December 29, 2007

New Year's Tradition: Black Eyed Peas Texas Style

Perhaps it's just a Southern tradition, maybe it's an American one - heck, maybe it comes from the back corners of Poland.

All I know is that here in Texas, every year, we eat our Black Eyed Peas for good luck. And, it doesn't matter if you don't like Black Eyed Peas - you gotta do it. Force one or two down your gullet with a glass of water if you must. Just eat those good luck charms, dangnabit.

A few years ago I started foregoing the standard fare of a pot of the peas cooked with salt pork or bits of ham or bacon, served together with cornbread, for something new. These days, it's become so popular that I give away jars of this stuff as gifts - and so, Dear Reader, as my Happy 2008 to You, here is my recipe for Texas Caviar:

2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
1 sweet onion, chopped fine
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped fine
1 t black pepper
salt to taste
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped fine (leaves not stems)
1 serano chili, chopped tiny (forget the seeds if you're not into heat)
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped to bits a little larger than the peas (I choose these tomatoes because I think they are less watery)
juice of one fresh lemon (lime's okay too)
1 cup of Italian dressing if you're lazy or out of time; I like Balsamic vinegar too much for this tho, and I'll play around with olive oil and BV and make my own combo to pour over this stuff.

Mix. Refrigerate overnight. You can serve this over grilled chicken breasts, or as a dip. I usually choose dip - and those Fritos Scoops seem to go faster than other options with this stuff.

One more thing: some folk add corn, or bell peppers, or hominy, or roasted red peppers, bits of cheese, or black beans, here. I don't - but it's a free country. Just please don't call this stuff "pea salad" - LOL!!!

Happy New Year!!!!

December 28, 2007

Discount Health Plans (DMPOs) - Smart if You're Savvy

Discount Plans are not insurance. Instead, they are opportunities to get health care at greatly reduced prices, for a low monthly membership fee. Monthly fees can be under $10/month and the reduced prices can be as low as $20 for a basic dental cleaning.

How can this be? The large membership company has theoretically negotiated lower price schedules with the health care providers in return for the potential increase in business the provider will receive from the company's membership. Everybody wins.

Is this too good to be true? Nope, it may be a good deal for you.

Originally popularized as dental discount plans, these discount alternatives have expanded to include medical coverage and vision care. Some offer chiropractic care, and big discounts on vitamins as well as prescription drugs.

It's true that the market is rampant with scam artists nationwide, because unlike insurance companies, discount plans aren't required to be licensed (and therefore monitored) in every state. However, Florida has led the field in legitimizing these discount plans, and serves as a nice touchstone to confirm a plan as being dependable and not a fly-by-night.

Florida Regulates DMPOs

In Florida, several discount providers have been issued state licenses. These include the market leaders AmeriPlan and Careington, as well as well-known traditional insurers like UnitedHealthGroup.

Overseen by the Office of Insurance Regulation, a part of Florida's Financial Services Commission, Discount Medical Plan Organizations (DMPOs) must comply with a variety of requirements, including keeping a current list of available providers available to the public.

List of Licensed DMPOs

The 45 DMPOs currently licensed and in good standing in Florida are:

20/20 EYECARE PLAN, INC
ACCESS ONE CONSUMER HEALTH, INC.
AFFINION BENEFITS GROUP, LLC
AFFORDABLE FAMILY HEALTH SERVICES, INC.
ALLIANCE HEALTHCARD OF FLORIDA, INC.
AMERICAN DENTAL CARE PARTNERS, LTD.
AMERICAN MEDICAL INTERNATIONAL GYNECOLOGY OBSTETRIC SURGERY, INC.
AMERIPLAN CORPORATION DBA BENEFIT PLANS OF AMERICA
ASSOCIATION HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT, INC. D/B/A FAMILY CARE DBA FAMILY CARE
ASSURED OPTIONS SYSTEM, INC. (D/B/A MEDMORE)
ATLANTIC DENTAL, INC.
AVIA DENTAL PLAN
BENEFIT SERVICES OF AMERICA, INC.
BEST CARE MEDICAL PLAN, INC.
CAPELLA GROUP, INC. (THE) DBA CARE ENTREE
CAREINGTON INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION
CHCS SERVICES, INC.
CINERGY HEALTH, INC.
COLONY SPRINGS MEDICAL CENTER DBA CSMC PRO SALUD PLAN
COVERDELL & COMPANY, INC.
CREATIVE BENEFIT DESIGN, INC.
DENTAL NETWORK OF AMERICA, INC.
DENTALPLANS.COM, INC.
ENVISION MEDICAL SOLUTIONS, INC.
FLORIDA HEALTH SOLUTION, CORP.
GROUP DENTAL SERVICES OF MARYLAND
HEALTH CHOICE NETWORK, INC. DBA CARENET
HEALTHALLIES, INC.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BENEFITS
MANATEE COUNTY RURAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC. DBA GULF COAST DISCOUNT MEDICAL PLAN ORGANIZATION
MEDISAVER MEDICAL DISCOUNT CARD, INC.
NATIONAL BENEFIT ADVISORY ASSOCIATION
NEWBN, INC. DBA NEW BENEFITS, LTD
ORGANIZACION GAMMA, INC. D/B/A MEDICAL PASS
PATRIOT HEALTH FLORIDA, INC.
PINNACLECHOICE, INC.
PRO-MED HEALTH NETWORK
PROMEDICAL PLAN PHC, INC. DBA PROMEDICAL PLAN PHC, INC.
PROTECTIVE MARKETING ENTERPRISES, INC.
SOLSTICE BENEFITS, INC.
SUNSHINE MEDICAL NETWORK II, INC.
UNITED HEALTHCARE SERVICES, INC. DBA UNITED HEALTH
UNITED HEALTHCARE SERVICES, INC. DBA UNITED HEALTHCARE SERVICES OF MINNESOTA, INC.
USA FOR HEALTH CARE, INC.
VANTAGE AMERICA SOLUTIONS, INC.

What do you get with a DMPO?

Well, if you are a Sam's Club Business or Advantage member, then you can get the following through Sam's affiliation with United Health for $14.95/month (it's free if you are a Sam's Club Plus member):

Medical Care Discount of 5-30%
primary care, specialists, lab tests, XRays, hospital care

LASIK Eye Surgery Discount of 15% or 5% off promotional rates

Dental Care Discount of 10-35%
checkups, XRays, fillings, orthodontics, cosmetic dentistry

Alternative Medicine Discount of 20%
Acupuncture, Chiropratic care, massage therapy

Wellness Discount of 10 - 60%
Weight managament, smoking cessation, fitness club memberships

Long-Term Care Services Discount of 5-30%
Assisting living facilities, home health care, adult day care, durable med equipment

Hearing Care Discount of 10-20%
hearing aids

Infertility Discount of 5-20%
in-vitro fertilization, reproductive endocrinology

Behavioral Health Discount of 5-30%
counseling, psychology, addiction treatment

Careington Offers the Most Variety

Careington is a national organization that shares a reputation with AmeriPlan of being the two largest DMPOs in the country. At Careington, members not only get discounts similar to the Sam's Club offering but they also enjoy access to a real, live nurse at the 24/7 Nurse Access Line as well as a 24/7 Counseling Line (with Master's Degree level counselors on staff). Careington offers vision discounts, vitamin discounts, and even funeral help and pet insurance.

