December 6, 2010

Garlic: A Natural Antibiotic That's Powerful and Respected

Over three years ago (wow, I've been blogging here a long time!), I wrote about olive leaf extract as a natural antibiotic.  However, I've discovered that as a natural antibiotic, fresh garlic works so much better for me, and I thought I'd share my discovery with you.

Here's the backstory.  Friday morning, I woke up feeling yucky and just didn't have time for it -- and didn't want to go to the doctor where I would either be told: (1) it's a virus, thanks for your office visit; or (2) it's a bacterial infection, here's some antibiotics for you.   What did my ancestors do before Doc in the Boxes?  I went online to find out, and learned about garlic.

Garlic Is a Natural Antibiotic that Has Been Used for Thousands of Years

I learned that Louis Pasteur studied the antibacterial properties of garlic.  I learned that Hippocrates dispensed it

Additionally, I learned that modern researchers found garlic to have (go to link for citations)"...the broadest spectrum of any antimicrobial substance that we know of — it is antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiprotozoan and antiviral.” I also found out that unlike modern medicine's antibiotics, which are failing to conquer the new "superbugs," garlic remains a powerhouse against them

What's in raw garlic?

Two things:  Crushed, raw garlic has (1) allicin, a powerful antibiotic and(2) phytoncide, an antifungal compound. Other stuff, too, if you want to go read those medical studies (click the links).  It has the stuff to get rid of what's ailing me, as well as having all sorts of amazing health benefits, like fighting against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Wow. 

So, garlic sounds like something I'm willing to try before I go see a medical health care provider. 

Garlic in a Tonic - What I Did

Last spring, I wrote about tonics -- which were pretty standard stuff until Modern Medicine introduced us to pills and tablets.  Personally, I think tonics are great.  You know what's going into them, and you really do feel the benefits. 

In that March 2010 post, I shared tonic recipes for Tonic Tea and Apple Cidar Vinegar Tonic as well as lots of links to long lists of tonic recipes.  Today, I'm sharing my new Garlic Tonic recipe - and while it may not make you kissably-sweet, heck: it worked for me.  I'm amazed and thrilled about this!!!!

Here's what I put together that got me back to 100% within three days time:

Reba's Garlic Tonic

In a Magic Bullet-type blender, I put the following:

8 peeled garlic cloves
Equal amount of fresh cubed ginger ( for pain, read about this tip here)
Big squirt of organic, local raw honey
Filled it 1/3 with Bragg's Apple Cidar Vinegar (read about ACV here)
Filled the rest with water

Pulverized the stuff.  Then, I drank 2T in a cup of water or orange juice every 6 hours.  With crackers, to keep that garlic from making me nauseous. 

Friday, I felt bad.  Sore throat, sinus headache, runny nose, swollen glands in my neck, watery eyes, fever, ear popping, grumpy, tired. 

I adhered to this tonic regimen together with drinking Emerg-C four times a day (not at the same time).

Monday morning, popped up feeling FABULOUS.  No symptoms.  None. 

Cost in time and money?  Less than $10 and no lost time at a doctor's office.  Folk remedy?  Sure.  But it worked like a charm for me, and I don't have any antibiotics in my system to worry about, thankyewverymuch. 

Have a great day!!

November 5, 2010

Video: How to Cook Turkey Breast and Gravy in a CrockPot by Betty's Kitchen

This is a great video and I love Betty! I'm going to be watching lots of her other 700+instructional videos on YouTube at Betty's Kitchen. She gives lots of good tips as she goes along, great stuff. Here's Betty teaching us how to cook turkey and gravy in a crock pot. Love this:

November 4, 2010

Five Tips for Breaking the Fast Food Habit

Fast food, as general rule, is bad for you and yours - we all know it, and still you drive by any fast-food joint, and there is at least one car there at the drive through window.  Not to mention those cars setting in the parking lot, with families inside eat bad stuff.  Again. 

Simplifying your life means changing your life style, to live more abundantly at less expense in time and money.  One way to do that is to cut that fast food habit.  Here are five tips to help you do that:

1.  Limit Where You Will Buy Fast Food

Some fast food is healthier than others.  El Pollo Loco, Bill Miller BBQ, Luby's Cafeteria are three local options that include healthy and fresh items on their menus. 

Avoid the golden arches and their progeny -- which reminds me, check out this May 2010 Happy Meal Rotting Experiment by a Chinese college student, where the meat did succumb to mold but the french fries simply hardened into something akin to petrified wood?  Check out how the fry is holding up the free weight, wow.

2.  Declare Fast Food to be a Weekly Treat, Give It a Theme

Make Friday night family time, lotsa folks do this already.  It's the end of the week, the beginning of the weekend.  Perfect time to have fast food for dinner: but return it to its origins of yesteryear. 

In decades past, fast food was not part of the daily menu; instead, families looked at fast food as a special time.  Mom didn't have to cook that meal, kids got to get little toys or play in the playyard. 

Get the pizza.  Extra thin crust and lots of veggies, you aren't going to be doing too badly nutrition-wise.  Get Chinese, ask that they skip the MSG.  You get the idea. 

Add a movie or a game, and presto, it's Family Movie Night, the Gang's Game Night:  a good family tradition and you've put fast food back in a corner.  (Though it's like bamboo, you gotta keep cutting it back, because it will always want to take over.)

3.  If you gotta buy fast food, skip the drinks. And the fries.

If you gotta have your burger / taco / chicken fix, then don't let them push the combo (much less the super-sizing of the darn thing) upon you.  You can buy just the sandwich, just the tacos, just the chicken.  The fries and the soda aren't mandatory.  Skip them.  There's nothing good in there for you.  Get bottled water, take the food home and drink the tea you've made and stored in the fridge. 

4.  Cook at Home, But Use Paper Plates, Plastic Silverware, Disposable Glassware

No, this isn't the greenest idea - but it's a good tip for transitioning away from a fast food habit.  Breaking down the fast food dependency sometimes means that avoiding clean up after a long day is just as enticing as the idea that you're avoiding cooking. 

Over time, maybe you will wean yourself from the disposable option; until that happens, buy the biodegradable stuff and forgidaboutit.  And don't ponder that you're spending a little more here that is unnecessary since you've got glasses and plates and things.  Sure you do; but this isn't a recommendation to swear off your pretty stuff. 

I'm recommending using disposable stuff as something you tell yourself you get to use when you're driving home and you're tired, and the drive-thru is oh so tempting.  Plus, if you keep on hand the plates and things with your kid's favorite movie theme or cartoon character (bargains here at DollarTree and PartyCity) then you may get your picky eater to eat a bit more veggies if he's got a special plate. 

5.  Have 2-3 Meals That are Five Minutes or Less to Get on the Table Always Ready to Go

Know in advance that you are gonna want to buy fast food, and prepare for battle.  If you're buying fast food because you don't want to cook, and well, it's just plain FAST, then there's the key. 

You need a few fast and easy at home meals ready to go.  Here's a couple of suggestions - all from stuff you should keep on hand, once you go to the grocery in preparation for your Fast Food Fight:

a.  Breakfast at Dinner - I have a friend who is a single mom and this is one of her standbys.  She scambles some eggs, pops toast in the toaster, lets the kids slam their own jam on the toast (big deal for these little ones), and she has dinner on the table in five minutes.  Literally.  Almond milk to drink, and she's done.

b. The Tray - The goal of a meal is to get nutrition - FUEL - into your body.  No one says that it has to be a formal June Cleaver dinner every time.  Get a platter and remember the Italians are so, so smart.  Have your own version of antipasto (cheese, meat, bread or crackers, olives, pickles, etc.) as your meal.  Or have a fruit and cheese selection.  Throw some nuts in there, and you're all set.

c. The Smoothie - Forget forks and go for the liquid meal.  Juice stuff together. Blend protein powder and whatever.  Yogurt, fruit, whatever.  You've probably got stuff in your kitchen that you can pulverize into a nice frothy drink right now.  Fast, tasty, and good for you.

