August 28, 2008


Cellphones may be an underestimated target of spies and hackers, something of which you and your family may want to be aware:
1. First, there's an excellent article at GeeksAreSexy, which gives details on how cellphones are being used to monitor not only all your conversations (they listen in) but also ...
2. your location and your usual routines. Great for burglars and other evildoers, right? (GeeksAreSexy also has a great article on how to use your cellphone to set up a house-monitoring system for your home or office).
3. Cornell gives information on how hackers can take your information by intercepting its signal, and essentially bill your account for whatever use they choose. This is called "cloning," and it's against federal law. Call your phone company if you think you've been a victim of cloning.
4. Prime targets are cellphones with access to corporate networks, where all sorts of malware can be installed, according to USA Today.
5. Other juicy targets are folk who use their phones to shop online, or to do online banking. (Think of that nice commercial, where the financial institution is promoting online banking services by showing customers hiking, rockclimbing, etc., and stopping for a minute to do a little banking.) All that private information is much easier to access on a cellphone than through a computer these days, due to the security software that's readily available for computers but not, as yet, for cellphones.
Right now, you're at risk.

This new crime frontier is spawning all sorts of security entrepreneurs who are focusing specifically upon the cellphone market. So far, there have not been any major disasters involving cellphone or PDA breaches, but expect to hear about one soon. You know the criminals are on the job.
The NIST is working on it.
If you have some concerns or suggestions, then you have an opportunity right now to provide input into the National Institute of Standards and Technology on this topic. Just send an email to with "comments sp 800-124" in the subject line, or write NISTmedia contact Michael Baum at

(According to CNET, they were looking for public commentary earlier this month, but you should still be able to get something in, right?)

August 27, 2008


There are some sites that discuss eating healthy, eating organic, eating frugally -- but what about some recipe collections where the food is good and the cost is almost pennies?

Here are five online recipe collections with really good and CHEAP recipes:

Miserly Moms' Frugal Recipes
Cheap Eats - $3 or Less
Budget 101's Dirt Cheap Ramen Noodle Recipes
Recession Recipes
Cheap Recipes at Gather.Com

Granted, some of the ingredients may include processed food (for example, canned biscuits in the Miserly Moms' Cheesy Pull-Apart Biscuits, Recipe No. 184) and they may include food with debatable nutrients (e.g., the iceberg lettuce in Recession Recipes' Iceberg Lettuce Soup), but you can always play around with these recipes -- one of the fun things about cooking anyway -- to suit yourself.

For example, cabbage is cheap and very nutrious. Maybe you substitute that for the iceberg lettuce in the soup recipe. Or you take the time to make biscuits from scratch - anything processed costs more, so you'd theoretically be saving even more money if you circumvented the canned biscuit dough....

These collections give you more than just the recipes themselves. If you go surfing through them, you'll discover themes and patterns that will help you a better shopper and a better cook. Study them, and you'll learn more than just a new dish for the family menu.

For more information:

How to Cook 4: Beans Are Easy, Cheap, and Good
Menu Planning 102
Menu Planning 101

August 26, 2008


Here's something fun, free, and educational to do online: check out how your diet is impacting not only your health, but also your environment online.

It's over at the Eating Green Calculator.

You're asked how much you eat in a week, according to categories (How many eggs? How much yogurt? etc.). Then, press a button and voila -- you learn:

  • the environmental burden of the animal products you eat in a year (number of pounds of manure in a year is interesting to know); and
  • the estimated daily nutrient intake from the animal products you consume (calories, fiber, saturated fat, cholesterol).

It's fast. Check it out.

August 25, 2008


When I was a newlywed, we lived in an old duplex and I remember hanging the sheets out on the ancient clothesline out back ... I think back to how sweet and soft those cotton sheets were, and how homey it made things. I have fond memories of that clothesline.

Today, I might be breaking the law for using it.