For $29.95/month, Careington provides discounts on dental, vision, pharmacy, alternative health, vitamins, hearing aids, physicians, hospitals, 24/7 Nurse Line, LASIK, Teeth Whitening, Mail Order Pharmacy, Online Drug Store, and Diabetic Supplies. For $11.95/month, you can get a basic dental and vision plan. With $15.95/month, you receive all their discounts except those covering physicians and hospitals.

AmeriPlan Isn't Web Friendly

AmeriPlan does not cover the range of services of either Careington or the Sam's Club option. AmeriPlan is limited to dental, vision, prescriptions, chiropratic, and medical. However, it promises bigger discounts: up to 80% off dental services, for example, and more coverage, too: oral surgeons, periodontists, etc. are included in their plan. (One page of the site touted some upcoming wellness services.)

Their website is harder to navigate, though, and the actual membership prices were not shown (instead, you were requested to allow their agents to contact you by email or phone).


When is a DMPO Good for You?

Who would want these discount plans? Of course, for those 60+ million Americans who have no health insurance, or not enough coverage, these plans help to fill the gap. However, these plans also help those with adequate insurance coverage.

There is no rule that you can't have coverage through your employer and not have a discount plan, as well. For those with coverage, these discount plans help cover deductibles as well as non-covered items such as preexisting conditions or your child's braces.

How to choose a good discount plan?

1. Check the Florida licensure list -- these are reputable plans and many are nationwide.

2. Ask for their materials. Make sure that the company is happy to provide you with all its marketing materials, including current provider information for your area, for free and without any commitment on your part.

3. Call the providers they list. Are they truly recognizing these discounts? Are the providers happy with the plan provider? Ask for the person responsible for the medical or dental office's billing - don't stop at the receptionist. The money person there will know the skinny.

4. Check with your state's Secretary of State's office. Has this company registered to do business in your state? The fees here are not huge, but fly by nights seldom bother to complete the paperwork and pay the money here.

5. Surf the web for testimonials and reviews. For example, CinergyHealth is a small Florida plan provider that seems to have a good local reputation and a happy following.

December 17, 2007

Fleas - Vacuuming Is The Best Remedy

Ohio State University has just released a study where they found that thoroughly vacuuming the house is an effective way to get rid of fleas (other than on the dog or cat, of course). Vacuuming killed 96% of the adult fleas and 100% of the younger ones. Associate Professor Glen Needham:

“For awhile, fleas owned us. But now they're on the run.... There are all kinds of ways to manage the problem, but how people feel about insecticides and how much money they want to spend factors into what they're going to do for flea control. Vacuuming is a great strategy because it involves no chemicals and physically removes the problem.”

December 16, 2007

Dog Ear Infections: Great Stuff


Your dog starts shaking his head roughly, ears flapping about. He rubs his head on the ground, the rug, or the bed. He's irritable. His ears smell and there's something black or yellow in there.

He's got an ear infection.

And, lots of you know the experience of taking him to the vet, getting the pills and the ointment, and having the same infection pop right back up the minute that you stop the treatment. And, some of you know the frustration of paying close to $1000 to have your pup anesthesitized and his ears cleaned out. Not a cure, either.

Well, here's something that's worked for us. And apparently, for lots of other folk, given the 53 Five Star Reviews at Amazon.Com (along with 2 four star reviews). It's Zymonx Otic With 1.0% Hydrocortizone, and you can get a bottle for under $10 at Amazon.Com.

I'd recommend getting two, because it's sloppy work and one bottle may not be enough for an uncooperative Fido when it comes to putting the drops into the ears ....

PS Works for cats, too.

December 10, 2007

Fasting


A recent study has been released, opining that the reason that Mormons get less heart attacks than the general American population is because they fast one day each month.

Of course, fasting for spiritual reasons has been practiced since ancient times. However, fasting is also said to have lots of therapeutic benefits and research worldwide has found it physically beneficial for several reasons, including:

lowering blood pressure
helping with diabetes
lowering cholesterol.

Why not fast for a day, see how you feel? You could limit yourself to juices, for example, it doesn't have to be just water, or just zip ....

December 1, 2007

Rising Cost of Living



Printing presses are whizzing along, sending more and more EuroDollars and American Dollars into the marketplace. To learn more about this, check out The Daily Reckoning's article today, by Adrian Ash, "The Great Flood ... of Money."

And, why should Simple Living Afficianados learn about such things? Living simply, and more abundantly, doesn't mean that we are ostriches with our heads in the sand nor does it mean that we're 60s-hippies-wannabes. It means we appreciate living smart, and that means living simply. Part of Smart means knowing the marketplace, and not being apathetic about its impact, or afraid of its ramifications.

November 30, 2007

Food as Medicine: Olive Leaf - Alternative to Antibiotics

Want to avoid taking antibiotics? Try Olive Leaf Extract.

Not only has it been proven to be effective against viruses and bacteria (along with fungus and yeast), a recent Australian study has shown its potential as a cancer-fighting agent. It's also shown to be effective against high blood pressure, to lower cholesterol, and to help fight AIDS/HIV.

You can buy it in capsule or pill form, or you can purchase the liquid and take it by drops (best in water or juice). Smaller dosages are sold for dogs and cats, it works for them, too.

It's not expensive. A bottle of pills can be had for $5.00 - human or pet form. Plus, there aren't any huge side effects. It will lower blood sugar and blood pressure, which may or may not be an issue for you.

And, it's been around for awhile. It's been used medicinally for centuries.

For more information:
Science Direct
Sloan-Kettering
Advance Health (long link list - research studies)
University of Queensland/Southern Cross University Study-July 2006

November 28, 2007

New Food Ranking System: Overall Nutritional Quality Index


Soon, all the food at the grocery store will have a single-number ranking, somewhere between 1 and 100. It's called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index ("ONQI") and it's been developed by a group of nutritional experts, with a Yale PhD at the helm.

I haven't seen the actual rankings yet, but I'm assuming that organic cabbage gets something like a 97 and cotton candy gets a 2. Something like that.

November 26, 2007

15 Tips for Maximizing Your Food Budget

This month, the Center for Nutrition Policy issued a new pdf: "Low Cost, Medium Cost and Liberal Food Plans - 2007," revising a previous version of alternative food budgets. (The low cost plan is designed to work with someone feeding a family on food stamps.)

It's too hard to read, and I'm not sure what to think about all its data, anyway. So, I've compiled this list of 15 tips for maximizing your food budget:

1. Buy store brands - they're cheaper.

2. Use coupons - take an hour a week to track them down in the newspaper, mailbox, and online. Organize them according to area of the store (dairy, meat, etc.) and within that category, by expiration date. (If you're lucky, your store has its own promotional coupons, too - here in San Antonio, HEB has lots of promos plus a coupon kiosk near the customer service area). It doesn't take that long, and you can use the rest of the time to plan meals.

3. Shop on double coupon day. (Here in SA, that means Sun Harvest; HEB doesn't offer double coupon days.)

4. Plan your weekly menu to maximize the coupons.

5. Shop with a grocery list and stick to that list.

6. Do not buy junk just because you have a coupon. If the kids hate powdered donuts, don't buy them just because they're on sale. If you are into eating organic, then don't compromise just because Cocoa Puffs are 3 for a dollar. Rule the coupons, don't let them rule you!