November 3, 2010

NetFlix - Real Bargain is Its Online Anytime Library

NetFlix seems to have put another of our local brick and mortar movie rental stores out of business, and it makes sense.  I've been using NetFlix for several months now, and they're as reliable as clockwork.  Mail it off, get a new one back.  Zip, zip, zip.

However, I noticed that a couple of the oldies but goodies that I wanted to watch were also available online for the viewing, 24/7.  Sure, this option has always been there - but I don't have (or want) a Wee, so I didn't bother with the "Instant' alternatives.

Now, I am.  Seems with a couple of wires, I can hook my netbook to the television, and voila: instant movies as well as old television shows, etc.  I'm technically watching the movie via the netbook, using the HDTV as a monitor (I think).  It's supposed to work, I'll keep you posted. 

Lots more bang for my $9.95/month Netflix membership.  I love saving money.

November 1, 2010

Fizzy Vitamins like Airborne, Emergen-C: Are They Good for You?

Airborne are fizzy tablets in several tasty fruit flavors that come packaged in a cool cylinder similar in size to a roll of quarters.  The tablets provide about the same fizziness of Alka Seltzer, and they've been promoted in the past as a way to fight off colds and flu.  Competitor Emergen-C comes as a powder, in small individual envelopes: pour the powder into water and fun fizzyness occurs. 

Airborne and Emergen-C are similar in their high dose delivery of Vitamin C, and they're comparable in price (Airborne is a bit more pricey) but they have different vitamin combinations: these aren't identical products. But, aside from their ingredient lists, are these fizzy vitamins good for you?

The Fizzy Vitamin Reviews

Most online reviews of Airborne or Emergen-C discuss their ingredients.  How much Vitamin C is too much?  If you take five Airborne tablets a day, then are you overdosing on something?  Should we trust Airborne when it's a creation of an elementary school teacher, not a research scientist?  Which version of Emergen-C is best for you, if any, and does it have enough (or too much) of the B vitamins? 

Read through these reviews, and you'll learn nothing more than what you'll find from other vitamin reviews: some like them, some don't.  Vitamin C has its own group of proponents and detractors, and lots of what you read about the fizzy vitamins delve into the controversy of whether or not mega-doses of Vitamin C actually prevent or reduce colds and flu, cancer, etc.

Back in 2008, Airborne gained some notoriety for its $7 million settlement with 32 states and the District of Columbia, where these states had asserted that Airborne had made false claims about its benefits -- Airborne agreed to stop promoting its product as being helpful in preventing or treating illnesses.  This, after Airborne had already agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) around $30 million in settlement of allegations regarding false advertising claims. 

Whether or not you buy that these settlements were anything more than Airborne ultimately fighting against Big Pharma and those who are against lifestyle medicine, well, that's another issue.  Proper nutrition - including regularly taking vitamins and minerals - as a means to fight against illness is a huge topic, more than what we're pondering today.  Today, it's all about the fizz factor.
Fizzy Vitamins and Your Teeth

I found little if any discussion about the administration of vitamins through fizzy water.  Is this better or worse than vitamin tablets?  How do they compare against liquid vitamins?  I still don't know, and I'm assuming that this widespread absence of warning may well mean that taking vitamins through fizzy powder or fizzy tablets doesn't lessen their potency or worth. 

I did, however, find an interesting British news report about fizzy vitamins and your teeth.  Apparently, according to the Daily Mail, there are some that warn daily intake of these fizzy vitamins will harm teeth enamel.   Easy answer: use a straw.

After three weeks, I'm still happy with fizzy vitamins. And eating less - who knew?

Personally, I've been drinking a fizzy vitamin drink first thing in the morning for about three weeks now.  First two weeks, Airborne and now I'm trying out Emergen-C.  I'm still taking my regular vitamins, and I'm drinking my green tea with ginger, eating organic, etc. and I'm not trying to stave off a cold or flu.  Maybe some allergy symptoms (fall in San Antonio is notoriously bad for allergies) have been helped - watery eyes, headache, fatigue. 

However, one thing I've definitely noticed: I'm not as hungry.  I'm eating less, without consciously dieting.  Just not interested, and nope - I'm not sick or getting sick.  Wondering if getting enough vitamins and minerals into your system means you eat less. Or, looking at it another way, was I eating more because my body was craving vitamins it lacked?  Are fizzy vitamins a diet aid?  Yikes.  Imagine the horrific reaction of the FDA to that premise.   

October 26, 2010

Walking 6 Miles a Week Keeps Your Brain Healthy

In today's Natural News, there is a great article summarizing the latest studies on walking and its impact on memory function (and aging, and preventing Alzheimer's Disease or dementia).  Great thing to learn from it: walking 6 miles a week is a major health benefit.  That's not that much, is it? 

Of course, they report that 9 is even better than 6, and there's discussion of "brisk" walking - is it "brisk" walking when my dogs are pulling me along at a semi-run, because they've got a scent on the trail?  Sure feels brisk, lemme tell ya. 

How to keep track of that mileage?  I use a fabulous pedometer: the Omron HJ-112.  It's not that costly, but it is pricer than the $5 pedometers at WalMart.  I keep it in my pocket and if it's not accurate enough for NASA, it's accurate enough for me - I think it comes darn close, based on the trail markers. 

How many steps equal 6 miles?  I've always heard that while each person is different, it's a safe estimate that 2000 steps equals one mile of walking.  So, 6 miles?  12,000 steps a week. 

You can do that.  Yes, you can.  No one says it has to be 6 miles at a time, you could do half a mile in the morning, half in the evening every day but Sunday and get this done.  Maybe park farther away from the office? store entrance? 

Or, take a morning and evening constitutional.  Doesn't that sound sophisticated - "I'm taking my morning constitutional" just means more than "I'm off for a walk."  You're almost British, maybe Bostonian.  You might start wanting to wear tweed.

Seriously. Boost up your walking during the day if you're not hitting this target already.  Your brain will thank you for it -- and walking is great, especially in pretty places. 

October 25, 2010

Ginger Tea Recipe - Natural Pain Relief that WORKS

I'm still drinking my homemade Ginger Tea - and it's still proving to be very effective as a pain reliever. Once again this weekend, I skipped it and my foot (tendon injury) woke me up with a sharp pain on Saturday night as I tried to move it against the sheets. Yesterday and today, I'm drinking my Ginger Tea and no pain. Just like I'm taking a pain pill - but I'm not.

For those of you that might like to try my Ginger Tea recipe for yourself, here it is:

Get yourself one big, fat hand of fresh organic Ginger Root.  Fat fingers, because you will want lots of meat left after you take off the bark.  Cut away the bark, and then cube the flesh of the root - maximizing the surface area that will be exposed to the water as it brews.

Boil yourself a big tea kettle of water and then brew (I use a cute tea pot that reminds me of the English countryside) three organic green tea bags together with the cubed fresh ginger.  Let it steep a long time.  Me, I let it go several hours because I want all that ginger to free itself into the liquid. 