Apparently, all over the U.S. and elsewhere (Canada, for example) legislation as well as homeowner's association regulations, etc., have been implemented to purportedly protect property values. The Kansas City Star quotes one Baltimore, Maryland, resident complaining that a neighbor's use of a backyard clothesline "makes our community look like Dundalk."

Apparently, having to see your neighbor's clean laundry on the line quietly became unacceptable in modern society. Until now.

Slowly, communities are taking back their right to dry their clothes on a line in the back yard. Just last week, the New York Times reported on Southampton Town Board member Anne Throne-Holst, who successfully spearheaded a campaign to rescind the "anti-clothesline" legislation that had been on the books for six years.

In Colorado, the state legislature passed a new law that allows backyard clotheslines, effective this month (August 2008), as long as they meet homeowner associations' aesthetic guidelines.

Meanwhile, up north, those crazy Canadians are actually risking it -- it's being reported that they are just blatantly breaking the law, using their backyard clotheslines with pride.

Apparently, clotheslines are extremely controversial. So much so that an actual movement has been growing -- the 'Right to Dry' movement, where neighborhood by neighborhood, folks are standing up for their right to have and use clotheslines in their backyard in lieu of their electric or gas dryers.

So, are clotheslines okay in your neighborhood? Check with your homeowner's association, as well as your local representatives. Maybe you're forbidden to have one right now.

August 22, 2008


It's called the Moment-O-Meter. It's not that big, and this device looks nice enough. It's a small plastic rectangular box that attaches to your windshield, and tells you to coast (green light) or hit the gas (red light) in order to maximize fuel efficiency thorough "sensible" driving.

Its website suggests savings of up to 50% in fuel used. The device is currently sold out over at Amazon.Com, but you can see a photo of the gadget there.

What's different about the Moment-O-Meter from the majority of fuel-saving gadgets that are so often ridiculed as being hoaxes by hucksters, is that the Moment-O-Meter isn't impacting the car, or the fuel, or the road -- it's impacting the DRIVER. (It was developed and patented by a retired aeronautical engineer, who created the machine to help his schoolteacher daughter with her gas budget.)

Bottom line, the Moment-O-Meter is encouraging behavior modification, because coasting, driving at lower speeds, as well as refraining from stop-and-start driving, really does save fuel. Sounds smart.

August 21, 2008


Buying a car is a major life decision - after all, you'll be dealing with this machine daily for years to come - and it deserves some serious thought and research.

Whether you are considering buying used or new, there are several websites that provide lots of information to help you in your car buying process - and aren't trying to sell you their car in the process:

1. Intellichoice -- provides reviews and lots of pointers for choosing a car, including its own value rating (e.g., a 2008 Honda Civic is "excellent," while a 2008 Mercury Milan is "average") along with a target price and an estimated cost of ownership of the car over time. Awards are given each year according to type of vehicle (compact, luxury, etc.) that are worth investigating.

2. JD Power -- a true blessing to the car-shopper, this site has all sorts of great data: car buying guides (what questions to ask, what to look for) as well as studies on environmental impact as well as performance and design). Gives its own ratings for cars in many categories, and allows you to compare vehicles with each other in a table on the screen.

3. Consumer Guide -- part of the HowStuffWorks.Com group, this site gives lots of information, akin to JD Power - but with its own view on what's best. Nice to have different perspectives on a particular model.

4. MSN.Autos -- gives lots of information about new and used cars, including lots of reviews by actual car owners/users; articles on the cars; search help for finding deals near your zip code; etc. Nice first stop in your research process.

5. Kelly Blue Book -- a must-read if you're looking to trade in your old car, or if you're considering buying a used car. The site gives the "blue book value" of your car, and Kelly Blue Book is an industry standard. Lots of other information here, as well -- more reviews, dealer contact info, classifieds, etc.

August 20, 2008

OWNMYSITE.COM - Get Real Cash Each Month for Searching and Buying Online

There's a new service that just launched, OwnMySite.Com, which pays you money each month for using its site to surf the web (via Google) as well as buy products (jump from the site to Amazon, Borders, etc.).

