February 28, 2010

How to Pray Effectively? Check out Germaine Copeland's Prayers That Avail Much

In one way, it fascinates me when I'm asked how I pray. For me, I'm not sure when I start and stop, it flows through my life in such a constant flow. I just talk with God - about everything. Isn't this what everyone else does too? (Fine. I admit to fighting against self-absorbsion as a hobby, even an art form.)

So, okay. Maybe different people pray differently, or maybe some folk don't pray much at all. I'm going to share some of my experience, because that's all I've got to give you. I don't think that this is being self-absorbed (at least I hope not) ....

Bottom line: prayer helps me, and that's the truth. I'm happier for it. I find peace through prayer. Praying makes my fear go away, it restores and revives me. I'm amazed and thankful that I'm allowed to do it - communicate with God. Awed by it. But that's another post, for another day ....

Living a simple life in this materialistic culture isn't the easiest road to travel, and if you're doing it, then you know what I mean.

Help! and Thanks! are two of my biggest prayers (and I hope that Thanks! is beating Help! in the tallies, but I'm not confident that this is true.)

However, it's not like this is all I do. It's not like I'm some prayer-savant or something. I read the Word a lot, I pray from what I find there, I recite prayers that I read there, and yes, I study the prayer that Jesus gave us all as an example of how to pray.

One other thing that I do is I follow Germaine Copeland's Prayers That Avail Much series -- not only do I search for prayers she's written on specific topics, but I also pray the prayer that she shares with anyone who asks in a daily email message.

Not only are her prayers wonderful in how they've been collected, organized, and shared, I also appreciate how Mrs. Copeland has incorporated so many scriptures into her prayers. I like praying the Word itself. I think it's important.

So, for today's Sunday Inspiration for Simple Living, I'm sharing Germaine Copeland's Prayers That Avail Much series.

You can buy the books online.
You can search her database for prayers dealing with a particular issue.
You can read the blog.
You can get the prayers emailed to your inbox.
You can listen to her prayers on audio, examples include prayer to live from worry, peace in the family, and handling household finances.

And yes, one of the things I pray is thanks to God for the gift of Germaine Copeland. I'm hopeful you'll find her work as much of a blessing as I have.

February 27, 2010

More Free TV Shows Online: IMDb Has Tons of Free Stuff to Watch

If you read my tweets, you know that I'm addicted to watching the reruns of Miami Vice -- in no small part, to see all the famous folk who show up in the episodes (long before they were famous).

Last night, for example, there was a very young Chris Rock with a pretty big role, but you know all the hoopla at the time was for guest star James Brown. Yes, that James Brown.

It was a great show - a real hoot - tho serious MV fans have labelled this episode ("Missing Hours") the worst of the series. Go figure.

And, when I was surfing around this morning to make sure I was right -- that young kid with the bad hairdo really WAS Chris Rock -- I discovered that you can watch a lot of old TV episodes for free at IMDb.com.

There's over 93 episodes of Miami Vice there for the watching at IMDb. I'm in ReRun Heaven.

February 26, 2010

How to Re-upolster a Chair From Goodwill

If you follow this blog, you know that I'm on the hunt for the Perfect Reading Chair, and I'm roaming the estate sales, consignment shops, etc. without any luck so far. This week, I realized that I may find the Perfect Reading Chair but it might need some TLC (tender loving care) ... and going to the web, I found this diy video. Don't know if I've got the time or the patience to do this, but if it's the Perfect Chair except for some hideous fabric, I just might ....

Found this video on YouTube, and it's great: here, a wing chair from Goodwill that cost $10.00 is given new life with upolstery fabric sold for $1/yard at a discount store. (If you like this, check the sidebar -- Balusan also has videos on how to redo dining room chairs, occasional chairs, etc. Great stuff.)

February 25, 2010

Great Sites Where You Click to Give - Hunger Site, Animal Rescue Site

Every day I get an email reminder to click on The Hunger Site, where every day my single click helps feed the hungry (duplicate clicks from my IP address on the same day don't get counted).

And then, because the tabs are right up there at the top, I cruise over and click The Literary Site, The Animal Rescue Site, etc. and contribute my daily click count there, too.  There are only a few tabs, this only takes a minute.  One minute, max.

They keep their results online, so you can see how your click adds to thousands of others and produces real help.  There are also lots of cool products for sale at reasonable prices that help various efforts, too.

Thought I'd share this -- makes me feel good to do this every day, maybe you'll like contributing Your Daily Click too ....

February 24, 2010

Food, Inc. is a Must-See Documentary - and You Can Watch it For Free

If you have Netflix, you can watch Food, Inc. anytime -- it's offered at no charge at their site.  If you don't subscribe to Netflix, then you can watch it (also at no charge) at TVDuck.

And I'm recommended that you do watch this documentary.  Not during dinner, or after any meal. It's not pretty, and it hasn't been made for entertainment.

But you NEED TO KNOW where all that stuff at the local grocery store comes from, and how different it is from the farms of yesteryear.  I remember visiting my aunt and uncle's place south of town, feeding chickens and playing with the cute, tiny piglets. 

It's not my uncle and aunt's farm anymore.  Food, Inc. is a must-see.  Please watch it.

February 23, 2010

Recipe for Kitchen Sink Corn Salad

Corn is great, who doesn't love corn?  It's one of those veggies that are great out of the can as well as fresh or frozen.  Handy - those old reliables that you can grab out of the pantry in a pinch.

I keep a bowl of basic corn salad in the fridge a lot of the time.  I consider it a base for lots of other things.  One big use -- I grab a cup or so and throw it into a bunch of romaine, add some onion and other goodies like avocado, dress it and there you go: fabulous salad, chock full of raw stuff in lots of colors.  Really healthy, really crunchy, really good

Basic Corn Salad

Here, combine only what will meld together well and hold up for awhile, on its own, in the fridge.  Right before serving, you add other things.  I usually double this, cuz I love to have this stuff around.

1 can corn - NOT creamed
1 stalk celery, chopped small enough so the celery bites aren't that much bigger than the corn kernels
cherry or grape tomatoes, uncut
1 cup olives, black or green or a combo of both, cut in half
1 bell pepper, chopped like the celery and whatever color you like

The Additions - aka the Kitchen Sink

Get a big bowl and put as many or as few of the following together as you'd like.  Sky's the limit.  Don't do everything on this list, some of this stuff is redundant (for example, canned jalapenos vs. fresh, pick one or skip 'em both). 