Grab a pitcher that has a cover/lid.  Blend your steeped ginger/green tea with cold water in the pitcher, stevia to sweeten it to your taste.  Use all the steeped ginger from the teapot, or if it's too strong for you, then save some in a glass jar in the fridge -  a handy second batch when you're ready. 

I think the green tea helps with the flavor, as does the stevia.  Plus, they both are helpful in their own right (antioxidants, etc.) and that can't hurt when you're healing. 

For those of you interested in learning more about Ginger as a natural alternative to aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, check out these sites:

University of Maryland Medical Center
(where the med school reports that ginger is "commonly" recommended for nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness, pregnancy, and chemotherapy, as well as a "digestive aid for mild stomach upset," (whatever that means) and as a help for "inflammatory conditions such as arthritis" along with heart disease or cancer.

Consumer Affairs
The consumer site references studies published in the Journal of Pain (as well as research done by several American universities), where ginger is recognized as a pain reliever in either its raw or heat-treated forms.  It also points to ginger as being a big pain remedy in Chinese medicine, and reports that ginger has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties similar to non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 

Dr. Andrew Weil
Dr. Weil, the recognized alternative medicine practitioner who periodically shows up on PBS, also recommends ginger for pain relief.  All for the same sorts of things that the University of Maryland does -- nausea, muscle/arthritis pain, etc. 

October 20, 2010

Vertical Farming: Have You Heard About This Yet?

Over at The Vertical Farm, they've got some very interesting info for you.  For instance, these folk are advising that within the next 40 years, we'll be facing the basic need of feeding around 3,000,000,000 (three billion) mouths. 

We can't do it with the farmland we've got now.  Problem.  Unless we get creative and farm differently.  One solution: vertical farming. 

Which, yes, is something a lot more complicated that the Baker's Rack Vegetable Garden I tried to grow long ago on the apartment balcony -- but at least I got that footprint idea right ....

It sounds pretty darn smart - especially the recycling aspects, and the idea of safe water and safe food.

For more info, watch this:

October 19, 2010

Where's The Note? Facing Foreclosure, You May Want to Check Out this Site ASAP - or NOT

Where's the Note? is a website published by a group of organizations (see their logos at the bottom of the page, you'll have to search for their actual sites -- they don't link to this new web site) that's getting lots of media attention.

Go to Where's the Note and you'll get background information on foreclosure issues (things like the definition of a mortgage note) as well as lots of direction on how to fight your impending foreclosure due to the apparent idiocy involved in fast-tracked foreclosure processes by financial institutions across the country.  Better known at this point as "foreclosuregate," in case you haven't been reading the news lately. 

Of course, there are those that are arguing that even if there's a paperwork mess resulting in a title nightmare, if the borrower could not pay the note, then legally Where's the Note gives them action, but morally nothing's changed.  Folk like Mike Konczai are writing about this twist on the growing news story, and I'm happy to see it. 

Because while there are those (including at least one member of Congress) that have advised homeowners to squat, staying put in their homes until the paperwork mess gets sorted out, I gotta wonder if that's best for the home owner. 

It's far from a peaceful life, squatting.  Waiting for the shoe to drop - and unless you get a windfall, then you're setting there knowing you can't pay what you owe, so eventually that's a bell that is gonna ring.  Squatting is not a guaranteed winning Lotto ticket.

Plus, it keeps you from pulling up stakes and moving forward.  And forward is good.  So you join the millions of Americans negatively impacted by this depression, ahem, recession?  So you move to a rental, a forced downsizing of your life?  Is this really and truly so horrible? 

Maybe not, Dear Reader.

Many folk are scared of the simpler life, only to be very pleasantly surprised.  Because a simpler life is a better one.  Whether you voluntarily pursue it or it's thrust upon you, either way -- it's freeing not to be burdened with so much material stuff.  A new chapter in life may mean a second chance to pursue a dream, move to another location, get rid of that dining room set you hate and never use. 

So, while Where's the Note? sounds awfully friendly, I gotta wonder if it's worth all that angst to avoid the eventual New Chapter in Life.  Second chances are sweet, no matter how you come by them.

October 14, 2010

Top Online Banks - Forget the Brick and Mortar if You Dare

It's not new, really - the idea of online banking.   No drive through tellers, no big brick building with security guards and alarms and cameras high up in the corners.  These online bank alternatives are still protected by the FDIC (I know, I know - for whatever that's really worth these days), and some have been around for several years now. 

Bargaineering (now WalletHacks) has a nice list of the top online banks in their opinion.  Checking, savings, minimum deposit, fees. 

MSN has created a best online bank list as well -- they give lots of details about online banks versus traditional institutions, including features that may make internet-only banks more palatable for you than your mother's store down the street. 

Consumer Search reviews the service of online banking, without distinguishing online-only from brick and mortar.  The results?  Bank of America comes in first, but an online-only bank, ING Direct, comes in second.  They've also compiled a list of their best internet-only banks (after ING comes Ally, if you're interested).

Updated to include 2017 link to WalletHacks on October 7, 2017.

October 13, 2010

Anti-Inflammatory Herbs - Natural Relief for Inflammation

Yesterday, I posted about inflammation - acute vs chronic - and ways to fight it.  Herbs, pills, diet.  Stuff I've learned after hurting my foot and having to deal with a painful hurt tendon.  Owee.

Today, thought I'd list the various herbal and natural anti-inflammatories I learned about during my research, as well as sharing links that proved helpful to me. 

Personally, I'm drinking green tea made with fresh ginger, sweetened with stevia, and I really think it's helping on the pain front.  But ginger is far from the only anti-inflammatory that's all natural (read: not a pill) - here's a partial list:

Avoid the NSAIDs: Find a Natural Anti-Inflammatory (Herb, Food, Spice) That Works for You

Herbs and Spices

Cayenne Pepper (Capsaicin)
Devils Claw
Glucosamine sulfate
Glucosamine - chondroitin sulfate combo
Licorice root
SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine)
St. John's Wort
Tea Tree Oil
White Willow Bark


Green Tea
Apple Cider Vinegar
Acerola (West Indian) Cherries
Bell Peppers
Black Currants
Brussel Sprouts
Collard Greens
Turnip Greens

For more information, check out:

Natural Holistic Health

All 4 Natural Health

Metabolism Advice

Natural News

October 12, 2010

Natural Anti-Inflammatories: What is Inflammation? Do You Have to Take a Pill for It? (Yes, Fine. I Hurt My Foot.)

Inflammation is your body's reaction to an injury -- it's the protection implemented by your own internal system to thwart whatever is hurting it and thereafter to initiate healing. It can be internal or external. 

Inflammation moves blood to the injury site, and there's usually swelling.  And for acute inflammation, there's pain -- which isn't necessarily bad: pain keeps you from moving the injury, giving the body time to heal the site.  Only problem is that pain, well, hurts. 

Inflammation is needed for any wound (or infection) to heal.  However, when it turns into chronic inflammation then it can become a problem, inviting disease (from hay fever allegies and heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer's).  Things like diet are a consideration when fighting against chronic inflammation (more below).

Popping Pills for Inflammation

The common practice for inflammation is to pop a pill - take an aspirin, or one of the newer anti-inflammatories, the NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  You may know them as aspirin (Bayer, etc.), naproxin (Aleve), or ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol).  NSAIDs are used to treat inflammation, as well as combat pain and lower fever.

There's lots of talk about these pills causing lots of problems on their own, things like a bleeding stomach and ulcers.  So, how to avoid them when you're fighting inflammation?  Can you? 