How does it work?

First, you go to, and register - this makes you a "stakeholder" in the site.

Then, you use the OwnMySite.Com site for surfing the web - I imagine lots of registered users will make it their home page. At the end of each month, the stakeholder's share is transferred to his or her PayPal account.

Where's the money?

Fifty percent of the the net revenue (note that's net, not gross) generated by through its affiliate links (Google, Amazon, etc.) is distributed to its registered users, or "stakeholders," in cash on a monthly basis "no matter how big or small the purchase."

Also, according to the site's FAQs, "[s]takeholders also own a stake in 50% of the potential sale value of the business. This will entitle you to your share of any proceeds from the eventual sale or acquisition of"

How much cash can you get?

After being up and running for three weeks, it's reported that registered users have generated £1500 between them, 50% of which will be returned to members at the end of August. The company is estimating that the most passive users in August will receive a minimum payout in August of over £2 and the most active "stakeholders" will get over £30.

Remember, this is a British site, so the company reports in pounds; translating to American dollars at today's rate of 1 British pound = 0.538 American dollars, their first month out of the gate, they're estimating $1.076 to $32.38 for stakeholders.

Who's responsible?

A British man named Daniel Harrison, according to the company's recent press release, " ... set up after becoming frustrated with the way many popular websites generate huge profits from the everyday online activities of users without rewarding them for what is a very valuable activity."

Harrison said, "[t]he sky's the limit but in the short term I'm really looking forward to paying members at the end of August to reward them for their faith in the site and to show them that their time spent surfing the web with is genuinely worth something. I think members will be pleasantly surprised by how much they can earn."

How can they do this? is charging merchants each time someone accesses the seller through its site (up to 40& of your purchase price) - which is what lots and lots of sites do, they just keep their profits. is keeping half of its revenue, and it's taking half of this commission revenue (net, not gross) and sharing it with its "stakeholders." The more that people use, the higher its traffic volume stats will be -- and the more it can charge those merchants for having a spot on the site.

August 13, 2008

Freebie: Amazon.Com Is Offering Amazon PRIME Free for 30 Days is offering Amazon PRIME for a free 30-day trial, which can be a really, really good deal if you are a book-buyer. Before you scoff and point to your library, your Half-Price Books, or your garage sales, consider this:

  • unlimited two-day shipping
  • upgrade to one-day shipping for 3.99 (that's cheap!)
  • NO minimum order size
  • cancel before the end of the 30-day trial period, and you won't be charged for PRIME membership ($79/yr - not so cheap)
  • this includes products besides books, and there are some very good deals to be had in Amazon's new GoldBox New Deals.

Today, on the GoldBox New Deals page, I saw a brand new Scotts push-reel lawn mower for half-price ($99); a $200 Mother of Pearl butterfly pendant for $37.81; and a $59.98 cordless hammer drill by Denali for $14.38.

Maybe these aren't the best deals to be had, but I didn't surf around to try and beat them - and mark downs of 50-75% with free shipping and handling are worth checking out, right?

August 12, 2008

Angel Food Ministeries - Quality Food for Low Cost

Angel Food Ministeries is a national organization that is growing by leaps and bounds, coordinated by churches across the country to distribute high quality food in once-a-month deliveries, based upon orders received in the prior month.

From their site, "[w]ith a heart to help others and a generous spirit, Joe and Linda Wingo founded Angel Food Ministries in 1994 to provide food for friends and neighbors who were struggling financially. Today, they are still doing the same thing. The Angel Food program now is helping provide food relief to more than 500,000 families each month."

Here's how it works:

You order based upon a menu. First, there's the menu's basic package which varies from month to month, and provides a variety of special, additional offerings, too.

This basic package costs around $30.00 - and you can buy more than one if you choose to do so. The specials cost about $20, and you have to buy a basic to buy any of the specials. (Holidays are dealt with in the specials, you'll see turkeys and ham for the December menu, etc.)