7. Compare the unit price. Something on sale with a coupon may still cost more than the store brand.

8. Cook from scratch as much as possible: the more preparation in the item, the higher the price.

9. Organize your kitchen (freezer, fridge, pantry) as well as a little storage area elsewhere. A big sale on toilet paper may be worth stocking up - but you will need the extra space. Similarly, cooking a big batch of chili or stew may mean you freeze half for later: it's better to have an organzed freezer (not only to have a place for the item, but to remember it's there and not have it hidden for archeologists in the back right corner ...).

10. Eat your leftovers. Rework them if your family is picky about this - Food Network's Robin Miller (contributing editor for Health and Cooking Light ) has an entire show dedicated on revamping a food item in 3-4 ways for use during the week. Chicken breasts one night become shredded bbq chicken sammies the next, etc.

11. Keep a Food Journal. Yes, this sounds hokey -- but it can be a simple spiral notebook and it's purpose is to keep track of what's working and what's not. It doesn't have to be pretty. If the family loved your Organic Mac and Cheese Bake, then make a note of this. If they hated the 12 grain bread, note it. Slowly, you'll build a list of recipes that the family likes and this will make menu planning a lot easier. The Journal should also keep track of big sales -- stores tend to put things on sale on a schedule and as you gain control of this info, you'll be able to plan ahead for the sale items. I also take my journal with me to Sam's, HEB, etc. and write down prices for things that I buy a lot. It's helped me discover that the paper towels at Walmart are a better deal than Sam's, and I was just assuming that Sam's had the best deal.

12. Cook in batches. Buying in bulk (like at Sam's or CostCo) can get you a better unit price. You can break these apart and freeze parts. You can also stretch these buys through cooking a big batch and then freezing part of the entree for later. Examples: a big pot of chili, freeze half; a huge meatloaf, freeze half; broccoli-rice casserole, freeze half. You get the idea.

13. Learn to cook great vegetables that are cheap. Cabbage, greens, turnips, beets, yams, these are great foods, they are cheap foods, and you need to take advantage of them. A big pot of greens on a cold winter day, with cornbread and sweet butter? There's nothing better. Like Chinese food or Thai? Lots of cabbage potential there. Explore.

14. Find alternatives to meat. Beans and rice together make a complete protein. Cajun recipes and TexMex recipes combine them both. A favorite in my house are bean cakes - they can be crispy and spicy and very delicious as an entree and again as a sammie. Lots of variety here, lots of nutrition, and soooo cheap.

15. Reward yourself for a job well done. This whole thing should be fun, not a chore. Find the joy in all this ... it's there. Great food, great nutrition, and great savings.

November 19, 2007

How to Clean 3: Cooking Grease


Apparently, lots of folk are flummoxed by the grease that's left after frying or roasting or broiling or whatever ... so much so, that here in San Antonio, the water company has posted billboards and notices asking that grease not be poured down pipes. I'm guessing lots of folks were never taught how to deal with the messy stuff.

Grease isn't that hard to deal with -- here's a couple of tips:

1. Pour the hot grease into leftover metal cans (think coffee cans or tin cans) or milk cartons. Let it cool, and toss. Used coffee cans are good, because they have plastic lids. You can fill these over time, storing the sealed can under the sink, and when the can is full, you toss it. No, there's not a bad smell. Put it in the fridge or freezer if you're really worried about a stench.

2. If the pan has sat around so the grease (e.g., fat) is not in liquid form any longer, the easiest thing to do is put the pan in the oven at 250 until it becomes liquid again, and do the pour thing.

You want to avoid getting grease into the sink, or the pipes -- and it's much easier to deal with the grease as a liquid than in its gel form.

3. Now, bacon grease is different. It's special. Keep it separate and make sure your container has a lid. When I was little, my mother would store bacon fat left over from breakfast on the stove top, because she used it as a flavoring -- she would fry onions and garlic in the bacon fat as a basis for lots of things, to fry potatoes, pinto beans, beef tips, even green beans. She'd use it to make cornbread. She'd make a roux with it for gravy, put a tad of it in mashed potatoes, well - you get the idea.


For a nice trip down Bacon Grease Lane, check out this list of comments at Gather.com.

FYI, did you know that in WWII, housewives were asked to save their cooking grease and turn it in to their local grocery stores, where it was collected to be used in making explosives?

November 16, 2007

Food as Medicine: 10 Tips For Lowering Cholesterol With Food

You can significantly lower your cholesterol just by diet. Here are some tips:

1. Eat several small meals a day. Think 3 meals, and then 3 snacks, if this helps - and then make the meals smaller than before. This keeps your blood sugar steady and prevents insulin spikes that up the production of cholesterol.

2. Eat a handful of walnuts or almonds each day. (Just doing this will lower your cholesterol by approximately 10%.) Better yet, do both. You can always add them to salads, top casseroles with them, put them in your oatmeal (I love this), or just have them as a snack. Keep a jar or small can of them on the table, within easy reach, and they'll get eaten.

3. Spice up your food with cayenne powder. Cayenne powder contains capsacin, which lowers cholesterol. Not that hard, if you're eating lots of different bean recipes (uses up lots of garlic this way, too).

4. Add garlic to your recipes. It lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.

5. Eat lots of beans. 1.5 cups of beans a day in your diet can lower your cholesterol by 19%. There's lots of ways to cook beans (soups, beancakes, stews, salads, beans & rice dishes, dips, etc.). There's lots of beans to choose from, too. Beancakes are great -- they can be made into sandwiches, eaten as a meal -- mush the beans up, put in lots of spices as well as garlic and onion, maybe some shredded carrot, and bake or fry these babies. Roll them in cornmeal or bread crumbs for a crispy crust.

6. Eat carrots and apples. They both have pectin, which lowers cholesterol.

7. Eat lots of fiber -- raw veggies and fruits are best. If you're eating the beans, the apples, the carrots, and the oatmeal, you're probably okay here.

8. Add cinnamon to your diet. 1-2 T/day. It helps lower cholesterol. Add it to your coffee, put it in your oatmeal, bake apples or yams with cinnamon, some make cinnamon tea but I'm not into the flavor that much. Pills are also available, Natural Valley has a good product - one month's supply for under 10 bucks.

9. Eat lots of oatmeal -- but make sure you use a good quality oatmeal in order to maximize the benefit. Say, 1.5 cups a day. (My favorite is Silver Palate's Thick and Rough Oatmeal.)

10. Stop eating margarine and other Saturated Fats. Check the Nutritional Labels of everything you buy and just don't buy products that are high in saturated fat or that have any trans-fats in them.

Sources:
MayoClinic.Com
Medicine.Net
American Heart Association
GoAskAlice.ColumbiaUniversity

November 14, 2007

Miracle Tea for Diabetes? You Decide.


Here in San Antonio, we've got reports of a miracle tea for diabetes, with lots of folk raving about the results. The Mexican company has a local office here as well as a website.

They're selling 90 tea bags for $49.95.

November 13, 2007

Skeery Economy? Yes. Is it Smart to be Scared? No.


If you want to get skeered and all shivery about the economy, just go read these guys for awhile and then start panic-plotting how you, too, can move to Asia, or start stockpiling gold, or become self-sustaining, off the grid in the outback somewhere:


The Daily Reckoning
The Rude Awakening
The Housing Bubble 2
Desidooru Saloon
Economist's View

These guys sound savvy and on the mark, and they've been proven right over time. You should know what's happening here. And, yep, it's sounding bad.

Of course, you can read all this and choose not to fear, but instead to figure out what is best for you to DO.

One thing that's obvious when you just look at the foreclosure rates alone is that a lot of folk are having to tighten their budgets and live a different lifestyle because of events that have been thrust upon them. They're going to have to deal with grief and loss and probably shame -- that's a lot already without a big bunch of fear thrown on top.