Natural Anti-Infammatories

Sure. There are several natural alternatives to NSAIDs that are proven anti-inflammatories.  They include (for a much longer list of herbs, spices, and foods that are natural antiinflammatories, go here):

Cayenne Pepper (Capsaicin)

You can find these creams alongside BenGay, IcyHot, and the other tubes of pain relief next to the Ace Bandage display at your local drug store.  These have a small amount of cayenne pepper in them, and it's been proven that rubbing capsaicin into sore muscles and joints can stop pain. 


Again, studies have shown that ginger is a very effective anti-inflammatory.  In fact, some have found ginger to be more effective than aspirin (wow).   Make ginger tea, buy an organic hand of fresh ginger, take a finger and peel it, then drop the peeled ginger into a pot of boiling water to steep. 

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Your entire diet can be targeted toward fighting inflammation.  Dr. Andrew Weil outlines an anti-inflammatory diet on his web site. 

Over at WebMD, Russell Greenfield, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discusses the impact of chronic (or constant) inflammation and how it's known to be a big contributor to certain diseases, including arthritis, as well as some cancers, as well as heart disease and possible Alzheimer's Disease.  An out-of-balance diet, with too few omega-3 fatty acids, and too much omega-6 fatty acids (in other words, the processed food and fast food diet of most Americans) can cause chronic inflamation - and the person will not even know it.  Eww, right? 

Don't Forget RICE!

Additionally, for injuries (acute inflammation) consider the practical aspects of RICE -- you don't injest a thing.  Instead, you Rest (R) the injured arm, leg, foot, whatever; you put Ice on it (I); you wrap or bandage the site, called Compression (C) and you keep the injured limb immobilized and elevated, Elevation(E). 

What Happened?  I Hurt My Foot on the Trail. 

Okay, what brought this on?  Well, fine.  While on the trails with the pups, I injured my foot.  While being all foot-proud about my new bouncey help-you-butt shoes, the official name of which I won't be providing but you know what I'm talking about, right? 

Tendon pulled, not torn.  Gonna take weeks to heal, and at first this hurt like a big dog.  Now, I know all about tendons and the importance of wearing good shoes. 

And I've discovered that I love ginger tea (I add an organic green tea bag to the pot, so I suppose it's really green tea with ginger).  And yes, I think that the ginger has helped.  Quite a bit, actually.

October 8, 2010

Caretaker Services - Ever Thought of Being a House Sitter or Caretaker in Some Faraway Place?

For 28 years, The Caretaker Gazette has provided a nice service (for a small fee, of course): putting together responsible individuals interested in protecting the property of another as either a sitter or caretaker, with those who need help with their real estate or vacation homes.   Other similar sites include Caretaker Jobs and Indeed

Now some of you may have learned of caretakers in a bodice-ripping romance novel or paperback spy thriller, but others may have become acquainted with the idea of staying in someone else's house - or ranch, or beachside home, etc - from actual success stories.  It's an arrangement that can be very beneficial for everyone concerned.

At the Caretaker Gazette, you can scan lists of prospective properties as a potential caretaker or house sitter, or alternatively, review profiles of those interested in being placed in a caretaking role.  Caretaker Jobs offers analogous information.  Indeed expands to include other types of employment, including things like animal caretaking with the National Parks Service, etc. 

Savvy Way to Financial Recovery?

True, this isn't for everyone -- but for some folk, and you may be one of them Dear Reader, it may be a great way to travel economically or to recover from a financial downturn. 

After all, there are positions (consider the "estate manager" ad shown on the home page of the Gazette) where not only do you live rent-free, you get a small monthly stipend.  If you've got a spouse that works, or you can earn addition money somehow while fulfilling your caretaking duties, then this might be a simple, savvy way to recoup some losses. 

Something to think about, right?

October 6, 2010

Toaster Ovens: I Love Them and I Have to Buy a New One Today (darn)

For a couple of years now, I've used my trusty Black & Decker Toaster Oven on a regular basis.  It's been great: saves energy, keeps the kitchen lots cooler than using the oven, and it's easy to use. 

However, just as I was placing a batch of Crescent Rolls in Old Faithful, my handy-dandy toaster oven died.  Yes, I admit it:  I was baking up a batch of the totally bad-for-you bop on the counter tube kind.  The kids love them, and I'm weak.  Fine, fine: I love them too.  We don't eat them all the time!!!! 

So, I went on the hunt via the web, of course, for a replacement.  And today, I'll be replacing my small kitchen appliance with a GE Convection Toaster Oven from Walmart that will cost me less than $50, has literally hundreds of glowing reviews at both the Walmart site as well as, and get this: it has a rotisserie included!

That's right.  I'm gonna be able to have rotisserie chicken, roast, or turkey breast made here at home.  From a product that cost less that fifty bucks!!  Wowser.  Happy Dance.

Now, there's a catch.  It can't be a BIG rotisserie chicken or roast or whatever.  I've got a 5 pound limit.  But that's okay.  That's doable.

So, folks, here I go -- off to Walmart for my new gizmo.  Simple life, simple excitement. 

And guess what I'm making for dinner? 

September 25, 2010

Great Multi Grain Pasta Salad Recipe

That good-for-you brown pasta isn't the same in recipes as the yellow kind.  I still like the basic pasta (yes, even the traditional elbows) for a standard pasta salad, but I did monkey around and find a combo of stuff that seems to work pretty well with the hardy whole grain noodles.  Thought I'd share it with you, Dear Reader.

What You Need (Double This if You Want a Big Bowl of Stuff):

6-7 oz of whole-wheat pasta - e.g., 1/2 box of Ronzoni Healthy Heart 7 Grain Fusilli (the corkscrew kind)
1/2 cup good mayo (I like Hellman's Mayo for this)
1/2 container of plain yogurt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1- 2 T balsamic vinegar  (I like this stuff, so I go for 2 tablespoons, you might not want that much)
stevia powder (I use KAL brand, it's just so much better than the rest) unless you have to use sugar (then 1 t of table sugar)
garlic powder (shake in, stir, test it -- see if you need more.  I like garlic, so I put in more than most)
parm cheese -- grated (put it what tastes good to you, I like a lot of this stuff)
1 bell pepper (red, green, orange -- whatever is cheapest and looks the freshest, get a big one)
4 green onions - chop them all (green leaves n little white orbs)
handful (around 10) black olives, sliced into little circles
3 chopped hard boiled eggs
1 cup chopped grilled chicken or turkey -- great way to use up the leftover roto chicken you brought home from the store
celery if you've got it -- couple of stalks

Here's what you do:
Cook the pasta in boiling water, salting the water before you add the pasta but after it's boiling (saves your pot).  I add oil 2 the water here because I think it helps keep the noodles from clumping, but others will disagree with me.

Drain the pasta, and get it to room temp.  (In a hurry, throw it into the freezer while you are getting the other ingredients together)  You don't want to add hot pasta to the mayo, etc. -- messes things up.

In your big bowl, stir together the mayo, yogurt, oil, vinegar, and the powders (stevia/sugar, garlic powder, salt, pepper), shaking them in a bit at a time until you get the combo of spices the way you like it.  Stir this around till it's a smooth dressing for your salad (i.e., if you used sugar, you want it to dissolve). 

Chop up the veggies and the meat. Bite size.  Throw them into the dressing, coat them all up and then add the pasta, stir things around.

Fridge this puppy until it's nice and chilled. 