You place your order online, or in person at your closest distribution site. Then, on the delivery date, you bring your own containers (boxes, bags, laundry baskets, coolers) to the distribution spot and take home your goodies. Angel Food's home office says that the basic package should fit into a medium-sized box.

You can buy as many basic packages, and as many specials, as you want.

Is this a Welfare Program?

Nope. It's for anyone who has enough savvy to take advantage of this offering. Pride doesn't stretch a dollar, and in this economy, AngelTree can make a big difference in a monthly budget.

You pay and you buy.

No one is going to ask for any personal information from you, and you can buy for yourself; for family members or friends; for a senior citizen or single mom you know could use the help; or you can just buy a package and leave it to the distribution center to give it to someone they know would be well-served by the gift.

Who is Buying AngelTree packages?

I know of several schoolteachers that buy AngelFood packages, as well as social workers, single moms, retired folk, and seniors. Last week, my cashier at Sam's Club was telling me all about the chicken nuggets she got in her Angel Food package - apparently, my nuggets purchase paled in comparison in both quality and price.

What Do You Get?

You get restaurant-quality food; no seconds, nothing skimpy. The packages vary by month. For example, in August 2008, the basic package contains:

1.5 lb. of Ribeye Steaks (4 x 6 oz.)
5 lb.of Chicken Leg Quarters
28 oz. of Chicken Breast Nuggets
28 oz. of Salisbury Steak Dinner Entrées
32 oz. of Breaded Chicken Breast Filets
16 oz. of Smoked Sausage
16 oz. of California Blend Frozen Vegetables
16 oz. of Frozen Carrots
16 oz. of Frozen Chopped Spinach
10 ct. of Frozen Waffles
16 oz. of Bean Soup Mix
1 lb. of Rice
9 oz. of Instant Potatoes (14 servings)
15 oz. of Sliced Peaches
32 oz. of Borden Shelf Stable Milk
One Dozen Eggs
One Dessert Item

Each month's menu also offers specials. The August menu offered:

AUGUST SPECIAL #1 is the "7 lb. Family Assorted Grill Box - $20.00"
(1.5 lb Baseball Cut Sirloin Filet (4 x 6 oz.) (Thick-Cut)2 lbs Juicy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast2 lbs St. Louis-Style Ribs1.5 lb Hamburger Patties (4 x 6 oz.))

AUGUST SPECIAL #2 is the "4.5 lb. Steak and Meat Combo - $20.00"
(1.5 lb. New York Strips (2 x 12 oz.)1.5 lb. Bacon-Wrapped Beef Filet (4 x 6 oz.)1.5 lb. Bacon-Wrapped Pork Filet (4 x 6 oz.))

AUGUST SPECIAL #3 is the "4.5 lb. Stuffed Chicken Breast Combo - $18.00"
(1.5 lb. Cordon Bleu (4 x 6 oz.)1.5 lb. Broccoli Cheese (4 x 6 oz.)1.5 lb. Chicken Breast Kiev (4 x 6 oz.))

AUGUST SPECIAL #4 is the "Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box - $18.00" (4 Red Delicious Apples; 4 lb Bag of Oranges; 1 Cello-wrapped Lettuce; 1 Large Cabbage; 6 Russet Potatoes; 2 Cucumbers; 1 Cantaloupe; 1 Honeydew Melon)

What Do You Pay?

You choose your items from the menu, and pay when you turn in your selection to your distribution point (the website has a long list of places - usually churches - that serve as distribution points).

The website also accepts online credit card payments. The distribution sites accept cash, check, Credit/Debit Cards or food stamps. You bring your receipt (or your friend's) on the delivery date to show proof of purchase.

How Much Do You Save?

As for savings, the basic package is priced at $30 per unit, and while the menus change each month, Angel Food estimates that you receive restaurant-quality items that would otherwise cost you (retail value) around $60-$70. So, the food is about HALF the price of retail.