They've been forced to simplify their lives, without the accompanying value and lifestyle choices that others have done in advance, like those who label themselves "Voluntary Simplifiers," for example.

People that are forced to live simply are very different from those of us who have chosen to live Simple Lives as a positive, proactive choice.

If you've chosen Simplicity, don't change now, just keep moving forward.

You already know how not to be a lemming, and you already know how to appreciate what you have, and you know how to implement change and not stay stuck.

If you've had Simplicity thrust upon you, there's lots of negative emotions to fight -- but it's isn't a bad thing to live a simple life. For lots of us, it's the best life ever.

Abundance and material wealth are two very different things.

Hang in there.

Everything is going to be alright.

You've got you, remember?

November 11, 2007

Rising Oil Prices - What They Mean to Your Family

There's a great post over at SmartMoney about oil prices rising to $100 a barrel -- expect:

1. Rising Gas Prices -- it will cost more to drive your car

2. Rising Heating Cost -- it will cost more to heat your home (less if you heat with natural gas)

3. Rising Cost to Fly -- airline tickets will rise

4. Rising Shipping Costs -- transportation costs will also impact the cost of groceries, clothes, etc. because it will cost more to get the product onto the shelf.

Go read the article
for details, as well as links for things like cutting energy costs.

If you want to learn more about oil - especially the peak oil issue - then I recommending reading this post over at Mighty Bargain Hunter. As always, MBH gives lots and lots of good info.

November 10, 2007

Dog Behavior and Training: Great Site

There's a great site with lots of info on why dogs behave the way that they do, as well as how to train them like a Good Pack Leader over at Paw Persuasion. Written by Rena Murray, it's filled with great stuff for dog owners, such as:

Remember your dog is a dog, not a "fur person" (to borrow from Susan Conant in Gaits of Heaven);

your dog must respect you and this is shown in specific canine behaviors; and

the top three reasons that humans cater to dogs.

November 9, 2007

Weight Loss That's Simple? Jon Gabriel and Lee Haney

John Gabriel has just made a deal to have his book, The Gabriel Method, published in the US. You can already buy it online at his Australian website, along with an accompanying CD. What's the big deal about this one?

Well, he lost over 220 pounds without surgery or some strange diet methods - and he didn't need any plastic surgery for loose skin afterwards. Check out the photos and be amazed.

Jon Gabriel's approach addresses the fight vs flight body response, visualization techniques, and a slow weight loss. For more details, read this discussion.

Another newbie on the weight loss market is Lee Haney's new website, LeeHaney.Com, where he promotes 4 simple keys to getting fit:

1. Detox your body
2. Exercise 30 minutes a day - moving and weights
3. Take supplements that help your metabolism
4. Decrease your daily caloric intake by 250 calories a day.

Now, of course there are zillions of diet and fitness and weight loss products out on the market. What I like about both of these approaches is that they keep it simple; they are directed to an overall lifestyle change; and they recommend a slow weight loss. Plus, that Lee Haney seems like such a nice guy.

November 8, 2007

Example of Excess 4: Zany Prices

This morning, The Drudge Report has three links to news reports on unbelievable prices --

1. $150,000,000 for an apartment in New York City's Upper East Side. That's right - an apartment. Not even one tree is included in the purchase - you still gotta walk the dog. (Or, assumedly, have someone to do it.) One-hundred fifty MILLION, folks.

2. A $25,000 chocolate sundae being sold by New York's Serendipity 3, which includes La Madeline au Truffle from Knipschildt Chocolatier on the side ($2,600/lb.) as well as 5 grams of edible gold and a gold spoon encrusted with chocolate and white diamonds. And, yes, you get to take the spoon home with you.

3. A $1000 bagel at New York's Westin Hotel -- it comes with white truffle cream cheese (according to the article, only caviar is more rare than this stuff) and something that just sounds like it was written for comedians out there: "goji berry infused Riesling jelly with golden leaves."

No word on who has actually bought the sundae or the bagel. These are being offered for sale, the bagel's profits are going to charity.

But the apartment? That's a done deal, baby.

November 7, 2007

Free GOOD Grocery Coupons Online - List 4 U

After watching Jon & Kate Plus 8, and this amazing woman maximizing her food budget while not compromising on food quality, well -- first of all, I'm waiting to hear about when her book's coming out -- and second, it made me go and check out online coupons -- printable and otherwise.

Here's a list of sites offering free online coupons -- I haven't test-driven them yet, but I have culled thru them for the ones that look good:

CoolSavings.Com

This one looks good -- had coupons for hummus and low-fat mozzarela string cheese on the home page when I took a look. Which is great -- lots of coupons in the paper (and at some sites) offer food I won't buy.

Coupon Mom

Coupon Mom has collected lots of sites and info -- her page with printable grocery coupons had 72 when I tried it, and boy -- it had lots of stuff I already use. Wish I had this before I went to the grocery last week! And, this list was available to me without registration and without entering my zip code ....


Wow-Coupons


This is a great site, too. Like Coupon Mom, it also provides somewhat of a hub - and it covers both the US and the UK - and things besides groceries: it has restaurants, travel, etc.. Big site.

But it also has its own coupons -- and there's lots of healthy, organic stuff to be had here. Plus, links to free coupons at places like Living Naturally and Organic Valley. These are good coupons, too -- $1 off 1/2 gallon of soy milk, things like that.


Thanks so much to Kate Gosselin -- I wouldn't have done this investigation if I had not watched her shop for her family of 10 in what appeared to be a Whole Foods .... For her list of household tips, check out the show's site here.

November 5, 2007

Detoxification Lite

If you are pondering a detox program -- liver, kidneys, etc. -- but are concerned about being incapacitated for a couple of days, maybe you should try Sunny Greens' Total Greens for a gentle detoxification. You'll experience some of the same detox dilemmas - flu-like symptoms, etc. - but they won't be as intense as the more serious detoxification formulas. Of course, it's probably not as thorough either.

Me? I did this and while the flu-like symptoms did not make for a fun weekend, the increase in energy and clarity of thought sure sold me. Detoxification is a good thing.

November 4, 2007

Blackle.com -Saving Energy One Search at a Time

Blackle.com is an energy-saving search engine offered by the Australian group, Heap Media. From their site:

"Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black.... In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

"We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy."


Blackle encourages you to use their site as your home page, for energy saving, and also offers a nice list of energy-saving tips, too.

November 3, 2007

Freebies: Washington Mutual Checking Account

Clever advertising is just a good choice in agencies. How good is the WaMu offer? Well, it's true: you get a checking and a savings account for free. This includes free checks, free online banking (including bill pay) and a free ATM card (gold). Branches are popping up everywhere, so convenience shouldn't be an issue.

There are drawbacks, tho: it may work a little differently than your other bank. For instance, make a deposit and you get a confirmation sheet that could easily be confused with your Starbucks invoice. No formal banking slip here.

Go inside to get some cash, and you see kiosks with tellers standing there. There's not any long bar, with windows, separating the two of you. Cash withdrawals here get you a paper slip, which you take over to a withdrawal machine in the corner - near the guard - and get your own cash. When I asked the bank clerk what she thought about this, she said she felt safer with this system. Me? I'd prefer the long bar and the big windows ....

As for customer reviews, there's a lot of bad juju online. Surf through My3Cents.com, EOpinions, and RateItAll.