Tip:  I like to add the parm cheese to the hot pasta, and then the cheese sorta melts and coats the pasta.  This keeps that pasta from soaking up all the dressing later, which is great.  I hate to pop the top the next day, and see that the pasta has drank all the dressing/sauce/etc.  I do this all the time, assorted recipes.  Works like a charm. 

September 24, 2010

Tom's of Maine 24 Hr Crystal Confidence Deodorant: All Natural Deodorant that WORKS

This may be getting close to TMI for you, Dear Reader, but I just have to share this great personal find.  I've been wanting to avoid standard antiperspirants for years now, for all those bad juju reasons we've all heard about -- and because rolling aluminum bits into my body on a daily basis just seems stupid, quite frankly.  (For what that does, read the postscript.)

However, this posed a big, big problem because while I can deal with the transition from anti-perspirant to deodorant okay, I just did not want to ... well ... stink.  There I said it: stink.  Smell.  Clear a room smell-bad.  This is a big deal for me, and I bet it's a big deal for you.  Sweat is one thing.  Stink is another.

So, imagine how thrilled I was after all this trial and error to find Tom's of Maine's 24 Hour Crystal Confidence Roll On Deodorant.  I like the Citrus Zest version, because the scent is so nice.  I also like that it works. 

Not to say that other natural deodorants didn't work -- they just didn't work for me after around 3 -4 hours.  Working from home, this is easier to accommodate than my past life in the Office.  I had gotten into the habit of using some of the other versions periodically during the day, because forewarned was forearmed.  Better to be a little nuts and add a little more here and there, than have a Deodorant Failure.  Funk is bad. 

No need with Tom's of Maine's 24 Hour Crystal Confidence.  Now, it doesn't last me for 24 hours.  But it'll go a good 12 or more.  And that, to me, is just fine.

Try it -- see what you think. 

PS - Potassium alum vs aluminum in anti-perspirants

Tom's of Maine Crystal Confidence does contain potassium alum, but this is different from commercial antiperspirant's aluminum component.  Potassium alum has a different chemical composition; you can buy it in solid, crystal form as Thai Sticks if you prefer that to Tom's version, and from what I've read, it's not absorbed into the skin.  It's too big, cellwise. 

Potassium alum lies on your skin and kills baceria; in the commercial anti-perspirants, some form of aluminum ( aluminum chloride; aluminum zirconium tricholorohydrex glycine; aluminum chlorohydrate; aluminum hydroxybromide; aluminum hydroxide) actually goes into your body to chemically block the sweat glands from releasing their liquid.  Apparently, the sweat glands just swell up with sweat that's not allowed to escape naturally.  Ewww. 

September 23, 2010

FDA Warning Letter to Lipton's: Green Tea is a Drug and Lipton's is in Violation of Federal Law. Wow.

I buy Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated - I bet you do, too. It's the little yellow and green box, and sometimes the price is right. Who knew I was buying a drug from a criminal?

However, that's apparently the case, because in August 2010, the FDA sent an official warning letter to Unilever, Inc., the company that provides us all with Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated - and the letter's online for us all to read at the FDA website.

Here's some juicy tidbits for you:

"Based on our review, we have concluded that this product is in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) ...

"Your website, also promotes your Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated product for conditions that cause it to be a drug under section 201(g)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)(B)].

"For example, your webpage entitled "Tea and Health," subtitled "Heart Health Research" and further subtitled "Cholesterol Research" bears the following claim: "[F]our recent studies in people at risk for coronary disease have shown a significant cholesterol lowering effect from tea or tea flavonoids ... One of these studies, on post-menopausal women, found that total cholesterol was lowered by 8% after drinking 8 cups of green tea daily for 12 weeks ...."

"The therapeutic claims on your website establish that the product is a drug because it is intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. Your Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated product is not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced uses and, therefore, the product is a "new drug" under section 201(p) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(p)]. New drugs may not be legally marketed in the U.S. without prior approval from FDA as described in section 505(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 355(a)]. FDA approves a new drug on the basis of scientific data submitted by a drug sponsor to demonstrate that the drug is safe and effective.

"Your Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated product is offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use this drug safely for its intended purposes. Thus, your Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated product is misbranded under section 502(f)(1) of the Act in that the labeling for this drug fails to bear adequate directions for use [21 U.S.C. § 352(f)(1)] ."

I could add more, but you're more than able to go read the whole thing for yourself.

As for me, Lipton's Decaf Green Tea may not be my preferred brand, but you can bet I'm gonna be buying an extra box or two -- just because this FDA action makes me mad.

September 21, 2010

Hoarding: a Lifestyle in Opposition to Simple Living

I admit it, I do catch the occaional episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC TV.  I couldn't tell you when it airs, but I can tell you that everytime I watch the show, it makes me get up and dust or vacuum or do a load of laundry.  Something.  Maybe part of this is because (personal revelation, dear reader!) my mother, looking back, was obviously a hoarder.  So was my first husband's mother.  Wow, there's some food for thought.

Me?  I don't hoard.  Maybe living this lifestyle of voluntary simplicity in some way is reacting to that background - that's sounding plausible.  All I know is that organizing and simplifying seems smart and wise and it's a peaceful, joyful life.

Hoarding - The Reasons for It

As a result of the show, and as I pondered this personal connection with hoarders, I did go surfing around investigating hoarding.  I learned hoarding is a compulsion, with both psychological and physical components.  I learned that lots of professionals discuss anger and anxiety as emotions felt by haorders when faced with the idea of throwing anything away.

I'm not arguing with any of that -- from my experience, this all sounds true.  However, from my experience, there's something that isn't being discussed here.  From what I know of hoarding, it's a twisted way of dealing with a major loss.  It's a grief thing.  It's got a depression component and a thread of denial runs through it, but at its core - its a strange way of fighting against loss. 

Why share this with you, Dear Reader?  Because There's Simplifying Lesson Here for Us All

In the process of simplifying your life - be it downsizing, going green, living frugally or living slowly or moving to a one-income household, or expatriating - and there are lots of varieties of simple living, some of those hoarder reactions seem familiar.

There's the stuff.  Stuff you don't want to get rid of, even if you don't need it and will never use it.  There are all those boxes of memories - the kid's school papers, your old college textbooks - that need to be culled. 

Letting go of stuff is hard.  It involves loss.  Simplifying is hard.  There's an emotional component to the process.  It's worth it, but in no way is it easy.  Simplifying your life may not be simple at all. 

God bless you, Dear Reader.

Doctor Mark Hyman Decries Conventional Medicine in HuffPo: The Rising Awareness of Lifestyle Medicine

Dr. Mark Hyman (M.D.) practices medicine and writes bestselling books (he's made the New York Times Bestsellers list four times so far). Dr. Hyman also founded The Ultra Wellness Center, and is considered to be a world-wide leader in "functional medicine" - so when he writes an article for the Huffington Post (the top blog in the country per Technorati), people pay attention. 

The article is entitled, "Millions Die Due to Withheld Medical Treatment" and if you can't read it at the link (it will be archived at some point), feel free to check Dr. Hyman's website or contact me -- I've saved a copy in OneNote because I don't want to lose it.)

Practicing Physician Claims Conventional Medicine Corrupted by Greed

You should, too.  Why?  Because Dr. Hyman is standing up against a huge contingent of his peers when he writes that conventional medicine today is corrupt: that by its co-dependence upon the big pharmaceutical companies, the true cures for such major diseases as diabetes and heart disease lies in lifestyle medicine

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

Since lifestyle medicine isn't as profitable as conventional methods, it's being ignored according to Dr. Hyman and the result is akin to the Tuskegee Experiments of the 1920s (and if you don't know about this  horror, it's worth your time to stop and read what Dr. Hyman's written - just to learn about this).  