How Long Will It Last?

Angel Food estimates that one basic package will feed a family of four for about 1 week, and for a single senior, about 1 month. (You'll have to add some perishables to that food budget, of course - Angel Food doesn't offer much in the way of fresh dairy products and produce.)

What About Feeling Ashamed?
Living a simple life means letting go of the idea that the approval of others should control your happiness and peace. Approval isn't love, and it isn't acceptance.

If AngelFood can help your family's budget (think about cutting that food bill in half, if you plan your menus right), then why not? It's a tough economy, and being smart is never, ever shameful.

August 10, 2008

Freebies: Finding Fun, Free Things To Do

Free events and free admissions don't get the advertising dollars that for-profit events might, so you may have to put some effort into finding free things to do for you and your family in your community - but it can be done!

  • Google (or Yahoo or AOL or MSN) the name of your city along with the word "attractions"
  • as a second search, substitute the word "events" for attractions (attractions are always around (like the Alamo) but events are always changing (like the Trinity University lecture series) ...).

Here in San Antonio, I've found the following list of free things to do that are family-friendly - no money other than the gas to get there:

Brackenridge Park (feed the ducks, wander the paved paths or bike the trails, picnic, fish)

Japanese Tea Gardens (recently renovated, goldfish ponds, lush gardens, winding paths)

The Alamo (learn some history, see the artifacts)

Fort Sam Houston (discover where they kept Geronimo)

Hangar 9 - Museum of Flight Medicine (the only remaining World War I hanger - remember the Red Baron?)

La Villita (artisans at work, lots of peaceful oak and cypress trees, close to the River)

Monarch Collectibles (huge, huge collection of dolls from all over the world)

Riverwalk (sure, the restaurants aren't free but the people-watching is)

San Antonio Museum of Art (free on Tuesdays)

Witte Museum (free on Tuesdays from 3-8) (they've got the great Treehouse here)

McNay Museum of Art (free on Thursdays from 4 - 9, and free on the 1st Sunday of the month)

Barnes & Noble Storytimes (check the stores for times, usually Saturday mornings)

Borders' Storytimes (check the stores for times, usually Saturday mornings)

Blue Mondays - Blues sung at Main Plaza 11-1 through end of August

FirstFridays - ArtWalk from Blue Star Art Complex down the length of South Alamo (King William area)

SecondSaturdays - ArtWalk in Southtown - roam through six galleries, see artisans at work -- like the glassblowing demonstration today at Garcia Air Glass.

Mariachi Mass at Mission San Jose - noon on Sundays, standing room only

Labor Day Arts & Crafts Show - Riverwalk

Lecture - August 28 - Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time, on the New York Times best sellers' list for 60+ weeks, will speak and then sign books as part of Trinity University's Lecture Series. Free, Laurie Auditorium.


August 9, 2008

Should You Use LegalZoom or RocketLawyer for Low Cost Legal Services?

Robert Shapiro may have gained national fame for representing OJ Simpson, but he's becoming a household fixture with LegalZoom, the online legal document services company he co-founded.

In fact, legal document services look to be a growing business: just last month, announced it was going into direct competition with LegalZoom with its new venture, RocketLawyer.Com.

Everyone knows that lawyers are expensive. Cost is one of the main reasons that people procrastinate about finalizing a will, or changing it ... and for better or worse, legal fees are a big factor in divorce and separation decisions.

At LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, you avoid the expense of a private attorney as long as your legal needs are not too complicated or individualized. Need a basic will, power of attorney, or name change? LegalZoom and RocketLawyer can help you. Same goes for incorporation documentation, basic real estate leases or deed transfers, and copyright filings. RocketLawyer even offers lots of forms -- and letters -- for free at its site.

But Should You Trust LegalZoom or RocketLawyer?