Can't tell you any more than that. I opened one out of curiosity, really -- and I'm not sure how much trust I really have in WaMu, frankly. That kiosk business is strange, and I like a standard deposit slip, somehow.

November 2, 2007

Daylight Savings Time is THIS Sunday


Yes, finally. Daylight Savings Time hits this Sunday. We move our clocks back one hour - remember "Spring Forward, Fall Back" from years past?

The history of Daylight Savings Time is pretty interesting. Did you know that during his stay in Paris, Benjamin Franklin suggested that the French could save money on candles by getting up earlier, and taking advantage of the morning sun?

October 29, 2007

GoDaddy E-Mail Cost Me 7 Hrs on Saturday

Living simply means choosing a good deal and sticking with it - in the words of my father, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Less daily strife that way, and of course, there's always more than enough to do on the "to do" list, anyhow.

Then again ....

On Saturday, starting at 5:07 pm and ending right before midnight, I plugged away at getting my two business emails (one for writing, one for law) back to where they would load in Outlook. Something that they had been quietly and efficiency doing for over three years without a hitch - until Saturday afternoon.

I played with the tools, etc. on Outlook, expanding the time before timing-out, etc. No dice.

I called GoDaddy, since it was their two emails that were failing. I got a human who speaks English on the line. I gave him the error messages. He said it's not them. Call the ISP.

I called the ISP. Human, English-speaking techie tells me it's not them. Call the AntiVirus folk.

(Somewhere in here, I surfed for the error messages, went to the Microsoft Support page and read all about what to do. I'm already doing it.)

I then communicate with the Norton AntiVirus folk by an online chat room with (assumedly) a human whose native language is obviously not English. There are long gaps in typed conversation, where I'm wondering if my words are being fed through an online translator, or if a manual tranlation dictionary is being used. And, by long gaps I mean: Long. Gaps.

After I can't tell you how long this all took because I've blocked this out of my mind, I'm told that Norton has corrupted files, and while I could just un-install and reinstall the software, why don't I just upgrade since the registration is expiring in 20 days anyway?

I surf sites and find options to Norton AntiVirus -- I choose a Kaspersky product.

I call the K people, talk to a human in sales, and get the upgrade. This is after I uninstall both Norton AV and the software for their chatroom with its scary "remote control" feature that I had to install in order to get to Norton tech support on a Saturday.

(Remember -- these are business emails, I have to have them up and running asap.)

I install the new antivirus software.

It doesn't work. I trying calling back, and learn that while sales has real humans, tech support has another one of those chat room thingies for the weekends.

I consider drink.



I install the newbie again. This time it works. I go through all the hoopla of choosing my options, putting it my protective info.

It's been hours.

I go to the GoDaddy website to check and see about my email there -- can I pull anything up from there, that's been held in limbo while being blocked on my computer? I'm expecting an email from a writing client, is it in here?

Well, what do you know.

GoDaddy has an email service. Complete with POP -- they want you to use GoDaddy for all your email addresses. And, they've got some fancy spam filter. And, there -- starting with my first tests around 5 pm, hours and hours ago -- are all my missing emails. They've been setting in the Approval/Disapproval Spam box all this time.

I turn off the GoDaddy spam stuff and everything -- including all 28 test messages showing time stamps spanning 7 hours -- goes frolicking over to Outlook.

Wouldn't it be nice if someone at GoDaddy had told me they were going to do this new feature? Wouldn't it have been nice if the human I called at the beginning of all this had known anything at all about this?

GoDaddy was once a good deal, but GoDaddy may have to Go.

October 26, 2007

Skype - Is It 4 U?

Skype (rhymes with "type") advertises unlimited calls to anywhere in the US and Canada for $3.00/month (calls between Skype users are free) and now that WiFi is so widely available, Skype is offering its own cellphone too. For $99.00, you can buy a Skype Phone and use it anywhere there is a WiFi connection to make calls via your Skype account without having to turn on your computer.

Yes, Virginia: that's amazingly cheap phone service (national and international) from your computer and now, from a cellphone, too. Free if you call Skype users. Yes, free. Wow.

Yep. Skype calls are free between Skype users in the US or Canada. If you buy the "Skype Unlimited" package, for $30 a year, you get unlimited Skype calls to any landline or cell phone within the US or Canada. Regardless of whether they've ever heard of Skype or not.

International calls are usually cheap, but you have to check the country. You may end up paying a little over a dollar a minute for some remote locations; then again, you can call Paris for 2 cents a minute. It all depends.


What's Skype? How can they DO this? According to the company's website:

"Skype is available in 28 languages and is used in almost every country around the world. Skype generates revenue through its premium offerings such as making and receiving calls to and from landline and mobile phones, as well as voicemail and call forwarding. Skype, based in Luxembourg, has relationships with a growing network of hardware and software providers and is an eBay company."


Is Skype for you?

1. There are expectations that Skype will face attacks similar to Vonage as the Big Phone Companies try and fight to keep their hold on the marketplace. Patent infringement suits against Vonage are threatening bankruptcy according to the sages over at Business Week, for example.

2. Internally, things are in flux at Skype. Its CEO resigned on October 1st; no new Big Kahuna has been announced. There's an interim guy at the helm right now who hails from EBay -- both Skype founders and its "technical wizard" have jumped ship. And, EBay recently has announced that its taking a hickey on its purchase of Skype back in 2005.

3. Companies are coming alongside Skype, as well.

On October 17,2007, a partnership was announced between MySpace and Skype - now MySpace friends can chat with each other. (Skype also sells WebCams as well as Headsets in addition to its new Skype phone.) In addition to the MySpace alliance, some big guns are being Skype-friendly.
For example, at Walmart, you can buy a General Electric called the "2-in-1 Internet and Standard Phone" for $149.98. The 2-in-1 connects to both your broadband connection and your home phoneline. The 2-in-1 lets you makes Skype calls or regular phone line calls, your choice. It has caller ID, a headset, and a speakerphone. The old VOIP problem with 911 service is solved here: that second line lets you access emergency services even if the Skype line is in use.

As for whether or not you should try Skype, why not read thru the Walmart GE 2-in-1 phone reviews? One guy is claiming to have saved $1000/yr in phone bills. Then, too, there are reviews over at CNET, and a good review of Skype overall at VoipReviewsOnline.com.

For info on Vonage and VOIP in general, check out my January 25, 2006 post "VoIP - What About Those $25 Vonage Ads?"

So, is it for you? Well, there's the outlay for the new phone (or phones if you buy the new cellphone, too) but that lower monthly bill each month might balance things out at the get-go, right? Quality of the calls is supposed to be good, too.

One bad thing no one has mentioned: with the use of a webcab, Skype is offering us the ability to chat with each other just like the Jetsons -- but no one's selling that Fully Made-Up and Great Hair Screen that Jane Jetson used early in the morning. I know that I, for one, am very interested in hearing about THAT product appearing in the marketplace.

October 24, 2007

Personal Post 7: Analog Clocks

Over the weekend, I put "desk-sized old-fashioned clock" on the list and thought this would be easy. I needed a clock face with the actual hour hand and minute hand, 12 and 3 and 6 and 9 (if not more) for my desk.

Yes, I have the other kind: I can ignore them too easily. In my head, 11:41 just gets noted.

When I look at a clock face with hands pointing the way, I start realizing the passage of time - perhaps this is a sign of age. Whatever.

At any rate, you cannot believe how hard it was for me to find a small, simple analog clock. Lots and lots of digitals - for everyone in the family. A good variety of wall clocks with analog faces.

