May 24, 2007

Going Organic - Step One

Eating organic may be more expensive to your pocketbook, but it's scary how much your family's health may be paying for eating all those pesticides, especially the kiddos under 12. It's also overwhelming to think about how to alter menues, recipes, and the family budget to accommodate a change-over to organic foods.

Well, here's a first step. According to the Environmental Working Group, pesticide exposure can be lowered by almost 90% if you cut out the Top Twelve (see below) and substitute the Bottom Twelve instead.

So, if you can't shop organic just yet, at least change the grocery list.

Eating the Top Twelve exposes your family to an average of 15 pesticides per day. Switch to the Bottom Twelve, and that number goes down to less than 2 pesticides each day.

That's before consideration even begins on antibiotic and growth hormones fed to animals, and found in the beef, chicken, pork, and fish that's for sale at the market. All that stuff is another topic, for another post on a different day.

For more info, check out EWG's pesticide discussion, a New York Times article on pesticides, and this helpful list giving vitamin info. For those who argue against organics, check out this article as well as this one.

1 Peaches
2 Apples
3 Sweet Bell Peppers
4 Celery
5 Nectarines
6 Strawberries
7 Cherries
8 Pears
9 Grapes - Imported
10 Spinach
11 Lettuce
12 Potatoes

1 Onions (Least Contaminated of the entire list)
2 Avocado
3 Sweet Corn - Frozen
4 Pinapples
5 Mango
6 Asparagus
7 Sweet Peas - Frozen
8 Kiwi
9 Bananas
10 Cabbage
11 Broccoli
12 Papaya

May 19, 2007

Online Calculator: Early Mortgage PIF

There's wisdom in the saying "in consistency is power," and if you're willing to add a couple of hundred bucks to your mortgage payment every month, you can pay off the house a lot faster than you think.

To figure out how much -- and how fast -- check out this online PIF calculator. Just $100/month can literally cut years off your payment schedule -- and save you $1000s in interest.

May 18, 2007

Personal Post: Free WiFi Security Tips

Yesterday, I left my laptop running in the back bedroom, next to an open window, and promptly forgot it. Hours later, I returned to turn it off.

Good news, battery was recharged to 100%; bad news, a message that "others are using this computer, turning off power now may cause them to lose their work." Or words to that effect ... I don't have the message down, word for word.

I thought I had disconnected the laptop's automatic birddog feature of finding nearby wireless networks. Wrong!

I immediately shut the laptop down. And, today, on my desktop with its secure wired-in internet access, I went surfing for solutions to this problem. Thought I'd share them, especially since this would apply not only to neighbors with wireless, but to all those free Wifi HotSpots around town these days.

1. There are blocks you can establish within your files, including passwords and "do not share" parameters on certain files. A good set of directions is provided by Arnelle O'Neill at Microsoft, albeit her article is somewhat dated.

2. There are firewalls that you can buy (I have ZoneAlarmPro, and I don't know why it didn't work) and internal blocks under Network Connections to use. PC Magazine gives some good instructions in another older article written by Leon Erlanger.

3. TechWorld offers a TopTen List for Safe WiFi use. It's a good one, with lots of detail. Included here, free tests - not only of your WiFi security as a whole, but the effectiveness of your firewall and anti-virus protections.

Now, I'm off to implement the things I've learned from these sites. Since I don't access the web from the laptop - I only use it for word processing - I'm not that worried about things. No passwords, no financial info for the Evildoer to have found.

I still don't like the Evildoer roaming around, reading my drafts and things, though. And, I hope that I didn't store my FitDay info on the darn thing. I hate to think that my neighbor's teenage son (and therefore, his mother and everyone else in a 60 mile radius by now) knows how much I weigh.

May 17, 2007

Using Your Dishwasher? TANG and More

Okay, using a dishwasher may not be the simplest of things. You're using electricity and water that washing by hand avoids.

However, simplicity is a continuum -- we are all on different points on the line. And, for those still using their dishwasher, here are some handy hints:

1. Don't pre-rinse the dishes with a running tap. Take a bowl; fill it with hot, soapy water; use a sponge and wipe the dishes using this water. Tell yourself you're being European if this helps. Studies show that running a tap to pre-rinse the dishes uses 25 gallons per meal. Appliance manufacturers suggest that you just scrape and load: as we all know, this doesn't work well - which is why pre-rinsing continues.

2. If the dishes come out spotted, or worse yet, with a soap film - try Tang. There are those vinegar stories out there, but a half-container of Tang run thru a full cycle in an empty dishwasher gives a better result. (It's the citric acid in the Tang that helps to clean the dishwasher itself.) For a really good cleaning, after the Tang run, try a run of vinegar and baking-soda combo -- the dishwasher will run as good as new.

3. Run the hot water in the tap till it's hot, before you turn on the dishwasher. Hot water is essential for a good dishwasher result. Hey, and use the water you ran for something: make tea, water a plant, refill the dog bowl.

4. Always run the dishwasher when the load is full.

5. Don't use the dishwasher's "dry" function. Once the rinse is done, let the machine's work be done. Crack the door open, and air dry.
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