And remember, some of the best salads don't have any leafy greens (lettuce) in them! Then again, this stuff is great in a big leafy salad, too.  Can you tell I'm a big fan of corn salad?  LOL

After you've thrown your stuff together, dress it.  What salad dressing?  Use what you like.  Italian, Ranch, a simple oil-and-vinegar ... just remember, dressing is suppose to act like glue to hold this stuff together so it doesn't fall off the fork on the way to your mouth.  Don't over-glue. 

1 avocado, sliced
1 cup rice
1 can beans (drain them), whatever you've got - red kidney, white kidney, pintos, garbanzos, black, etc.
Couple of handfuls of crushed up tortilla chips
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch scallions
1/2 red onion
1 small can sliced jalapeno peppers, drained
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped small and seeded if you want to cut the heat
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Several shakes of that green canned Parmesan you have on hand for the kiddos
Red pepper flakes to taste
Big box of spring green mix (or bag, or handfuls)
Head of romaine, chopped
Bag of ready made cole slaw
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 small can water chestnuts, chopped
1 small jicama, chopped
Asparagus, fresh, frozen, or canned, chopped into bite sized pieces
Artichoke hearts, cut into fourths
Hearts of palm, cut into bite sized pieces
Mushrooms, fresh, frozen, or canned, in bite sized pieces
4 radishes, sliced thinly

.. you get the idea.  Notice there's no meat here.  Although that can be added, too.  Go for it!

February 22, 2010

CitiGroup Warns It May Not Allow Withdrawals -- Do You Need a Stash of Cash?

This is shocking -- Citigroup has formally issued a notice that it may use its contract right (part of your bank account agreement) and not honor any request for a withdrawal. 
  • This only applies to checking accounts.
  • This only applies to Texas.
  • This only applies for 7 days -- they're warning that they might not let you take cash out of your Citi account on demand -- you might have to wait seven days.
  • It's effective beginning April 1, 2010
I'd think this was some sort of April Fools joke -- gotcha! -- except it's coming in mid-February and it's appearing on Citi bank statements across the country.  The error?  That everyone in the country got it, but by law they can't do it anywhere but Texas.  (Lucky us.)

According to the Motley Fool, here's the language of the notice:

Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change.
According to Ira Stoll at the blog Future of Capitalism, Citi has now issued an explanation:

Yadda yadda yadda.  With warstories of the Great Depression still family lore to many of us, coupled with the possibility of crippling natural disasters (tornado, hurricane, earthquake), this little warning brings home the question: should you have a stash of cash in the event of an emergency
When Citibank moved to unlimited FDIC coverage in 2009, we had to reclassify many checking accounts to allow for immediate withdrawals in order to ensure all customers qualified for the additional coverage. When we moved back to standard FDIC coverage with most major banks in 2010, Citibank decided to reclassify those accounts back to make them eligible again for promotional incentives. To do so, Federal Reserve Reg D requires these accounts, called NOW accounts, to reserve the right to require a 7-day notice of withdrawal. We recently communicated this technical requirement to our customers. However, we have never exercised this right and have no plans to do so in the future."

The answer is YES.  The real issue is HOW MUCH and WHERE TO KEEP IT. 

1.  The National Endowment for Financial Education, writing for those hard hit in California by the sudden fires and mudslides, points out that ATMs and bank buildings may not be operational in a disaster.  They then give information on how you can get emergency cash from the Red Cross and FEMA. 

2.  Equipped to Survive is a great source for emergency preparation and while they don't say anything more than "$100, more is better" they do have a great suggestion -- have some of this cash as rolled quarters.

3. At EHow.Com, they suggest different ways to build up that emergency cash supply, and then estimate that in the event of a major disaster (Katrina was an example), you should have at the ready enough cash to cover 3-6 mths of monthly expenses

4.  HRCCNC suggests a 6 month expenses reserve.

And, then, for the big question -- since you put your cash in a bank to keep it safe from theft, fire, or other dangers -- what are you to do with the cash stash, if you're worried about being able to get the cash out of the bank (because the ATM is underwater or whatever, or the bank itself is telling you no for 7 days)? 

5.  PracticalHacks gives you tips on where to hide that emergency cash stash

February 21, 2010

Walking - It's More Than You Think: The Art of Walking

Living simply means discovering things you put aside in your consumer/materialism/rat-race life, and one of those great, great discoveries for me was walking. 

Not just walking down the street, though I live in a very pretty, tree-filled neighborhood.  Walking in nature, sometimes with friends and sometimes not, and always with dogs.  There's something wonderous and magical about it - the quiet, the beauty, the peacefulness.  It's medicinal, it's refreshing, it's wonderous.

Today is Sunday.  Maybe you have to drive to find Nature.  So do it.  Take some bottled water and some fruit, maybe a bag of nuts.  Your dogs, your kids, yourself.  Maybe your journal, maybe your camera.  Just GO. 

Learn what walking in Nature will give you.

I'm not the only one who's discovered this.  Henry David Thoreau used to go around giving lectures on the benefits of taking long walks, and after awhile, he took those lectures and published an essay entitled (simply) "Walking."  It's in the public domain now, and you can read it in its entirety online

(For more on walking, check out the American Volkssport Association as well as the Top Ten Walks (Walking Trails) in the USA for 2009.  )

Now, back to Walking.  Here's how Mr. Thoreau starts off:

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil--to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.

February 20, 2010

Buying Used Furniture - My Search for a Comfy Reading Chair

I've tweeted about my growing obsession with creating a little corner with the perfect reading light, the perfect side table, and the perfect reading chair ... something that is sorta like my favorite chair at Barnes & Noble. 

Now, I'm off to find the chair and I thought I'd share how this trek is working out.

I've already surfed the web quite a bit, and yepper -- there's lots and lots of chairs online.  I've checked new ones in clearance and old ones in vintage.  I've looked over EBay, too.  The problem is, I need to test out my chair.  It's got to be a cozy fit, and what with shipping charges there's no way that I'm going to test driving chair after chair from these online options.

So, I'm left to scour the city. 

I've begun my roaming thru my favorite furniture consignment shops.  So far, nothing's been just right (call me Goldilocks, I'm that picky here) but that's par for shopping consignment.  You learn to check their inventory every so often, because it's always changing and never the same.  I'm writing up a little description of My Perfect Reading Chair, and I'm going to leave it with these stores so hopefully, they'll call me when something hits their docks.  I keep my fingers crossed.

I've also started going by a couple of resale places that provide funds for charities.  Boysville has a local resale shop that can be great or horrid, depending on the day.  Salvation Army has a pretty reliable used ("reconditioned") furniture store, and I'm going to pop in there later today. 

Finally, there are the estate sales, garage sales, and the like.  I'm pondering these but I'll need my friend S and S's big humungo SUV for these treks.  You gotta tote away your finds here, and My Perfect Reading Chair won't fit in my car.  No way, no how.