Dr. Hyman's providing lots of information on the web to help people - his website is great, so is the UltraWellness Center.  For example, check out his free series of articles online, "7 Keys to Ultrawellness."  Great stuff in here. 

Lifestyle Medicine Incorporates Simple Living.  Wow. 

Dr. Hyman promotes many of the things that simplifiers value.  Things like eating whole, fresh, organic foods.  Foods that you cook yourself in ovens and on stovetops.  Avoiding bad stuff like high fructose corn syrup and mercury.  Exercising.  Getting enough rest.  Avoiding stress.  Drinking lots of good water.  Taking vitamins. Taking herbs, too. Understanding detoxification. (Did you know that internalized stress can make you fat? Wow.) 

Want to Learn More About Lifestyle Medicine?

To learn more, check out his personal site or Dr. Hyman's UltraWellness website (where he offers a free ebook and lotsa free videos), follow him on Twitter (, or surf around for "lifestyle medicine" where you'll find good sites to learn from, including: 

American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Harvard Medical School's Lifestyle Medicine Institute
The Institute of Lifestyle Medicine

September 20, 2010

The Changing Value of a Dollar: What a 2010 Dollar Converts to in Past Years

Okay, I was watching a rerun of the Andy Griffith Show this week, and it was the episode where Helen Crump gets a children's book published - and Andy worries about being put on the back burner what with Helen becoming a rich and famous author.  Of course it works out, Andy apologizes in the end - but not before there's some tension between him and the nice schoolteacher.  (To watch Helen the Authoress, episode 213, go here.)

What is a 1967 Dollar Worth in 2010?

Here's the thing: as I was watching the show, I got curious about the $1000 advance that Helen received for the book -- all of Mayberry was very, very impressed.  Now, today, that's not that much money.  Not that any of us would turn it aside, but it's not the stuff of "rich and famous," right?

So, I went and checked on the web and found this Inflation Converter at  According to their site, Helen's retainer amounts to around $6500 today.  That's nicer, but still not the big fat number that the Mayberry awe was suggesting to me. 

Still, it's interesting to ponder how a dollar has changed so much in so little time, right? 

September 19, 2010

Bless the Animals Day is Here

For Catholics, St. Francis of Assisi is remembered each year in October, and as part of that remembrance, there is a traditional blessing of the animals.  However, over the years the idea of having one's animals, especially beloved pets, blessed has spread across the world, and across the denominations. 

October 4th is Feast Day for St. Francis of Assisi

The Catholic blessing of the animals occurs on the feast day for St. Francis, and is accompanied by this blessing by the priest:

“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”
October 2 - 3 Other Blessings of the Animals Will Take Place

Non-Catholic events that provide a blessing of the animals - particularly pets - will be happening across the globe over this weekend.  For example, yesterday in Long Beach, California, there was the 9th Annual Interfaith Blessing of the Animals.  Another was held here in San Antonio, at a local United Methodist Church -- and because we like to be different, this year the 25th Annual Blessing of the Animals and Pets will occur in Market Square on December 11, 2010. 

Prayer Available for Animals Anytime at God, Bless the Animals Site

Of course, you can pray for your pets anytime, anywhere.  However, there's also a site with written prayers and the opportunity to send it prayer requests as well as ask for emergency prayers at the internet prayer ministry, God, Bless the Animals.

September 18, 2010

Getting Rid of Online Advertising 1 - Opt Out at the Network

Network Advertising Initiative is an organization devoted to finding answers to the growing problem of spam, spyware, and other evil things used to monitor your web use for marketing purposes.

Yep, there are "advertising networks" out there keeping track of where you surf through small programs (e.g., cookies) silently placed upon your computer. No one asks your permission, they ride along the internet and grab hold unless you've blocked them somehow. These networks use the data sent by the software to their main hub to compile your preferences. All for the purpose of gearing advertising especially for you, lucky you.

That's why when you surf for netbooks, you suddenly get ads for netbooks showing up on the magazine sites you visit for example. Targeted online advertising.

There's no single magic button to stop this Big Brother type of tactic. However, there are ways to minimize it, and one of them is to Opt Out at the network site.

For example, you can Opt-Out at the NetworkAdvertising site fast and easy. Just follow the steps.

Does it mean that they'll never put a cookie back on your machine? Nope. However, with some other tools that I've already implemented, I'm happy to report that I only had one cookie from this network on my machine - made me all Security Proud.

More on that later.

September 1, 2010

FOXBusiness Offers 7 Steps to a Single Income Family: Is Downsizing Becoming Acceptable?

Today, FoxBusiness has a great article entitled, "7 Steps to Becoming a One-Income Family" that really does give substantive help in moving from a two-income household to a one-income family.

What I like best is the end of the article, where the expert points out that American society predominates with instant gratification and a pressure to spend - but that the ability to simplify things is doable, and he appears to say there is power in it.

Which those of us who have been simplifying voluntarily for years know - and have been sharing with anyone who cares to listen, for years now.

Power. And freedom.

Maybe if the main stream media is writing articles like this, frugal living and voluntary simplicity won't suffer such a stigma in the future. Downsizing is cool now? Wow. That's great.

July 28, 2010

Tea as a Stress Reducer - It Works

Black tea has been studied in Great Britain (of course), and found to be a proven stress reducer.  Actually, it doesn't relax you so much as it prevents those nasty stress hormones (like cortisol) from skyrocketing and it is also able to fight against the formation of blood clots. 

Chamomile Tea is a Powerhouse

Herbalists for centuries have been reporting that chamomile tea reduces stress.  Personally, I love the taste of chamomile tea.  So I was very excited to learn that it's somewhat amazing in all its benefits.  For example, WebMD reports on studies that show chamomile tea to have the additional benefits of blocking complications from Type 2 diabetes including loss of vision as well as  nerve and kidney damage. 

Additionally, one research study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that chamomile tea heals inflammation along with assorted skin diseases, open wounds/ulcers and even gout. WebMD also reports that recent studies have found that simple little old chamomile tea can stunt growing human cancer cells.

Green tea and ginseng tea also not only provide great health benefits, but also to fight stress well.

Nice to know a no-calorie, inexpensive, easy-to-find beverage can do so much for you, right?  Add that to a real, traditional English tea time and you've really got yourself a stress-break.

July 23, 2010

So You Think Your Life is Over? You're Past 30, 40, 50? You're Over the Hill? THINK AGAIN.

Last night, I was reading the updated version of Billy Graham's book Storm Warning, and it hit me.  The Reverend is still out there, writing best sellers -- and how old is he again?  And, what about Betty White?  She's on a hit TV show, and she's busy with a new clothing line aimed at helping her beloved animal shelter ....

Billy Graham was born in 1918.  Betty White was born in 1922.

Which means that ....

Billy was 30 in 1948.
Betty was 30 in 1952.

Billy was 40 in 1958.
Betty was 40 in 1962.

Billy was 50 in 1968.
Betty was 50 in 1972

Think about this -- and where you were back then (if you were even alive yet).  Compare yourself to where you were in 1968, when Billy turned 50, and where you are today.  Me?  I was in elementary school.

When I look at that -- Billy Graham was already 50 when I was eating out of a lunch box and watching cartoons on Saturday morning -- it makes me realize how much more of Life is ahead of me. 

Did Billy Graham at 50 think he'd have another best seller in 2010?  I dunno.  But it sure is amazing to ponder, isn't it? 