Maybe. First of all, LegalZoom and RocketLawyer are skirting the periphery of a new trend in the legal marketplace, called elawyering. Recognized by the American Bar Association and other professional organizations, some attorneys are practicing online and reaching their clients via the internet. These lawyers practice akin to "virtual law offices," and both endeavors are still somewhat new to practitioner and public alike, with lots of kinks still being worked out, jurisdictionally and otherwise.

It's important to remember, however, that LegalZoom and RocketLawyer aren't acting as legal counsel. LegalZoom has a disclaimer that it is not providing legal advice (RocketLawyer does, too, but it's not as impressive), and any lawyer worth his or her salt is going to explain that every situation is unique, and in need of an expert's review. Still, that may or may not be totally true for some situations.

Some county courthouses allow do-it-yourself divorces and deed transfers. There are legal transactions that are cookie-cutter for the most part -- and these legal document service companies focus upon these areas.

If you have a simple legal transaction, then LegalZoom (or RocketLawyer) is a bargain. The key question is: as a layman, how do you know for sure?

Legal documents are tested when they are needed. You won't know the quality of your legal deed, will, or incorporation documentation until they are put to the test. If you feel secure that you're not dealing with any special issues, then LegalZoom or RocketLawyer should hopefully pass that test for you.

How Cheap is It?

Very, very cheap. Will packages at LegalZoom range from standard ($69.00) to vault ($119.00) (these were "special prices" when I checked the site). No lawyer I know (and I'm still a practicing attorney, although I limit my practice to the local Children's Court) would give you even one hour's time for these prices -- and it takes more than an hour to complete even a basic will. A divorce package (property but no children) is offered for $299 ... again, a lawyer's hourly rate will far exceed this in even the cleanest divorce.

Along with several freebies, RocketLawyer even offers a free basic will --you can't get a better deal than that, right?

The Real Risk Is a Big One

The real risk for any of these documents is their validity under your jurisdiction. The laws of Texas are not the same as Louisiana, Washington, or Vermont. Additionally, state laws are constantly changing as society progresses, etc. LegalZoom and RocketLawyer cannot -- and do not -- claim to meet these variations in legal standards. They're not offering legal advice.

Bottom Line

These prices are great, and these products may serve your situation well. However, you're taking a risk by using these document services - and it could be with a big downside.
  • What if the will isn't deemed valid after you're gone?
  • What if the incorporation documents aren't respected in your future civil suit, are your personal assets at risk?
  • God forbid, what if the divorce documents aren't valid?
With LegalZoom or RocketLawyer, you have to hope that you get far more than you pay for.


Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Blog

For More Information:

Free Legal Help

August 8, 2008

MagicJack - Unlimited Phone Service for $20/Yr

Perhaps you've seen the television commercial, promising a 30-day 100% free trial of MagicJack if you call within the next thirty minutes? (The same offer is available at their website.) Is it too good to be true?
First, what is MagicJack?

MagicJack is a gizmo that plugs into your computer's USB port. After you install the hardware, its software automatically loads onto your PC (Mac-friendly versions available, too). Then, you plug your landline phone jack into the gizmo, and voila! You can telephone nationally or internationally at the rate MagicJack charges, not your local phone service.
And the MagicJack rate is very low.

What's the cost?