I'll keep you posted. 

February 19, 2010

Happiness Prevents Heart Disease According to New Study

In today's news, there's a lot of media coverage of a new research study done by American researchers and published in the European Heart Journal that happiness prevents heart disease.

In other words, happy people don't get heart attacks, according to these findings.

Now, we've already heard about eating more fruits and veggies, eating whole grains, and avoiding bad fats to avoid heart disease.  And there was recent news coverage of another study that pointed to adequate levels of Vitamin D as preventing both heart attacks and diabetes. 

Well, seems to me that living a life of simplicity could be said to prevent heart disease, too.  Living a simple life, as least as I've been doing it, means things like:

Getting some sunshine every day (sunshine is an excellent source of Vitamin D);
Eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits (even juicing them);
Getting stress out of your life (and keeping it out); and
choosing to live a life that is peaceful, focused, and appreciative of daily blessings.

February 18, 2010

How to Buy Gold - Should You Prepare for an Economic Collapse, Like Mike Pitts Foresees?

South Carolina Representative Mike Pitts has made the national news this week with his introduction of a proposed law to that state's legislature that gold and silver coins replace the Federal Reserve Notes we all use for cash within his fair state as its legal currency.   It seems Representative Pitts fears that those dollar bills are too risky - that if the federal government were to collapse, then they would be worthless paper.  

It's happened before.  It happened in Germany after World War I (they were printing money like crazy, it became worthless).  It happened in the American South after the Confederacy lost the War Between the States.  The Civil War victory by the North mean all those confederate dollars were worthless. 

So, what if you're fearful -- or maybe feeling that the prudent thing to do would be to buy some gold (or silver)?  Maybe you think that investing in gold (or silver) just seems like a good idea in these uncertain times, but you're not sure what to do.  How do you do it? There's not exactly a gold section at the grocery store (yet). 

Here's what I've learned about how to buy gold:

1.  buy coins, not jewelry.  Coins are more liquid, they're easier to use as currency -- because they ARE.

2.  buy the American Buffalo Gold coin because it is labelled with the federal mint's guarantee that it is pure 24 carat gold (the American Eagle coin, for example, is not pure gold -- it also contains other stuff).

3.  do your research to find the best prices.  Web searches can reveal various places like Northwest Territorial Mint that will sell you the Buffalo coin and you can also go to the U.S. Mint website to discover a list of local gold dealers in your area that will sell you a Buffalo coin. 

Today, you could buy a single American Buffalo gold coin from NW Territorial Mint for $1303.17.  It weighs 1 ounce and is .9999 pure gold.  They also sell nice charms and necklaces so these can be incorporated into jewelry pieces.  The US Mint site had the same coin for $1360.00, the "collector's edition," which brings the coin to you in a nice hardwood box. 

It's recommended that you never buy gold that is over 7% the "spot price of gold."  Otherwise known as the cash price. 

4. buy from a reputable dealer.  There are some shady characters out there, and it's wise to buy your gold from someone who's been in the business at least 10 years, and make sure your seller buys his product from wholesalers supplied directly by the U.S. Mint.  Check for membership in either the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) or American Numismatic Association (ANA).  You prefer a PNG member but if there's not one in your area, then go with a member of ANA.  Buy in person, and get references on the dealer as well as visiting his shop and talking with him before you start doing business.  Trust your gut.

5. have a plan in advance on where you're going to keep your gold coins.  The safety deposit box you have down at the bank isn't the perfect haven for coins or other currency -- you're not covered by the FDIC policy for any losses from someone stealing from your safety deposit box.  (And this isn't just bandits wearing hooded masks, more often these losses happen when someone legally accesses a safety deposit box as a signatory on a power of attorney and falls prey to the temptation to swipe stuff.)

February 17, 2010

House Smell Like Dog? How to Get Rid of Dog Scent - OdoBan

I've owned dogs for years, and there's always that worry that you've become accustomed to the dog smell in your house, but that anyone visiting your home will feel they're entering a kennel.  Not good.
And, over the years, I've tried lots and lots of remedies for this problem - because no, I will not go with the easy alternative of moving the dogs outside.  I LIKE having the pups inside with me.  They do play outside, they have a nice yard.  But at night, or now, while I'm working, they are nearby.  It's comforting, it's fun. 

Dog lovers totally get this. 
Plus, as pack animals, you'll get a lot better results in training your dog by maintaining that Pack Persona.  Leave your dogs alone and away from you, and they'll form their own mini-pack bond, and you'll lose some Pack Leader Power.  They don't have to be your shadow, but especially at night, it's a big pack thing to be near each other. 

However, there are always negatives with the positives and, well, they are dogs.  And dogs will leave a scent, no matter how much you bathe them.  What to do?  I have the answer.
1.  Air out your house often.  This is just good for you anyway, get fresh air circulating inside.
2.  Use OdoBan DAILY.  It's cheap, it's used in nursing homes and day care centers all over the place because it really, really works.  Doesn't cost that much either.
Me, I have OdoBan spray bottles scattered throughout the house (the big gallon bottle at Sam's comes with a quart size sprayer), hidden in cabinets, underneath the desk, etc.  I buy the big gallon bottle at Sam's Club - it comes undiluted, then replishish my stash bottles as often as needed.

OdoBan smells nice.  A little eucalyptus-y.  And it kills the odors.  You can spray it EVERYWHERE.  Sofas, rugs, doggie beds, never stains. 
What all does OdoBan do?  From the OdoBan site:
  1. Deodorizer… eliminates unpleasant odors on washable surfaces such as upholstery, carpets, bedding, showers, walls and floors while leaving a fresh scent.  
  2. Sanitizer… kills 99.99% of germs such as †Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep), Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E.coli)(pathogenic strain), Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Klebsiella pneumoniae on hard, nonporous, nonfood contact surfaces in 60 seconds. 
  3. Disinfectant… fungicidal against germs ‡such as Trichophyton mentagrophyte (the athlete's foot fungus), when used on surfaces in areas such as locker rooms, dressing rooms, shower and bath areas and exercise facilities.  
  4. Mildewstat… effectively controls and inhibits the growth of mold and mildew. 
  5. Virucide*… kills *HIV-1 (AIDS Virus), Influenza A/Hong Kong and Herpes Simplex type 2 in 60 seconds.
I've just discovered that OdoBan has an entire line of pet-related products.  I'll be investigating them, but I don't know how they could surpass my current basic OdoBan stuff.  It's just fabulous.  Maybe the pet urine product would be good for my friends that just got the new puppy .... 