Finally, at Target, on a clearance shelf: a small analog clock - quartz - with roman numerals and no second hand or alarm. Ten bucks.

I took it and ran.

October 23, 2007

Personal Post 6: Natural Cold and Flu Remedies


I'm coming down with a cold and thought I'd share my research with you on cold and flu remedies:

1. The Herbal Stuff
An article at About.Com suggests using zinc lozenges; astralagus; echinacea - specifically echinacea purpurea; ginseng; garlic; and elderberry. They've got the research and links to support their advice, if you want to read up on all this.

2. Home Remedies
Over at HomeRemediesForYou, they recommend the homespun treatments like getting lots of rest, drinking juices, getting some sun, taking in garlic, drinking warm water with lemon and honey in it.

3. The WebMD Approach
WebMd has a few natural remedies to suggest, too. They include blowing your nose often (they even give instructions); lots of rest; gargling; taking a steamy shower; using a salve (I prefer Vick's VapoRub); and sleeping with an extra pillow under your head for drainage purposes.

Okay. What am I going to do?

I'm going to rest, drink lots of hot liquids as well as fresh-squeezed orange juice, sleep with the extra pillow, use Vick's VapoRub, get some sun, take garlic, and the echinacea -- and yes: I'm also taking Tylenol DayCare because I've got to get work done and I cannot type and simultaneously blow my nose and see the screen with watery eyes. So far, though, this Tylenol stuff hasn't done a darn thing.

I'll update in the comments which things seemed to help. Already, I can tell you: Puffs with Lotion ROCK.

October 22, 2007

Have You Had a Bad Reaction to MSG?

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is added to foods as a taste enhancer. The FDA says MSG is safe, except for some folk to take too much of it, or those who suffer from asthma.

At MSGTruth.Org, there is a long research list that begs to differ. There's also NoMSG.com, a consumer group site battling against MSG; MSGMyth.com, a reference website compiled by Debbie Anglesey; MigraneWeb.com, which has a section of its site dedicated to MSG; and the British watchdog group's FedUpWithFoodAdditives.Info's fact sheet on MSG.

Yes, it's controversial. A nice, concise summary of that controversy is found on the British fact sheet.

For those who have had a reaction to MSG, there's no debate. Also called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome," reactions to MSG can range from feelings of nausea to migranes, dizziness, and heart palpitations. It can trigger asthmatic attacks. And, it's not a quick response/recovery: it takes a good couple of days to bounce back from an MSG reaction according to the University of Illinois Medical Center.

There are those that argue that long term effects of MSG can include Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Autism in children, Diabetes (I and II), and obesity in children and adults. (Yes, MSG is argued to cause you to want to eat more.)

Both sides can agree on one thing: too much MSG will cause bad reactions in humans. The FDA report suggests that amount to be around 3 grams. And, with the growing list of foods containing MSG, perhaps it's not too hard to imagine that more and more people are getting excess MSG in their diets ....

From MSGTruth.Org, a partial list of common foods with MSG (go to link for complete list):

McDonald's French Fries
Doritos®
KFC® fried chicken and most of their other products
Progresso® Soups - all of them
Kraft® products nearly all contain some free glutamate
Planters® salted nuts - most of them
Accent® -this is nearly pure MSG
Braggs® Liquid Aminos - sold at Whole Foods
processed cheese spread
supermarket poultry or turkeys that are injected or "self-basting"
flavored Ramen noodles
boullion - any kind
flavored potato chips
soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Parmesan cheese - naturally high in free glutamate



From Rense.com, a partial list of ingredients that all mean the same thing, MSG has been added, quoting from Excitotoxins - The Taste That Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD:

Monosodium Glutamate
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrolyzed Protein
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
Plant Protein Extract
Sodium Caseinate
Calcium Caseinate
Yeast Extract
Textured Protein (Including TVP)
Autolyzed Yeast
Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Corn Oil


And, if that's not enough, there's also the ingredient "natural flavor" or "natural flavoring." Yep, you guessed it: another synonym for MSG.

Personally, I believe MSG is bad for me and I avoid it. I know enough to know that Panda Express Gourmet Chinese Food takeout causes me to feel terrible the next day -- but my real testimonial comes from some flavored Kettle Chips (Maui Onion) that I splurged on, even though I usually avoid fried potato chips. Bad reaction (including dizziness, which was scary), and the cause? MSG.

October 14, 2007

Ground Beef Warning - Huge Oct 2007 Recalls

Topps Meat Company just went out of business after 67 years because of its massive recall of beef patty products - the second largest beef recall in US history. Other beef recalls are happening right now, but they pale by comparison to Topps' recall of one entire year's production of product.

If you have ground beef products in your home, you may want to check the Web before using them. Go here:

FDA - FSIS site
FSIS List of Recalls


If you're wondering what's happening, there's a good article written yesterday by Stephen Hedges at the Chicago Tribune on what's what.

October 13, 2007

The HALT Program: Wish It Were Nation-wide

The HALT Program comes out of Tennessee and I wish we had it here in Texas. Heck, I wish it was operating in every state, in every community.

HALT, "Humans and Animals Learning Together," is a non-profit program supported by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. It's been a very successful program since its inception in 1987.

HALT puts foster kids together with shelter dogs who need some behavior training before they can become adoptable as pets. The dogs have all the necessary screenings (medical and otherwise) prior to teaming up with their "student trainers," who likewise have been prepared with training classes, etc.

While the kids can't adopt their trainees, both get a lot out of the program. The dogs learn skills that they need to be better adoption prospects.

The kids learn skills like patience, discipline, responsibility. And, they also get that unconditional love that dogs so freely give.

Amy McRary recently wrote a good article about HALT for the Knoxville News Sentinel. It's worth the read.

For more info about HALT, visit its website and look at its link to coverage in Southern Living magazine. The SL article has a lot of nice photos.

October 10, 2007

Retiring in Mexico

More and more news reports are covering the rise in Americans retiring in Mexico. This is due in part to the lower cost of living, as well as the lower costs of medical and dental care and nursing home expense. It's also due in part to the Mexican people themselves: their loving attitudes toward family, and friendly acceptance and assistance to expatriates, makes Mexico a welcoming place for many Seniors.

For more information on retiring in Mexico, check out these sources:

Mexperience
The People's Guide to Mexico
Gadling
ExpatForum - Mexico
MexConnect
Transitions Abroad - Mexico

August 18, 2007

Personal Post 5: Crazy But True Fly-Stopper

I have alley trash pick-up, but there has been some confusion lately about where to put the garbage during a temporary alley shut-down, allowing for pruning of the overhanging tree limbs, etc. By confusion, I mean that I put the trash bags in the wrong spot, and they didn't get picked up.

Which means the garbage had to set, developing its aroma and oozing its vile liquid, for another four days. You could almost hear the flies spreading the word. Feast. Fiesta. Major Party Time. The advance team was there within the hour.

So, I went online and discovered that in third world countries, they commonly hang open Ziploc bags filled with water near areas that flies are prone to visit, and somehow this keeps the flies away. The more modern version is reported to be placing CDROMs near the area. Something about the reflection off the water, or off the CDROM - flies don't like it.

Sounded silly, just too darn good to be true. But the volume of testimonials, from all over the world, swayed me. Plus, what's a CDROM hung up on the fence? Cheap, easy, right?

Well, it worked. The shiny CDROM kept all flies from the area. No kidding. And the trash reeked and oozed, a real big test of this folk remedy.

