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.

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
permanent press clothing
flip flops/thongs
fake fur
polyester clothing
ball point pens
computer diskettes
magic markers
knitting needles
tennis racquets
golf balls
baby aspirin
stuffed animals
band aids
rubbing alcohol
hair coloring
cough syrup
hair spray
denture adhesives
trash bags
egg cartons
freezer bags
wax paper
nylon spatulas
Teflon pans
garden hoses
floor wax
spray paint
dog toys
flea collars
check book covers
shopping bags
video cassettes
credit cards
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

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.
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