February 16, 2010

Recipe for Beer Biscuits and Easy, Fast, Homemade Drop Biscuits

I remember my mother's cousin, MaryBeth, made the best biscuits in the world.  She called them "Cat Head Biscuits," because they came out of the oven just about the same size as her cat Tabby's head.  We'd set at her table and eat those hot biscuits with fresh butter.  I'd have chocolate milk (made with real Hershey's Cocoa) and she'd have coffee. 

I've never been able to duplicate that recipe just right.

When I don't resort to the notorious canned fare from the grocery (eek!), I like to make the drop biscuits -- or those "biscuit-muffins" made with beer that I first learned about on Paula Deen's show on the Food Network.  What's so great about her recipe is that not only is it fast, and cheap, but it's so so easy.

Now, sure, MaryBeth's biscuits were the rolled kind.  But I'm sure that she'd think that Paula Deen's were just "mighty fine" too.  (MaryBeth said "mighty fine" quite a bit, right along with "bless her heart." With a long Texas drawl that we're not hearing much any more, sad to say.)

Paula Deen's Beer Biscuits - Muffin Tin Buscuits
(with my commentary)
Preheat oven to 400.
Mix together the following, don't stir too much:

4 cups biscuit mix (you know, Bisquick - don't try the imitations, they just don't come out the same)
1/2 cup sugar (you can use less if you want a less-sweet biscuit, though I don't know why you would.)
1 can of beer (not lite, not Fosters, not some trendy stuff.  The basic 12 oz can of Bud works just fine.)
2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter (yes, unsalted butter!)

Now, pour the batter into greased muffin tins. Bake till the tops are golden brown. They come out really pretty, and yes, Dear Reader -- they do look like muffins.  They're kinda like Sunday Dinner Biscuits, they're so cute in a basket with a nice cuptowel to keep 'em warm.  You can add stuff to the batter if you want to mess with this basic recipe, too.  Like crumbled bacon and bits of cheddar cheese thrown in.  This is never bad. 
Reba's Drop Biscuits
Drop biscuits are easy, too.  But you don't roll out any dough and cut little circles out of it, and you don't use a muffin tin.  You make a dough and then drop it by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.  Bake 'em up. 

First, planning ahead, do two things.  Heat your oven to 450 degrees.  And, take a stick of unsalted butter and cut it into little tiny squares and stick those little squares in a plastic bowl and put this in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Really cold butter is better here, but don't let it freeze up and get hard as ice on you. Fifteen to twenty minutes should be fine. Unless your freezer is from NASA or something.

Second, put this stuff into a big mixing bowl:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
4 t baking powder
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/2 t salt

Now, take your butter squares and cut them into this bowl of dry stuff. Cut 'em by using a cool pastry cutter if you have one. (Since this may mean different things to different people, I've added an image of what I mean by "pastry cutter" - above.)  If not, use a couple of dinner knives and criss-cross the blades into the dry stuff, until you get those butter squares are cut up and you've got a bowl of crumby stuff. Big white butter crumbs.

Whew. Put some flour on your forehead so everyone will know you made these things from scratch. Important step.

Next. get yourself another bowl and put into it:
2/3 cup buttermilk (use real milk only if you don't have buttermilk)
1 egg.

Mix this stuff together with a fork. You can use a whisk if you want to be fancy.

Now, pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff. Stir. Don't stir too much, just till things combine. Again, don't get stir happy here.

You're almost done! Grab your biggest cookie sheet - you don't need to grease it up with all that butter in the dough - and if you want to add parchment paper, go on with your bad self. Not a must. Get a serving spoon (for bigger biscuits) and drop spoonfuls of the batter about 2 inches apart from each other onto the sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees until they're golden brown.  Yum. 

And yes, Dear Reader, both of these versions of biscuits freeze just fine. 

Image: Pastry Cutter 

February 15, 2010

5 Tips for Getting Work Done at Starbucks

There was a time when I didn't really share with folk that I can be found working away some afternoons during the week at one of the local Starbuck's coffee shops.  People with jobs in designated locations (read that "offices") didn't take this seriously, it seemed to me.  So I did it.  But I kept quiet about it.

Then I read about George Stephanopoulos writing speeches for Bill Clinton at the Starbucks down the street from his office and I was freed from this Coffee Shop Shame.  (Even now, Stephanopoulos continues his freeing of the masses, by posting on his Facebook page about preparing questions for his TV interviews, yes, at Starbucks.)

Here are 5 things that I've found help in getting things accomplished when you're working at the coffee house:

1.  Get yourself a Netbook with a decent battery life and stop fighting for plugs.  My Eee last 8 hours on a charge, and has a decent keyboard.  My old laptop wouldn't last 2 hours without me finding an electrical outlet somewhere.  And lots of places don't want you to power up, forcing you to pack up and leave, usually right after you really got started.

2.  Get yourself a Starbucks card for your coffee.   Keep it with your computer.  This keeps you in check, coffee money-wise.  It's easier to order that Venti Caramel Mach, and heck why NOT a brownie, when you use your cash or your bank card.  Having a coffee budget tied to its own card keeps you happy with your Grande Coffee of the Day.  Really.

3.  Choose your spot carefully.  You're in a public place, a venue that welcomes chatter.  The moms with the kiddos there for storytime, the college kids studying together -- they may not talk loudly, but their conversation can be distracting if you are right next to them.  Choose a wall.  One of those remote, leave me alone, Greta Garbo tables.  You're WORKING.

4.  Have an agenda.  Before you enter the building, know exactly what you are going to be doing during your time there, and don't make this unreasonably short.  Or long.  You will not edit the Great American Novel in its entirety while at the coffee shop.  You might edit a couple of articles. 

5.  If you're at a Starbuck's that is either within a book store or next door to one, then you're in a tricky spot.  There are great tables within the book store that are fabulous for getting stuff done.  Cozy little corners, surrounded by books.  But don't let yourself get distracted by those books -- you're not there to shop, unless it's a treat after you've met your goal.  And, don't allow yourself to start staring at the spines on those shelves, pondering Great Thoughts, and then fall into the temptation to pick up a tome or two, just to thumb through it.  Before you know it, an hour has passed and you haven't done anything on your work - but you now know so very much about 17th Century furnishings .....

February 14, 2010

Love in the Bible - Something to Ponder on St. Valentine's Day

Love is the focus of today, as we celebrate another Valentine's Day this year.

Happy Valentine's Day, Dear Reader!!! 

And, since this is an ancient holiday bearing the name of a Catholic saint, hitting this year on Sunday (which lots of us celebrate as the Sabbath), I thought we might find some inspiration in the Holy Bible and what the scriptures have to say about love.  It all its various forms -- agape, eros, philia, storge ....