So, yes, Dear Reader -- you've got a lot of living to do!!!! Don't settle!  Don't become passive or scared.  Press on toward that abundant life.  Start today.

July 22, 2010

Help Families Keep Their Pets After the BP Oil Spill

It's just heartbreaking to think that family pets are being taken to Louisiana shelters because their owners simply can't afford to feed them.  I can't imagine how horrible that must feel, and what those parents experience having to explain this to their kids.

You can help.

The Eastern Louisiana SPCA has organized a special relief effort, just for this situation.  Get the details at their website. 

July 21, 2010

Bread from the Grocery: How to Tell How Fresh a Loaf of Bread is Before You Buy It

Pre-sliced breadImage via Wikipedia
Buying a loaf of bread at the grocery shouldn't have to include a prayer that the loaf isn't already a week old and ready to start gathering mold the minute you get it home.

That's where those little plastic twistee ties or U-shaped tabs come into play. They are color-coded to help the stores know how old the bread is on their shelves. Know the code, and you know how old the bread is, too.

Yesterday, I picked up a loaf of 12 grain bread at WalMart - out of convenience.  I prefer to buy a specialty bread at another store, but you know how that goes.  Pepperidge Farm.  It looked pretty good, and past the squeeze test.

Came home, and looked up the color coding for the bread ties.  I found this at Snopes.Com

Monday = Blue
Tuesday = Green
Wednesday = Red
Thursday = White
Friday = Yellow

I found this same information duplicated at several sites, so it should be the industry standard, right?  Wrong.

I checked my bread loaf, and the twist tab was TAN.  That's right, Dear Reader.  A color that is not on the code list.  Tan.  Was it made on a Saturday? 

So, I surfed more and learned that those tricky manufacturing companies (no, I can't call them bakeries, I just can't) have caught on that we are learning the coding system, so each bread company has adopted its own color code. 

Who knows what the tan code means?  I better hurry and finish this loaf. 

July 4, 2010

What They Signed on July 4th: Have You Read the Declaration of Independence?

Here, on the Fourth of July, as we prepare picnics and barbeques and await the fireworks display, let's ponder the reason for this holiday: the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence 234 years ago.  Those choosing a simplicity lifestyle appreciate freedom and taking action for positive change.  We're independent in thought and deed: qualities that are truly American.  Happy Fourth of July to us all!

Full text of the Declaration of Independence follows:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. (continues after "read more)

June 23, 2010

Google Voice - Free and Great or Free and Scary?

ZNet's Dana Blankenhom thinks Google Voice is great, and while there's the power to do evil we have no evidence that Google has taken done bad things to privacy (yet). 

ZNet's Christopher Dawson also thinks Google Voice is great, but he's kinda skeered about what this might mean to our privacy -- and what power this might give to Big Brother. 

And, Google Voice sure does look fabulous.

[Update: I've removed the Google Voice introductory video from this post because of loading problems with it. To see the video, check it out on the Google Voice page.]

June 16, 2010

June is National Safety Month

The National Safety Council is hosting events across the country as part of June being National Safety Month. This year, they are focusing on five specific areas of safety concern:

June 1-6 = Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention
Death caused by taking drugs in unintentional overdoses, many involving chronic pain medications, e.g., oxycodone and hydrocodone.

June 7-13 = Teen Driving Safety
According to the NSC, 17 teens die each day in car crashes in this country.

June 14-20 = Preventing Overexertion at Work & at Home
Pushing yourself past your limits means injury; the NSC reports 40% of injuries at work and at home are due to overexertion.

June 21-27 = Dangers of Cell Phone Use While Driving
Taking and texting while driving remains a serious problem - though Oprah is doing her part to stop it.

June 28-30 = Summer Safety
Here in Texas, we are all too aware of how heat can become life-threatening for children and seniors.

For more information about how you or your organization can get involved in National Safety Month events, check out the National Safety Month page or contact Julie Ford, NSC Development Manager, at or 630-775-2104.

June 15, 2010

Easy Easy Slow Cooker Crockpot Chicken Recipe - Basic and Variations

It's hot and getting hotter here in San Antonio, so the time came to pull out the Slow Cooker once again.  Cooking in the Slow Cooker means the kitchen doesn't get hot.  Plus, it's easy clean up -- a one pot convenience, from table to fridge. 

Here's my basic Chicken and Rice recipe, that I mess with to get different kinds of dishes.  It may not be Food Network, but when people rave about it and ask how the heck you made something, then that's good enough for me.  Figure I'd share this with you, Dear Reader.

I take chicken breasts (boneless) (a friend used pork chops here, he liked it) - 6-8 large.
Thawed or frozen.
Put them into the Slow Cooker.
Add brown rice or wild rice, 1 or 2 cups.

I add I can green beans (or peas and carrots, whatever you've got) and I use the water here as part of the water to make up the 2 to 4 cups of liquid I need to go with the dry rice I just put it (1:2 ratio, rice:water)

I add spices.  These depend upon the veggies I have around.

Always salt and pepper.

The Variations ....

If you have mushrooms and onions, add them in and then spice it up with dijon mustard and a touch of cayenne. 
If you have bell pepper and tomatoes, then add them in and spice it up with Mexican spices:  chili powder, comino, add fresh cilantro at the end.
You get the idea.

Put it on the lowest cooking setting you've got.  Leave it alone for half the time.  Then check it.  If the meat is looking 3/4 done, then change to the highest setting (this will finish up the rice).  (My Cooker has six settings, Low (2,8, 0 hours) and High (2,8,10) hours; I start at Low for 10 and then change to High for 2).

Add any hot peppers you might like about an hour before it's done.  If you put them in too soon, they can take over.

When the rice is done, then turn the setting to warm.  Take a wooden spoon and break apart the chicken pieces into bite sized chunks.

Add lots of cheese and stir till melted.  Again, this will coordinate with your veggies and spices.  Swiss goes well with the mushroom and onions.  Cheddar is nice with the Mexican combo. 

You get the idea.

Now.  Make a nice salad.  Serve with some good bread and real butter.  Tea. 


June 14, 2010

Happy Flag Day 2010

Today is Flag Day - a day when our country celebrates the adoption of the Flag of the United States (by the Second Continental Congress in 1777).   Today was proclaimed Flag Day in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, and Congress established National Flag Day by an official Act of Congress in 1949. 

For more information on the holiday or events in your area, check out the National Flag Day Foundation.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

June 13, 2010

End Times - Are They Really Here? Books to Read

Apocalypse by
Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld
public domain
Jesus warned that the end of things as we know it would come at a time to which even He was not privy -- only God the Father knows the exact time and date.  (Matthew 24:36)  However, He did let us know that there would be signs, hints if you prefer, that things were getting close. (Matthew 24:33)

Given that today our country is in two wars, we've got the Oil Spill, a second Great Depression (even if they don't like to use that term), and a red-hot printing press for the U.S. Dollar with an accompanying, incomprehensible level of debt, ... I could go on but you get the idea ... perhaps reading a bit about the End Times Prophecies from reputable authors isn't a bad idea. 

Remember, though, that Jesus warned that there would be those we should most assuredly avoid.(Matthew 24: 24-25)  If you decide to learn more about the End Times, then recognize that you're gonna find some false prophets out there. 

Here are three places to start your study:
  1. Storm Warning by Rev. Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson 1995)
  2. The Second Coming: Signs of Christ's Return and the End of the Age by John MacArthur (Crossway Books 2006); and
  3. When Jesus Returns by David Pawson (True Potential Publishing, Inc.; North American edition (2008)) .