First year, $39.95; after that, subscription is $19.95/year for caller id; voice mail; call waiting; conference calling; unlimited domestic and international use. These are ANNUAL fees, not monthly ones.
What are the biggest pros and cons? There's lots of negatives to MagicJack.
  1. First of all, your computer has to be up and running to use MagicJack. Turn off your computer, and your MagicJack phone shuts off, too. (Compare this to Vonage, which connects into your modem, allowing you to have phone service as long as your internet service provider is active.)
  2. Another negative for some is the MagicJack requirement to dial the area code for every call - although this is only true for some parts of the country.
  3. A third problem with MagicJack is quality of transmission - in my surfing of the web, I found bloggers and pro reviewers reporting periodic fuzzy calls, low volume, and voice mail issues. Everyone weighed these against the cost of the service, and found the quality issues tolerable given the cost benefits MagicJack offers.
  4. Finally, there's a privacy issue. Selling this service this cheap has many wondering how MagicJack can make a profit. Well, the company plans on getting revenue through advertising, and that's going to happen through ads that MagicJack will sell, and which will be displayed on your computer as part of the MagicJack operational software. The gimmick to draw advertisers? MagicJack reserves the right to monitor the numbers you dial so it can coordinate ads with advertisers. Yep -- they'll be monitoring your phone calls for commercial purposes and you're giving up some privacy in order to get cheap phone service.
What are the Pros?
  1. It's easy to install.
  2. It's cheap.
  3. You can call domestic or international for the flat fee.
  4. It seems to have the best use as a landline used for families whose main phone use is at work, or on cell phones. Lots of the complaints I read were from folk who were trying to use MagicJack for business, or for their sole phone line.

Who are its competitors?

MagicJack is one of several voice-over-internet-protocols (VoIP) services being marketed today for cheap phone service. Others include Vonage (which is the big dog in the pack here), Optimum Voice, At&T CallVantage, TimeWarnerCable, Comcast, Average, and Skype. All these services compete with MagicJack for VoIP customers.
Who's winning? In a recent PCMag survey, Optimum Voice came in first as the VoIP customer favorite, followed by Vonage.


For more information:

August 4, 2008

Stevia Goes MainStream - No Cal, All Natural Sweetener: Is It the New Splenda?

Well, it's about time. For those of us who have been using Stevia for years, we've wondered if this day would ever come. Thanks to Cargill, it has.

Stevia will be hitting the commercial store shelves this month, marketed under the name brand of "truvia." (I believe they're only selling it in packets, but I could be wrong.) Look for it packaged as SweetLeaf.

Next year, expect to see lots of marketing, with Coca-Cola having the exclusive rights to use Truvia in its beverages since it shared the Truvia development expense with Cargill. Pepsi's already in the fight - it's announced its version of stevia, PureVia, and will begin selling SoBe Life drinks sweetened with PureVia in several South American countries this week.

What's Stevia?
Stevia is a natural sweetener that has been used for years and years, which has no calories to it. It is derived from the Stevia plant, you can grow it yourself if you want to do so, and its leaves are several times sweeter than sugar.

The Japanese as well as countries in South America and Europe have seen store products sweetened with Stevia for many years. In fact, Diet Coke sweetened with stevia has been available in Japan for awhile now (check out Mark McManus 's rant about why we can't get it here in the States).

It's been a long, political path for Stevia to gain FDA acceptance here in the US ... and yes, there have been fingers pointed at both the sugar industry as well as the companies responsible for artificial sweeteners like Equal and Splenda.

Health Benefits - It's Good for You
While more and more reports are revealing concerns with the use of artificial sweeteners (particularly aspartame right now), worldwide studies have shown stevia to be beneficial to physical and mental health. Stevia has been shown to help with high blood pressure, glucose levels for diabetes, and depression. Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Michael Murray are big fans.

Want a soft drink sweetened with stevia right now?
Try Zevia. They'll even send you a variety six pack for free, as long as you pay shipping and handling.

Want to Buy It Now? My Favorite Brand and My Favorite Uses: Tea and Limeade.
Personally, I love stevia. I buy the KAL brand, loose powder form (it comes with its own measuring spoon inside). You can find it at health food stores like Wild Oats and Whole Foods (if KAL's not sold out ... it's the most popular stevia product at my store).

My life is better with stevia in it. Ten shakes for a gallon of iced tea. And, there's just not a better limeade around than one lime, a "stevia spoon" of stevia, water, and lots of ice.

I recommend KAL's stevia product because I do not find it to have the licorice aftertaste other brands sometimes have; plus, I think KAL gives you more bang for your buck than other brands. My KAL bottle simply lasts longer than the competition, and I use stevia all the time.
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