Since then, I've left the CDROM there, and placed one by the back door as well. Nary a fly -- I'm amazed at this one. Thought I'd share it with you.

July 5, 2007

Feeling Sick? Check Your Symptoms Online

Feeling under the weather, but not sure what's up? There are a couple of online sites that allow you to input symptoms, and voila! a list of possible causes pops up with suggested courses of treatment - stuff to do at home, as well as suggestions on when you should see the doctor.

The Mayo Clinic offers this free service at its site. Its "symptom checker" provides lots of information, including both treatment and prevention.

WebMD.Com also has a symptom checker. WebMD is an online site provided by a combination of physicians and other professionals. It is affiliated with MedicineNet.

Other online symptom checkers include Healthline, and About.Com, whose symptom checker uses information provided by Harvard Medical School.

For those of you interested in alternative medicine, or distrustful of standardized medicine, check out HowStuffWorks.Com, which provides not only a symptom checker but tons of info on ... well, how stuff works health-wise. Revolution Health also provides a symptom checker (but if you look closely, they are using the Mayo Clinic site).


Shown: Gabriel Von Max's Die ekstatische Jungfrau Katharina Emmerich, 1885

July 1, 2007

Homemade Laundry Soap

There are several sites with lots of recipe lists for homemade laundry soap. Why bother?

It's cheaper. Lots cheaper. The Simple Dollar reports a $70.00 savings and provides a per load savings comparison to bulk buys at Sams and Costco here.

Another factor is that making your own laundry soap means you know what's going into it, which can really help with skin allergies, eczema, and the like. Artificial fragrances alone are the source of many skin irritations.


For recipes, check out:
The Frugal Shopper
The Family Homestead
Christian Mommies

June 26, 2007

Open Office: Great Free Software Suite

Open Office is free, free, free. It offers software comparable to other major office software suites (yes, think Microsoft Word et al) and has won high praise from techies and non-techies alike.

There is Writer (word processor); Calc (spreadsheets); Impress (multimedia presentations); Draw (3D illustrations, etc.); Base (databases); and Math (equations editor and creator).

VUNET.COM gives it a five star rating.

PCWorld/India
calls it "an excellent free alternative to Microsoft Office."

James Gaskin at NetworkWorld goes so far as to opine that small businesses should buy a few Microsoft Office packages, and fill out the rest with OpenOffice. It's a 80/20 analysis that seems to make good sense.

Me? I like it.

June 25, 2007

Natural Remedies 4 Fleas on Dogs

Back in the day, there were lots of perfectly good folk remedies for keeping fleas off the dog, and out of the house, off the kids, and off of you.

Here are some of them -- personally, I've used the garlic remedy for over 14 years now, with no problem (some will say garlic is bad for dogs -- mine, all lab mixes, have never had a complaint). I do more than just the garlic, though: I combine several of these remedies, and we never have a flea problem.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar - 1 T in the dog's water bowl. Fleas don't like the smell.

2. Brewer's Yeast Tablets - fed to the dog, the yeast makes the skin uninviting to fleas.

3. Garlic - I put fresh garlic into the homemade dog food, others give their dogs a clove each day. However you think best, it's another smell-repellent.

4. Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acid Supplements - Omega 3 (flax seed tablets, salmon, sardines) or Omega 6 (sunflower oil, safflower oil, wheatgerm oil, evening primrose oil). Feed them sardines, put oil in their food, or give them supplements.

5. Homemade Flea Collar - take a rope or cloth collar and thoroughly rub into it one of the following: tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil. Do this WEEKLY.

6. Dog Spray -- combine boiling water with a couple of quartered lemons. Let it set for a day or two. Spray on the dog, particular the vulnerable spots (armpits, tummy).

7. Salt Water Baths -- dogs near the ocean have it made; salt water baths are a great flea preventative.

8. Thorough cleaning of the dog bed, frequent vacuuming of the home, and bathing of the pets are great helps.

Personally, I put garlic in the homemade dog food, and apple cider vinegar in the water periodically. The dogs get bathed, and the floors get vacuumed frequently. I use the new Febreze Allergen Reducer spray on the mattress as well as the den furniture (the dog areas) and I think this helps, too. Yes, fine. The dogs sleep on the bed. I admit it.

Sources: www.doggienews.com; www.motherearthnews.com; www.dogfoodproject.com; www.peteducation.com

June 20, 2007

Site to See: Debt-Proof Living

Debt-Proof Living may be known to some of you as Cheapskate Monthly: the site has been revamped and renamed. Written by the money editor for Women's Day, the site is busting at the seams with financial tips - along with personal notes from Mary Hunt about her quest for a debt-free lifestyle.

The Hunts have simplified their lives, and their initial motivation was financial. This may not be true for everyone (my initial motivation to simplify was not based upon money, for example), but Mary Hunt has a lot of good advice and encouragement for anyone in the midst of seeking a simpler life.

It's a great site. I think you'll find things there that you will use.

June 18, 2007

Health Tests - Check 4 Yourself

At HealthCheck USA, you can have a variety of medical tests run for yourself, bypassing your doctor's office (and that expense). Many people do this periodically, as a general check on their physical health.

HealthCheck gives information with the lab results, as well as providing a physician's service to answer any additional questions. And, of course, if anything unusual pops up, you can (and should) take the test results to your physician. As an added convenience, you can get your results online, and print them out. No prescription is necessary.

You can check for diabetes ($25), as well as your cholesterol levels ($37), and if you're pregnant ($93). There's an entire series of tests for heart health that are combined under the name Gabe Merkin, which is offered in conjunction with Dr. Merkin's bestselling book, The Healthy Heart Muscle, for those who are following his program.

They offer other test combinations, as well (men's health; women's health; cancer screenings; etc). DNA testing is even available, to screen for possible genetic illnesses (such as Celiac disease or Hemochromatosis).

There are too many tests to mention, the complete list is shown at their site.

Personal note: I learned about this company, which started in San Antonio, when the local grocery chain, HEB Foods, offered their services in the store pharmacies. This was a couple of years back and I signed up for a basic batch of tests. The cost was reasonable, and now I have a baseline to check my health against periodically. The cost was reasonable, the convenience was great, and the same lab was used as the one my doctor prefers.

June 15, 2007

Products Made From Petroleum: YIKES!!

With gas prices rising, there's lots of talk about how to be more efficient with the car. There's car pooling. There's doing errands in a strategized way (no more zig-zagging around town). Some are taking the bus to work, and yesterday I saw a neighbor rolling a shiny new wheelie cart of groceries home from the store.

These are all great things, but Big Oil impacts our daily lives much more than in our gas tanks. According to Rankin Energy, one 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline. The rest of that barrel goes into making other products - Rankin estimates there are over 6000 items using oil in their manufacturing.