From Nave's Topical Concordance, here are some of the entries under "LOVE" that are provided, with their scriptural references (which you can look up and read in various translations and/or languages at the Bible Gateway):

INSTANCES OF » Abraham for Lot (Genesis 14:14-16)
INSTANCES OF » Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz (Ruth 1;;)
INSTANCES OF » David's subjects (2 Samuel 15:30;17:27-29)
INSTANCES OF » Obadiah for the prophets (1 Kings 18:4)
INSTANCES OF » Jehoshabeath for Joash (2 Chronicles 22:11)
INSTANCES OF » Nehemiah for Israelites (Nehemiah 5:10-15)
INSTANCES OF » Mordecai for Esther (Esther 2:7)
INSTANCES OF » Job's friends (Job 42:11)
INSTANCES OF » Centurion for his servant (Luke 7:2-6)
INSTANCES OF » Roman Christians for Paul (Acts 28:15)
INSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » Mary (Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:3-8; Luke 10:39)
INSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » Peter (Matthew 17:4; John 13:37;18:10;20:3-6;21:7)
INSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » Thomas ( John 11:16)
INSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » The disciples (Mark 16:10; Luke 24:17-41; John 20:20)
INSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » A man from Gadara (Gerasa) out of whom Jesus cast an evil spirit (Mark 5:18)
INSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » Joseph of Aramathaea (Matthew 27:57-60)
ONSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » Nicodemus ( John 19:39,40)
INSTANCES OF LOVE FOR JESUS » Women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27)
OF MONEY » The root of evil (1 Timothy 6:10)
OF MAN FOR GOD (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10;6:5;7:9;10:12;11:1,13,22;)
OF MAN FOR JESUS (Matthew 10:37,38;25:34-40;27:55-61; Mark 9:41; Luke 2:29)
OF MAN FOR MAN (Leviticus 19:18,34; Deuteronomy 10:19; Psalms 133:1-3; Proverbs 10:12;15:1)
EXEMPLIFICATION OF THE LOVE OF MAN FOR MAN (Exodus 32:31,32; Psalms 133:1-3; Proverbs 24:17,18; Matthew 5:41,42;)

And for those who don't know, the Holy Bible has been translated into many different languages from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic in which its letters, histories, proverbs, psalms, prophecies, etc. were written.  Then, within these different languages, there are different translations - the Catholics have their Roman Vulgate, the traditional Protestants their King James, other Christians may prefer the New American Standard, the Message Bible, the Amplified, you get the idea.   I always find that you get a lot from reading the same verse in different Bibles, different nuances that give you more to ponder. 

Isn't it great that there's a day when we stop and celebrate LOVE?  How can this be a bad thing, particularly when chocolate seems to be so prevalent? 

Happy Day, Dear Reader!!!! 

PS What to really delve into the topic of Love?  I'd suggest picking up a copy of C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves.  He's given it lots of thought, and shares it all with us in a nice little book. 

February 13, 2010

MagicJack - Best Review I've Found and It's Definitely Buyer Beware

Just read a great review over at The Coffee Desk of the VoIP option that is selling like hotcakes: the MagicJack. Written by a networking pro, this review goes into all the pros and cons including some serious privacy issues.

The Coffee Desk review scared me back off the MagicJack with its discussion of the contractual agreement that they can monitor all your phone activity and that there's ever increasing risk of viruses and hackers using MagicJack to do the same thing. Too Big Brother-y for me.

Back in August 2008, I investigated the MagicJack and shared with you, Dear Reader, what all I found. Since then, the MagicJack -- with its ever so tempting price point -- has just skyrocketed in sales. I'm thinking it's the combination of being so cheap (less than $2 a month for phone service) and so many folk having cell phones that landlines are being reevaluated as unnecessary at their standard price point.

That low cost made me go back and re-think the MagicJack. Once again, the answer for me is no sale.

February 12, 2010

Smiling Cat - It'll Make You Smile Too

Thanks to Gimundo, a wonderful site of good news stories, here's a video of a cute little cat that will smile for you. Betcha it will make you smile, too, as you watch it:

February 11, 2010

Getting Urine Smell Out of Carpet - Works for Kids and Puppies

My best friend S and my other best friend, her hubby E, had their eyes set on a miniature Austrian Shephard puppy all the way to their visit to a breeder last Saturday, where they came home with a 7 week old GoldenDoodle. Their kiddos are still bouncing like SuperBalls (remember them?) and they've named the puppy "Lucky."

E can't bear to crate the baby.  Lucky might get scared, it's mean, says the Tenderhearted E.  And, E is the pack leader here, so he's calling the shots and S is readying herself for the 1,304,356 pee-pee spots that are going to hit their carpet before Lucky is housebroken. 

Meanwhile, my pups are so well-trained that they'll go pee-pee in the pouring rain during a thunderstorm. (Dear Reader, do I sound proud?  Fine.  I am.  Disgustingly so.)   So the new parents asked my tricks of the trade to handle Lucky's leaks over the next few months, as well as how to limit this training period.

As for housebreaking a dog, I'll leave that to another post.  For the immediate issue of urine in the carpets, here's what worked for me:

1.  The smell comes from the urine crystalizing once it's dried.  You want to break up those crystals, get them to dissolve and go away.  There's the goal.

2.  Cheap and easy way to break the urine crystals up is plain old white vinegar.  Yep, that miracle stuff.  Don't be dainty here, pour that vinegar onto the carpet spot -- depending on the size of the spot, this could be up to half a gallon.  Yes, that much.  You want to make sure you're putting enough in there so it soaks down to the urine crystals that have formed in the padding.  Go crazy with the vinegar.  Crazy!!

3.  Be patient.  Leave that vinegar alone for 2 or 3 days.  If this bothers you, don't invite Prince Charles over for dinner till this process is done.  You're cleaning carpets here, it's a process.  That vinegar WILL work, but it needs time to do its job. 

4.  Okay, after the 2 or 3 days, spread a big, old towel down there over the wet spot and do the Mexican Hat Dance on it.  Go crazy with your bad self.  Use another towel if the first one gets really soaked.  Put on Beyonce, Single Lady, and stomp all over that second towel, tell it all about putting a ring on it. 

5.  After two towels, then rest yourself.  Next, it's time to clean the carpet.  I know, I know, this is a Big Enterprise.  You need it to be a Big Enterprise, because the puppy will come back and pee where it smells urine.  Dogs have an ability to smell that's like 45 times as great as ours.  Hence, Big Enterprise.

Me?  I use an OxyClean product with a Hoover Steam Vac with Clean Surge, model F5914-900.  You can get one for around $100 at Amazon.Com.

