.

September 4, 2006

Practical Indulgences

In a recent article at, 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, 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.
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