Here's a partial list of products with petroleum as an ingredient (this is only a small sample):

nylon zippers
ballet tights
plastic hangers
pantyhose
permanent press clothing
flip flops/thongs
fake fur
polyester clothing
ball point pens
ink
computer diskettes
computers
copiers
magic markers
telephones
microfilm
cameras
earphones
footballs
knitting needles
tennis racquets
golf balls
baby aspirin
stuffed animals
band aids
Vaseline
rubbing alcohol
Pepto-Bismol
hair coloring
soap
cough syrup
hair spray
lipstick
denture adhesives
trash bags
egg cartons
freezer bags
candles
wax paper
nylon spatulas
Teflon pans
Formica
linoleum
garden hoses
plungers
floor wax
Plexiglas
spray paint
Anti-freeze
balloons
dog toys
flea collars
CDROMs
check book covers
shopping bags
video cassettes
credit cards
dice
watch bands


Sources: Illinois Department of Natural Resources; Rankin Energy

See also: 16 CFR 1700 (February 16, 1997)(OnlineDOCID:fr26fe97-25)(Consumer Product Safety Commission, Proposed RuleMaking: Household Products Containing Petroleum Distillates and Other
Hydrocarbons)

June 11, 2007

Site to See: The Slow Cook

Here's a great read for you: The Slow Cook, a blog combining all sorts of great information. Not the least of which, due to the generosity of its author, is the gift of his award-winning recipe for green beans.

Yep, green beans -- cooked for an unbelievably long time, and with bacon fat. One reason this blog is so great: after reading the background on the recipe, you won't feel one bit guilty about eating these beans, bacon fat and all!

And, by the way, this isn't just any recipe: we're talking one of Houghton-Mifflin's 150 Best American Recipes. Ever.

The slaw recipe looks pretty darn good, too.

The blog's up for Best Food Blog over at Blogger's Choice, if you're the voting type. But, there's lots more than just food talk here. I think you'll enjoy it.

June 10, 2007

Personal Post 4: "Upscale Lifestyle Intelligence"


From Wooden Horse Magazine, June 10, 2007:

"FORBESLIFE EXECUTIVE WOMAN, which will be launching in October, has as its
mission: "To provide Forbes' community of executive women with luxury
lifestyle content that they value and respect ... and they won't find
anywhere else." The publisher asks: "Powerful women turn to Forbes for
business insights. But where do these women - who have everything except
time - turn when they want upscale lifestyle intelligence?" Based on a
quick scan of the magazines' features and departments, that lifestyle seems
to include an awful lot of shopping..."
[Emphasis added.]

I debated about posting on this blurb ... then I thought, what the heck. This, and Lesley Seymour all in one week: don't you know that she's gonna subscribe to this rag, for the latest in "upscale lifestyle intelligence"? Of course she is.

How can anyone possibly know if they are buying the right brand, the right label, taking the right vacation, wearing the right jewelry, if they don't have reference manuals? Lemmings need leadership.

Who am I to criticize? I'm a former big-firm attorney who several years ago woke up and decided much of the way that I lived my life was wrong. Morally wrong. And, stupid to boot. So, I changed. I'm still evolving, I suppose.

But, I think that my past gives me a license -- as a former member of the Club -- to laugh at "upscale lifestyle intelligence." Geez Louise.

And, to pray for all those trapped in this -- what did Mary Hunt call it? Oh yes, "entitlement, greed, and self-centeredness". Right.

What do I do now? I'm a professional writer (which means I'm paid to put words on screen, or on paper) and I finally found a place where that Atticus Finch feeling really exists: I represent abused and neglected children in the local Children's Court.

One last thing before this rant is over. This afternoon, I was chuckling because I have found my very favorite purse of all time: you know, the one that is just perfect. It comes from Ross, on sale for $19.00 -- and after I spent all that money on Prada. LOL LOL LOL

June 6, 2007

Example of Excess 3: "Tweens R Shoppers"


First, there's the 04/22/07 New York Times article "Tweens R Shoppers" by Lesley Jane Seymour (appearing in its entirety here).

Then, there are the web responses - which are growing, but not in as great a number to constitute a vocal majority. That the backlash is anything less than in tsunami proportions reveals a lot, as well, doesn't it?

Here are three of those responses:

1. A letter to the NYT editor:

"Oh, please! I was so disgusted by the tone of ''Tweens 'R' Shoppers,'' by Lesley Jane Seymour (April 22), and put off by the photos of these spoiled, super-sophisticated sub-teens. If the majority of children in our country grow up with these values, we're in deep trouble...."

2. The Chicago Foundation for Women provides research to back its position, providing readers with a fact sheet on Materialism and Family Stress by CommercialExploitation.Com:


"What it didn’t say: The story is a commercial for various products that market to tweens. It presents the commercialization of children as an important new trend—going so far as to say shopping offers children a “safe” outlet in these troubling times. No experts are used to talk about research that shows a negative effect between materialism and the development of children. Numerous studies cited by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood say the central premise of marketing—buying things will make us happy—is not true. Actually, research shows the pressure to spend and consume actually makes people less happy. Read a fact sheet on the issue..."

3. Mary Hunt, founder of Debt-Proof Living and nationally-known writer, blogs about her take on the article, cutting to the core:

"Our hopes and dreams for our children are no different today than they were the days they were born. We wanted to raise strong godly men who would be kind, self-sufficient, and generous. And it’s been an uphill battle given our culture that peddles just the opposite: entitlement, greed and self-centeredness....

"By the 19th paragraph I was getting uncomfortable. This can’t be for real. Surely she can’t be condoning such ugly attitudes of entitlement and self-centeredness.

"If Seymour’s goal was to get me to read her column right to the last word, she succeeded. And I arrived with a sick stomach. ..."


Mary Hunt says it well: it is a fight against "entitlement, greed and self-centeredness." I believe this is the same fight that anyone attempting simplification must face, regardless of age.

The same attitude that is discussed in "Tweens R Shoppers" exists in their parents. They just shop at different stores and look for different labels. That's why Lesley Jane Seymour didn't have a different ending to her article. She's proud of her girls' shopping day.

We are in a Culture War in this country, and anytime you choose to be thrify, or to buy organic, or to turn off the television and read a book to your kids, or (gasp!) change careers based upon your value system, you're fighting the good fight.

One of the purposes of this blog is to help you know that you are not alone. Heaven knows, simplifying isn't easy. It is, however, I believe worth all the effort.

Image: David and Goliath (remember, David won)

June 4, 2007

Food as Medicine: Juicing


Jack LaLanne swears by juicing so much that he's got his own juicer on the market. There's also Jay Kordich aka the Juiceman, who has spent his lifetime promoting juicing of raw fruits and vegetables as a health necessity.

Of course, there are skeptics. They argue things like you get too much sugar, too rapidly, from juicing. They argue that there's a reason to chew, it's healthy to do so. Things like that.

However, juicing proponents are not arguing that juicing should substitute for eating foods (as opposed to drinking them). They are encouraging juicing as an addition to the diet, usually to increase intake of foods otherwise avoided or eaten rarely, or to combat specific maladies. Juicing gets more fruits and vegetables into the daily diet, as well as optimizing certain nutrients that fight against certain maladies (e.g., cabbage helps heal ulcers in part due to its high percentage of vitamin U).

At HPS Health, there are lists of recipes for juices (combinations of raw fruits and vegetables with some fresh herbs) to address specific ailments such as headache, anemia, fatigue, and gastric ulcers. Other recipe sites include ones promoting delicious taste (this one has a V8 recipe) and those that have, well, interesting combos.

And, for the skeptics, there's a site that gives recipes as well as advice on choosing a juicer. The site? The Stanford Cancer Center, part of the Stanford University Medical System.

According to Stanford, "The best selection of juices comes in nature’s own containers: fresh fruits & vegetables. Fresh juice is loaded with cancer-fighting phytochemicals and vitamins, in a state easily absorbed by the body."

Choosing a juicer is the next step. Short answer: get the highest powered motor you can afford, and make sure the components are easy to clean. Juicing is a messy job.

Shown: Jack LaLanne at age 84.