6. Now, here's the good news.  This process really DOES WORK.  It's worth your efforts here, and they aren't really all that harsh.  Dancing on the towel is fun.  However, getting the puppy not to pee-pee in the house, or the toddler not to wee-wee on the rug ... that's a different story. 

February 10, 2010

I Love My Memory Foam Mattress Topper - Now I'm Not Buying a New Mattress Set

A couple of years ago, I had one of the TV shopping networks on in the background while I was writing, and succumed to the purchase of a "featherbed" mattress topper.  It seemed like such a great idea, and when I first got the thing aligned on the bed with the sheets fitting just fine, things were fabulous.  It was like I was sleeping on a cloud.

Except it didn't last long.  Things settled, and no matter what I did, the experience was never as good as it was when that feather-stuffed topper first came out of the package.  I decided mattress toppers were bunk.

Then, a couple of months ago, I was pondering buying a new mattress set.  What a conundrum.  Sleep Number, Memory Foam, pillow top -- so many decisions.  Headache.

Before you know it, I'm wandering through my favorite WalMart and there is a whole aisle of mattress toppers there.  At decent prices.  And there's one for a thick memory foam topper.  Now, I already had a memory foam pillow that I'd fight for, so this caught my interest.

I rambled home, and began surfing around, checking out the memory foam mattress topper.  It got great reviews -- in fact, the exact same one that I had spotted at WalMart was rated the highest in the land by some comparison site (that I can't remember right now).

So, I went back to WalMart and caught a sale.  Dear Reader, I'm sure you understand the inner realization that I had that returning to find this product on sale was a sign. So, voila, a new Memory Foam mattress topper for less than $100.00.  Much, much cheaper than a whole new mattress set.

Now, it's been months since my purchase.  And the Memory Foam mattress topper has held up.  It's also solved any issues that I had with my old mattress set, and I'm not planning on replacing the set any longer. 

I cannot tell you how great this Mattress Topper is for sleeping.  One hint:  my terrier mix jumps up on that topper every night about 10:00 p.m., and starts periodically barking for lights out.  She will not move again from that spot for ten hours. 

For more info on mattress toppers, check out the Consumer Search survey and all the information there

To check out the Memory Foam Mattress Topper that I have, you can see the product at Walmart's site plus read over 400 5-star reviews of the wonderful thing. 

Image:  Illustration of "The Princess and The Pea" by Edmund Dulac. 

February 9, 2010

Reba's Super Easy Cheese Sauce Recipe

You know that they serve cheese sauce in Heaven. 

You can pour this stuff over pasta, veggies, sliced chicken breast, biscuits ... heck, I've seen this stuff slurped up with a spoon out of the pot, but I'm not recommending this as a soup (although if you added a bit more liquid to it ... hmmmm)....

Anyway, here's my Super Easy Cheese Sauce Recipe.  Hopefully, you've got what you need in your pantry already for this.

1.  Melt 3T butter in a pot over medium heat.  Stir in the same amount of flour, 3 tablespoons, and throw in your seasoning.  Salt, pepper (say 1/2 teaspoon each).  If you're like me, you like some punch, so last week, I just shook in a nice bit of Montreal Steak Seasoning (because I love this stuff), and it turned out great.

Take the pot OFF THE HEAT while you're stirring this all together.  Make sure it's a thin goop.  No lumps.  Consistency should be similar to lemon curd.  (Now, this is why one of the reasons that I like a gas stove.  You just turn the knob, no more heat.  If you've got an electric stove, that won't work; you have to move your pot to another burner b/c the electric coil still gives off heat for a bit after you've turned it off.)

2.  Now, after you've proudly combined your butter and flour, turn the heat back on under the pot, a low to medium heat now, and slowly add in 1.5 cups of milk.  Pour out a quarter in at a time.  Stir, stir, stir.  Make sure your butter/flour stuff has accepted all the milk before you add more to the pot. 

And, this doesn't have to be milk.  It could be Half and Half.  It could be evaporated milk (the canned stuff in your pantry).  It could be part Half and Half, part milk.  It could be half evaporated milk, half water --- which was what I had on hand last week, and what I used.  Worked like a charm.  You get the idea. 

3.  Okey dokey.  Now that you have your milk combined with the butter/flour sludge, you have to let the heat do its miraculous chemical altering trick.  Stir, stir, stir while this pot is over low heat. 

Does this mean that you can't leave the pot to put the measuring cup in the sink, or the milk back in the fridge?  No.  Does this mean you can't go watch TV?  Yes.  Movement is important here, as is the low heat.  If you feel a film forming on the bottom of the pan, your heat's too high. 

Stiring is boring to you?  It's not going to take that long, get a grip!  Hum a tune, decide whether or not Rhett ever went back to Scarlett, pretend you're doing your own Food Network show and talk to the imaginary camera.  Just keep stirring. 

Before you know it, this stuff will be thick.  If you stopped now, you'd have white sauce.  But that's not what we're aiming for here, so throw in at least 1 cup of grated cheese.  If you don't want to grate the cheese, then cut it into small, small chunks.  Little squares that expose lots of surface area, so the cheese will melt quickly in the pot. 

And that one cup of cheese is debatable, too.  Me, I throw in more -- how much more depends on what I've got on hand.  A little less than one cup?  That's okay, too.  Hey, if you've got two kinds of cheese in the fridge, combine them -- as long as their flavors don't clash for you.  Keep stirring until the cheese is melted, and the sauce looks like you want it to look.  Smooth, thick, decadent. 

What kind of cheese should you use?  Something with lots of punch, no subtle cheeses here.  Sharp Cheddar is good, for example.   Blue cheese can be mouth-watering:  I've made this stuff with blue cheese and thrown it over some steak, and it was to die for.  Just remember, you want to grate your own cheese - none of that bagged stuff, because of the additives they use to keep the cheese from clumping.

There you have it.  Maybe this isn't the stuff of fancy French chefs, but it works for me - and I like it because I monkey around with this based on what I have in the house, and it always turns out so, so tasty. 

Plus it's easy - and yet, most folk think a cheese sauce is so, so hard to do.  Well, I won't tell them if you won't. 

February 8, 2010

How to Do Laundry: Save Money and Energy By Washing in Cold Water

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, around 90% of the energy costs in doing laundry in your washing machine comes from heating up the water, and twice as much is used for hot water as is for warm. 

So, you save a lot of energy (and therefore, help your monthly budget) by washing your clothes in cold water.

But will they get clean?  Sure.  If you've got some stains with oil in them, they may need some special treatment (rub your laundry soap into them directly before putting the item in the washer).  And, you'll be wise to use those cold-water detergents that are made for cold water laundry. 

