April 30, 2008

One Glass of Wine Per Week Cuts Women's Dementia Risk 70%

Wow! A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, covering 34 years of research, shows that women drinking one glass of wine per week cut the likelihood of developing dementia (including Alzheimer's) by seventy percent (70%). Add other forms of alcohol to the mix, and the percent is still good at forty percent (40%).

One glass of wine. You can do that.

For more info: Vancouver Sun; Science Daily

April 28, 2008

How to Cook - 4: Beans Are Easy, Cheap, Good

Beans are so humble, unless you consider the hericot vert. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride in any menu, beans are nevertheless so varied, so favorful, so nutritious, and so cheap, that they're just plain smart to buy and serve your family.

How to Cook Beans

1. The Traditional Way.
My mother taught me to pour the bag of beans onto the kitchen table, and to slowly pull bean by bean off the edge and into a large, deep bowl. This eliminated any small pebbles that managed their way into the packaging. Once the beans were safely culled and transferred into the big bowl, the bowl was filled with water, covered with a cheesecloth, and left to set overnight.

The next day, the beans would have puffed up with all the water, and they were ready for the big Bean Pot. (Yep, my mom had a special pot just for beans. Here in Texas, refried beans and pinto beans are important parts of both TexMex meals as well as any respectable barbeque.)

The beans were drained and placed into the pot (draining being important to stave off (ahem) gas (ahem), and seasonings were added. After being brought to a boil, the heat was lowered and the beans sat on the back burner, simmering away; their smell filling the house with that great cozy feeling of something cooking on the stove. Periodically, you checked the pot and stirred the beans, adding water if it was needed, until the beans were done.

2. The Slow Cooker Way.
This is a method I've tried when I've been under a deadline and not able to watch the bean pot (yep, I have one of my own now) during the day -- or when I wake up and remember that I forgot to soak the beans. You still cull the beans, although it's been awhile since I've found a pebble in my beanbag, but you omit the overnight soak. Pour your culled beans into a large slow cooker, add your seasonings, and fill with water. Turn it to the low setting. You want lots of water here, bean juice isn't a bad thing if you've been generous on the water, but it's trouble if those beans don't have enough water here: they didn't get their soak time, and they have to hydrate. They're starting out dried, remember. Around eight hours later, you'll have a nice batch of beans.

Different Beans to Try, Seasonings to Use, Meals to Make, Why Bother

Types of beans
Pinto beans
Kidney beans
Butter beans
Black beans
Lima beans
Navy beans
Azuki beans

Salt Pork

Good Recipe Sites
Crockpot Beans - lots of recipes here
The Bean Bible

Why Beans?

Beans are among the best buys in the marketplace. They're very economical - plus they are very, very nutritious. Studies show they fight colon cancer, if eaten several times a week. Eat them with rice, and you have a complete protein substitute which is good for you and great for your budget.

April 26, 2008

Free WiFi at Starbucks in San Antonio

Woo Hoo!! If you have a Starbucks card, and you happen to be in San Antonio, then you can get two hours of free WiFi at any of the local Starbucks per day. That's about how long I can count on my laptop battery at this point, so what a deal!!!

This should be coming to a Starbucks near you, too -- it's part of the new Starbucks contract with AT&T, which is replacing TMobile as the WiFi provider for Starbucks across the country.

For more info:

April 8, 2008

Starting to Simplify: Step 2 - Get Control of Your Stuff

You have too much stuff. You don't even know everything you have. Knowing this, there is always that temptation to go buy more.

It's not your fault: it's the grist mill of our economy - the message to buy, buy, buy is thrown at you constantly from as many different sources as ad agencies can discover.

Still, you must stop this. The second step of simplifying your life is gaining control of your stuff.

First, stop buying anything other than true necessities - and that means:

1) food which you will cook at home -- a Big Mac is not a necessity: it is a cheap, tempting alternative to a good meal;

2) utilities to keep your home running smoothly -- this means electricity and water and some type of phone service: your home does not need to be air conditioned to the point of wearing sweaters indoors, that is not a necessity;

3) transportation to and from work and school -- this may be gas in the car, or it may be public transportation of some sort; and

4) stuff that goes along with work and basic needs -- child care so you can work or go to school, medicine so you stay healthy, things like that. Only things like that. Don't fool yourself.

Your goal here is to get control of the material things in your life.