I'm not recommending these as the best of the best, just as a good starting point if you're interested in eschatology -- which actually has four different schools, or perspectives, on the Book of Revelation and the End Times themselves: the preterist, historicist, futurist and idealist schools of interpretation.
There are, of course, the more popular (best seller) reads available for you, too.  You may recognize them, both for their popularity as books and because each was made into a movie:
  1. The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins; and
  2. The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey and C.C. Carlson.
Whatever you do, remember fear is your enemy.  Don't study this stuff to fuel fear. 
Study this stuff to become stronger, wiser, and more confident in your faith.  God is in control, and everything really is going to be okay. 

June 8, 2010

Free: The Future of a Radical Price - Freebies Are as Good for Business as for the Consumer According to Chris Anderson

Free is the best price, right? At least when you're buying. If you're running a business, then giving away products or services for free spells doom, right? Not necessarily. 

Why Giving Away Stuff is Good for Business

In Free: The Future of a Radical Price, author Chris Anderson posits the argument that in today's marketplace, the savvy thing to do is figure out how to combine free things -- sometimes known in other circles as GIFTS -- with products or services that are being sold.

And Chris Anderson doesn't just pontificate about this: instead, he provides lots of examples on how this is working. And by working, I mean helping businesses grow and expand in the current tight economic times. 

(Yes, this does explain why I got that free $5 gift card from Walmart a couple of months back.)

Free: The Future of a Radical Price includes real life stories of innovative marketing techniques like:
  1. cross-subsidies, where a cable company gives away a DVR to those who buy its cable service; and  
  2. freemiums, where a company offers a basic service for free and then sells its better (or premium) products at a fee. Think QuickBook's SimpleStart, its free version of its bookkeeping software with assorted premium versions. QuickBooks is my example, there are so many freemiums out there I'm sure you can think - or use - some of them right now.
 The Central Question: Lots of people are making money charging nothing.  How can this be?

Free: The Future of a Radical Price provides a history of pricing in America and elsewhere, as well as the psychological background on how prices impact our thinking.  Pricing impacts a consumer in many ways.

For example, in today's market, there are many under the age of 30 with money to spend that aren't going to pay for a product -- particularly information -- when they know that, given enough time and with some effort, they can find it free on the web.   For many other buyers, the idea that a product or service is being offered at $0.00 automatically gives that product or service certain characteristics that it would not have if it were priced at anything other than zero.

What Does This Mean for You and Me?

With rapidly expanding technology and almost unlimited access to the Internet (in more and more instances, access for the web is free), the idea of offering freebies in order to build a customer base is proving to be a valid and vital component to businesses in almost every industry out there. 

Obviously, getting a freebie from a business that's trying to sell you something is a good thing to a provider.  I was happy to get my Gift Card from WalMart.  It pleased me.  It made me feel appreciated in some way.  I saw it as a gift.  A little treat.  I liked WalMart a little better because of it. 

Free, a Price of Zero, seems to be a no-brainer for the consumer.  However, the key to Chris Anderson's work is pointing out how this is also a good thing for the provider. 

Have I shopped more at WalMart as a result of the gift card?  Maybe so.  However, I have not jumped the bar at QuickBooks to buy an upgrade of their bookkeeping software after trying out their free edition of SimpleStart.

Which may give credence to the critics of Chris Anderson's freebie idea, including Malcolm Gladwell (read Gladwell's review of the book in the New Yorker - for free) and James Ledbetter (read Ledbetter's take on things at the Slate blog "The Big Money" - also for free). 

Free Audio Version of Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Yes: the unabridged audio version of Free: The Future of a Radical Price is FREE.   For awhile, it was being offered for free on Kindle, but that window of opportunity has closed. 

Apparently, Chris Anderson practices what he preaches.

June 7, 2010

Jean-Michel Cousteau Explains the Oil Spill. It's very scary. (Video, too.)

Thanks to for sharing this video with us.

McDonalds' Frappe vs Starbucks' Frappuccino

I've tried both the Frappe and the Frappuchino and you know what?  Driving thru McDonalds and getting a treat for half the price as what Starbucks offers me - well, I'm sold.  I'm buying the medium Frappe these days instead of the Grande Mocha Frappuccino at Starbuck's.  Unless it's time for a special treat, where I'm gonna spend some time at the coffee house -- then I'm gonna go with the Frappuccino. 

For atmosphere, I imagine you'll agree: Starbuck's has McDonalds beat hands down, assuming that you're over 7 years old.  Of course, last week I saw an elderly gentleman carrying his Tom Clancy hardback into the McDonalds on Broadway and I had to wonder.  Maybe things are changing inside the Mickey D's more than I realize. 

Here's what I'm thinking:

Price.  It's a factor.  McDonalds is cheaper, by around half.  Sometimes, you need a treat.  Paying around three bucks for one is a good thing. 

Taste.  If I'm really wanting something special, then Starbuck's is the place.  They've got the new campaign "however you want it," and that means tons more selection than the Caramel or Mocha options at McDonalds.  There's Tazo Green Tea Creme Frappuccino Blended Beverage.  There's Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Beverage.  You can pick soy or skim milk, whatever you want. 

Container.  Unless you're a snoot about carrying around a "McCafe" label, there's no real diff here.

Decide for yourself.

For more on Frappuccinos, check out:

5 Tips for Getting Work Done at Starbucks
Fake Out Recipe No. 1: Bottled Starbucks Fraps

June 5, 2010

John Wooden Wisdom: The Seven Point Creed and Wooden's Two Sets of Threes

John Wooden (1910 -2010)
Shown at his 96th Birthday Celebration
Wikipedia public doman
Renowned basketball coach John Wooden died yesterday (1910 - 2010). Here is his Seven Point Creed, which Coach Wooden's father wrote, and gave to his young son when he graduated from grammar school:
  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Make each day your masterpiece.
  3. Help others.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
Coach Wooden kept the original card where his father had written this message in his wallet, until the paper crumbled away; then, Wooden replaced it with a new card that contained the exact same seven life lessons. 

According to John Wooden, he never met a greater man than his dad.  What a wonderful thing for this accomplished leader to say, right? 

In an interview that John Wooden gave back in 1996, he gave some other pearls of wisdom he learned from his dad, that he called the "Two Sets of Threes":

"Never lie, never cheat and never steal."

"Don't whine, don't complain and don't alibi."

Rest in Peace, Coach Wooden.

May 26, 2010

Recipes for Homemade Toothpaste - It's Good for You

Why use homemade toothpaste?  Some do so because it's cheaper.  Some, because they want to avoid the flouride that's in most commercial toothpastes.  Others, because it's been shown to work extremely well (in combination with proper diet) in resolving gum disease (gingivitis, peridonteal disease). 

I did find one site where a dentist reports that using baking soda is bad and recommends Crest Original Toothpaste.  You decide, Dear Reader.

Here are some sites with several interesting recipes on how to make homemade toothpaste and tooth powder:

Tammy's Recipes - Toothpaste
(including cool flavors like cinnamon and peppermint)

Passionate Homemaking - Toothpaste 
(using Castile soap in several versions)

The Organic Sister - Toothpaste
(she includes aloe vera in her recipe)

Idea Queen - Toothpaste and Tooth Powder
(orange rind, sage, even powdered chalk are ingredients here)

Green Eco Services - Toothpaste and Tooth Powder
(hydrogen peroxide, salt, goldenseal, and lots of other interesting stuff in these recipes)
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