February 7, 2010

Journaling - 5 Reasons a Handwritten, Personal Journal Can Be a Wonderful Thing

Today, I suppose that your first thoughts of journaling are typing something into a blog, or a word processing document of some sort.  That might be fine for you -- there are lots of people doing just that, blogs began as personal journals (web logs). 

However, I am going to suggest that a more productive and rewarding method of journaling would be to put pen to paper.  Pretty paper, in a bound book (these are so popular these days that you can find nice ones for a buck at DollarTree, much less the beautiful collections at bookstores and places like PaperPosey.com and Rosetti Designs). 


1.  It's still more convenient than anything with a keyboard. 
A paper journal lets you write whereever and whenever you choose to do so.  Waiting for the kids, sitting in the car?  Write in your journal.  Insomnia?  Write in your journal.  Sightseeing on vacation?  Write in your journal.  You get the idea. 

2.  It lets you draw things within your words.
Sometimes, the doodles in your borders or the illustrations within your paragraphs tell you more on the re-read than you realize as it's happening.  Lots of dollar signs, guess what's really on your mind?  Someone's initials or name duplicated along the margins?  Ditto.  Also, I've drawn things I don't want to forget -- the bend in a trail that's not marked, etc. -- they may not be true artistic achievements, but they do serve to refresh my memory well enough.

3.  You can glue things within the book, making it much more of a memory book.
Movie ticket stubs, wine bottle labels, you name it.  As the years go by, these little things make your journal akin to a scrapbook, perhaps even a work of art. 

4.  Writing a journal is good for your health.
It lessens stress - you can vent as long as you'd like to those journal pages. It seems that writing by hand in your journal somehow not only helps you release inner turmoil and stress by the words you are placing on the page, but also in the physical act of writing them down. It's like a tonic, something that the keyboard doesn't give you. According to some research, journaling actually lessens the symptoms of asthma and arthritis, too.

5.  Routinely journaling what's happening in your life has many other long-term benefits.
Keeping your own journal over time becomes chronicling your own personal history.  Your vacation journals reveal new things to you when re-read years later, as well as bringing back wonderful memories.  For example, I had forgotten how great I thought it was that so many folk in Paris walk the streets with long baguettes of fresh bread popping out of pockets, totes, and bags.  No plastic wrap, no lunch bag.  Just a loaf of bread, ready to go.  Re-reading my Paris journals (I spent some time there, awhile ago), I was reminded.  It made me smile.

Personally, I've found it also helps in planning goals, problem solving, and letting go of the past. There's nothing like reading a journal that a few years old to see how far you've come, and to laugh at yourself about how serious you thought a problem was, once - another molehill you assumed was a mountain.

Finally, journaling helps me realize how blessed I am, and what all God has done for me.  (And is doing.)  Sometimes it's a lot easier to see that pathway of answered prayers when you're reading over those old journal pages, and it's such a wonderful, amazing thing to see your life is on a path, there's a pattern there.

February 6, 2010

My Favorite Simplicity Blog Posts of the Week

When I'm not writing this blog, and when I'm not writing for a living, and when I'm not reading for work or for pleasure, as well as eating, sleeping, cooking, or talking (sometimes, listening), I'm surfing around reading other people's blogs.  Here are five posts that I really liked and/or got something from this week:

The Health Ranger's Living Juice Recipe
Great thing about this recipe, you don't have to use a juicer, you can go with your blender.  I've found that eating raw and organic fruits and vegetables (I try to follow the greens and beans approach) really makes a difference in how I feel the same day that I eat/drink it.  It's kinda the reverse of eating bad stuff, and getting lethargic, or a headache, or heartburn.  Eat good stuff, feel good.  Try it, it works!!

Drip Beef, Two Ways (Sandwich Recipes)
I love the Pioneer Woman's stuff, especially how she gives you all those photos to follow along with what her recipe is doing.  Here, there are two unbelievable meat sandwich versions - just in time for the Super Bowl parties.  Reading the one with the pepperoncinis actually had my mouthwatering.  Seriously.

Wanda's Diary - 02/06/10 Warsaw
Wanda Urbanska and her husband are living in Poland right now, and this diary entry describes some of the ways that Poles are saving money, living more simply, as a cultural norm.  I found it interesting that the escalators automatically turn off when no one has used them for one minute.  Makes you think ....

The Perils of Prosperity and Christian Anarchy
First part of a two-part posting considering a Newsweek article entitled "The Perils of Prosperity," written by Robert J. Samuelson - from a Christian perspective.  Actually, the perspective of "Christian Anarchy."  I'm waiting for the second part of the article, but this first part is fascinating to me because it's doing what I'm not seeing all that often:  proactively challenging the news we're hearing with a forceful, Christian response. 

Friday Fiscals from Mighty Bargain Hunter
I love the Mighty Bargain Hunter, just a great blog and such a wonderful gift to us all.  Thank you, thank you, MBH.  And in his usual generous manner, Mighty Bargain Hunter has his own list of great blog posts of the week, all dealing with various aspects of finance and budgeting.  Some great info here. 

Have a great weekend!!!

February 5, 2010

Time Management Tip: Returning Calls, Emails, and Text Messages on Your Schedule, Not Theirs

I'm offering up one of my greatest time savers here, today, just for you, Dear Reader.  I only return messages left for me at 10 am, 2pm, and 4 pm.  My phone's ringer is turned off, and my cell phone sits in my purse.  I call it my "Dr Pepper Rule," because of the old 10-2-4 logo on the Dr. Pepper bottles.  Remember those?  (I still love me a Dr. Pepper, real not diet.  Yum.)

Right off the bat, if you choose to do this, too, get ready for some backlash.  There are those who will be annoyed, perhaps even offended, that you aren't picking up your phone every time it rings, or jumping right on their text message or e-mail in reply.  That's okay, because this isn't about them.  It's about you, and your schedule.

I do try and let everyone know that I do this.  New clients are informed in a standardized email that I send out as part of my introduction.  Loved ones grin and bear it, too - some still grumble, but they love me anyway. 

How does this help?  Why follow the Dr. Pepper 10-2-4 Rule?

It keeps you on schedule with what you've set out to do for that day.  As a writer, I've got to have blocks of time to focus on my work.  Writing is tricky, you want to be in this zone where things are flowing out of your mind so fast that the words aren't popping up fast enough on the screen -- and that zone if fragile.  It takes awhile to get there (a pal said I should research the "alpha state" of the brain, it's involved here, somehow), yet you can lose it in a second.  So, I need the lack of interruption to get my stuff done, to make a living.