Maybe you'll become so enthralled with this process that you'll join the Compact. Maybe you'll just get your home really organized, and cut back on some expenditures in the budget as well as finding other things to do with your time other than spending your cash.

Once you've drawn your line in the sand on spending, it's time to look around at all you've got. And discover what you have already.

Sort your closets, organize the garage, dust the bookshelves. Clean your own house thoroughly instead of waiting for the maid (no, you don't need a maid; no, you don't) -- it is simply amazing what a sense of satisfaction you get from this process. Family memories will pop up, you'll laugh at the fashion horrors you (yes, you) actually wore in public; good books will be read; good movies will be watched; and good music will be heard.

This is a fun process. Really.

Now, during this Taking Control of Your Stuff, you'll find things you don't want anymore, things that are better suited to a tax-deductible charitible donation than replacing into your closet space. Some stuff will just need to be tossed. I've received lots of compliments on my Sorting System and if you're interested, you can read about that here. This is the third part: organize your stuff and get rid of what you don't need or what's not any good anymore.

So, it's really easy, isn't it?
Stop buying.
Discover everything you've got.
Sort, organize, and giveaway, sell, toss -- get rid of the excess.

And, take your time with this. Simplifying isn't supposed to be done at that multitasking, stressful Wall Street speed. Enjoy this process.

For other helpful info on Getting Control of Your Stuff, check out:
How to Clean -1
How to Cook - 2
Examples of Excess 3 - Tweens are Shoppers

April 2, 2008

What is Simplifying? Should You Do It?

Today’s news is filled with scary stories about the cratering sub-prime lending market, the dollar’s decline, and the plunging Dow. This has got a lot of people pondering ways to cut back on their spending, getting ready for a severe recession that seems more and more inevitable.

Tightening your money belt is a good thing, it’s a smart strategy. However, it’s very different from simplifying your life. Cutting back is painful; simplifying is freeing and fun. Maybe now more than ever, it’s time to think about simplicity.

Simplifying isn’t a new concept: the Shakers were propounding the benefits of living a simple life over 150 years ago. Janet Luhrs’ book, The Simple Living Guide, has had steady sales since its debut in 1998, and this April will mark the 14th anniversary of Vicki Robin’s famous speech to the United Nations, “A Declaration of Independence from Overconsumption.”

What is simplifying? It’s going against the materialistic mainstream and proactively living a life that you have consciously defined for yourself. There are many reasons for simplifying, and there are many different types of simplifiers.

For some, simplifying life means reducing stress for health reasons, for others it’s a social justice or anti-consumerism issue. Simplifiers can be as straight-forward as families transforming into one-income households so their kids can have a full-time parent at home, as well as someone deciding to buy only organic or locally-grown produce. They can also be as multifaceted as environmental activists, seeking to minimize their consumption of fossil fuels by living off the grid along with those involved in The Compact, where members have committed to buy absolutely nothing new for one full year.

Ed Begley, Jr., of the cable television show “Living With Ed,” is a simplifier. So is Julia Roberts, who took time off from her career to stay at home with her young children.

If the news of an impending recession has you pondering your way of life, and wondering if perhaps there is a better way, then you may be interested in simplifying. Should you choose to do so, know that it has tremendous benefits: there is a surprising sense of freedom with each step you take, and there is suddenly more time to do the things you care about. However, it’s not for the faint-hearted: you’ll have discouraging friends and family who will not understand this change in attitude, and you’ll have moments of being overwhelmed at the undertaking.

For those who have taken steps to simplifying their lives, though, it’s been worth all their efforts. Life truly is better without the call of the mall.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out:

1. In Print

Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World by Linda Breen Pierce. Stories of those who have downsized their lives, relates their experiences and whether or not they regret the change.

Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe R. Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Financial guide, a landmark in the Simplicity movement.

Living the Simple Life : A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More
by Elaine St. James. Good, practical tips (cancel the newspaper subscription, eat at home).

Voluntary Simplicity, Revised Edition: Toward a Life That is Inwardly Simple, Outwardly Rich by Duane Elgin. History of the movement, discussion of spiritual motivations behind downsizing.

The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs. Must-read; describes all variety of lifestyles within the "voluntary simplicity" world.

2. Online

Everyday Simplicity (http://everydaysimplicity.blogspot.com)
The Simple Living Network (http://www.simpleliving.net/main)
Simple Living America (http://simplelivingamerica.blogspot.com)
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