However, the rule isn't just for writers.  It's for anyone who values their time.  When they created answering machines, they were intended to be time-savers.  Messages are meant to be left, and returned later. 

One of the most important things in leading a simple life, is keeping things simple.  Constantly reacting to your phone - voicemail, text, email - can have you bouncing through a day like the small white ball in a pinball machine.  That's not a joyful, peaceful, productive way to live. 

At the end of the day, ask yourself:  what have you accomplished that YOU set out to do?  How did you spend your currency of time?  Follow the 10-2-4 Rule, and you'll be pleased with your answers.

February 4, 2010

Warning: Are Toyotas Dangerous??? Sometimes, The Answer is Yes.

First, it was sudden acceleration problems caused by faulty gas pedals in Toyota vehicles (Toyota, Lexus). 

Then, there were reports about brakes malfunctioning in 2010 Prius hybrids, and now I'm reading about fingers being pointed at the electrical systems in Toyota cars, SUVs, and trucks (Lexus included here, too).

If you have a vehicle manufactured in the past few years by Toyota, then you need to take precautions here.  Seriously, when the Secretary of the Department of Transportation says don't drive these cars till they're fixed, then take heed. 

Additionally, I'm watching out for Toyota makes and models out on the roads, too.  May sound paranoid, but if a 2010 Prius hybrid is right on my tail, I'm changing lanes. 

February 3, 2010

Free Museum Admission (Zoos Too) with Bank of America Card

This is a nice deal, if you live near a participating museum -- Bank of America has a program called Museums on Us, where you get free admission into museums or zoos or botantical gardens, etc. -- lots of cool places.

Catch?  It's only good on the first full weekend of the month.  You've got to be an active Bank of America customer, with a card to show at the door.  And, you've got to have participating zoos, etc. in your area that are part of the Museums on Us package. 

For example, four cities in Texas have participants: Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and La Porte.  Live outside driving distance to these communities, and it's not a bargain for you (yet). 

It's a good idea, let's hope it grows. 

February 2, 2010

Reba's Recipe Pico De Gallo (Fresh Tex Mex Salsa) & 5 Ways to Use It

Here in San Antonio, you can get lots of great salsas - reds, greens, even some browns that are tasty.  Having one's own original salsa recipe is almost as traditional as having one's own barbeque sauce recipe here in this part of Texas.  And, sure, you can buy Pace Picante Sauce all around the country now -- but all of this stuff is pureed, blended, even cooked.  With pico de gallo, you get something different: chopped, fresh, amazing stuff.

Pico De Gallo - Reba's Version

4-6 fresh tomatoes, chopped  (use a couple more if you use Romas and make sure you drain them since they carry lotsa water) (you cannot used canned here - gotta go with fresh)

1 medium sweet onion, chopped (I use either Vadalia or Texas 1015)

1 large jalapeno or serrano chili pepper (seed them if you don't like it hot, hot; choose jalapeno over serrano for less heat, as well - a serrano can be full of fire)(oh, and use green ones - if they've gone red, they're scary hot)

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped fine (leaves, no stems)

Squeeze of fresh lime juice -- if you've got it.  No worries. 

Once you've chopped all these things up - and I think by hand is best, so you can insure that the pieces are all about the same size, then you've got something I'm sure they serve in Heaven.  What can you do with pico de gallo?  Oh, my.

5 Ways to Use Pico De Gallo

1.  Serve it as a dip with tortilla chips.  Go crazy if you want, and get a couple of packs of corn tortillas, cut them all in fourths, brush some veg oil (or canola) on them, lay them out separately on a baking sheet, toss some salt, and bake your own.  Or just buy a bag.  Just make sure the chips are hardy enough to handle the weight of the Pico as you pull it up from the bowl on the chip.

2.  Mash up 3-4 ripe avocados and combine with the Pico.  Voila, very wonderful guacamole.

3.  Scramble with some eggs, together with some Pico, and you've got Eggs a la Mexicana.  If you put some oil in the skillet and fry up crumbled pieces of tortillas chips, then add your eggs and Pico to cook, along with some shredded cheddar cheese and you've got another dish: a version of Chilaquiles.

4. Grill a couple of chicken breasts.  Throw a bunch of the Pico de Gallo over the top, serve with some rice and a nice salad.  Amazingly good.

5. Take a flour tortilla, a couple of big tablespoons of Pico de Gallo, and go wild with leftovers.  Here, we'd call them tacos, but if wrap works for you, fine.  Wrap it is.  Cut up leftover pork chops, throw that into the pico tortilla.  (Avocado slice here, fabulous.)  Stir together leftover beans and rice, maybe some cheese, and layer that into your Pico Tortilla.  Heck, throw in some salad blend from one of those boxes, add a little ranch dressing, and go to town with a Veggie taco, ... er, wrap.  (Ranch does go well with Pico. Try it, see what you think.)

Okay, now I've gone and made myself hungry.  I'm off to buy a taco.  At Taco Cabana.  With a side order of fresh Pico (yepper, here you can even get it at the drive thru.  I love San Antonio!!!).

February 1, 2010

Freebies - Site to Track Down Free Samples Online: Not for Everyone

You can get lots of free stuff off the web, if you know where to surf.  And, there is a website that does a lot of that work for you, Freeflys.com, as recommended by the CouponMom in her email today.

So, I decided to give it a looksie. Here's what I found.

1.  First, this site makes you join its membership (at no charge), so you may want to read its privacy statement before giving out your info.  The site is upfront that members will be receiving mailings from "Freeflys and its partners" - at least they're letting you know in advance, in bold print, right?

2. I joined.  It asks for my home address, etc., which I was hesitant to give.  Then I realized that they would need my mailing address to send all the free stuff, right?  So I caved.

3. Then I spent a long, long time going through all these windows with "join this survey" stuff.  Window after window.  Where are the freebies?

4. Finally, after saying No, No, No to all this survey stuff, I get to a page that has a list of the types of samples they offer.  They've got the option of an RSS feed for freebies, but it doesn't allow feeds into MyYahoo, Google, etc. (opens to my bookmark menu), so I'm not interested.   

5. Then, I go thru the lists.  What they're doing is linking you to the manufacturers' sites that also want you to do stuff (like join their Facebook site as a fan, etc.) before you get any free sample.  You don't get to just check off which free samples you want.

6.  And, after all this time and effort, not that much is being offered.  Five samples on the Food items list.  I'm not interested in anything here, except for maybe the Green Tea offer.  Except I've got a HUGE box of green tea that I already bought in a great deal (I drink a lot of this stuff), so I'm not swooning over a couple of free bags here.

Bottom line:  I was disappointed.  Maybe you won't be, if you like all this survey stuff and any free sample is fun for you.
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