March 31, 2010

How to Bake Your Own Honeybaked Ham at Home

There's one of those Honeybaked Ham stores near my house, and it is a pretty darn popular place this week. You know why.

Well, what if you don't want to spend that kinda money but you crave that yummy honey ham? Simple. Bake your own. Here's how, and thanks to Howcast for the help here:


March 30, 2010

Natural Easter Egg Dyes - Organic Dyes for Eggs at Easter or Anytime

There's lots of ways to get pretty colors on those Easter Eggs without using the artificial dyes that are being sold everywhere right now.  Not only does this use stuff you already have on hand, but there's none of those nasty chemicals aka "artificial colors" to soak into your egg. 

Now, be forewarded, when I did this, my eggs did turn out with colors that weren't as intense as the box-dye produces.  More pastel?  Faint? Pale?  Not sure the word to use, but you get the idea.  I thought they were just fine, especially since they are natural and organic.  I did use white eggs, not brown, maybe that made a difference, I dunno.  And, the longer you let them hang in the dye liquid, the darker they get, so the shade of my eggs may hint about the extent of my patience ....

Here's what I did to create some basic dyes for eggs that I found work well, I'm sure you can think of even more, Dear Reader!  Now, my All-Natural Easter Egg Dye Experience:

1.  The Eggs.

First things first, this assumes that you've hard-boiled your eggs in vinegar water (at least 1 Tablespoon in your boiling pot, more won't hurt).  And after you've left them cool, you've checked your Egg Batch for cracks and pulled those out to eat as a snack, put into a salad, whatever.  (The vinegar water won't make them taste funny, of course.  It's in the water to help make the eggshells amenable to taking color.)

2.  The Prep Area.

Okay, now get yourself ready for coloring your eggs the natural way.  Your going to be using stuff that will change the color of the eggshell and this means it will also change the color of your tablecloth, placemat, HAND, etc. so prepare your work station carefully. 

3. The Tools.

Now, for the tools you'll need.  I bought some throwaway plastic bowls (not very eco-friendly or frugal, mea culpa) to hold the dye and the eggs so I could just toss them later.  If I'd thought ahead, I would have saved some containers for this -- like the bottom halves of soymilk cartons, things like that.  Anything that can handle the heat of boiling water and the task of setting there for up to an hour with some eggs in it.  I also used an old strainer that I never need during the week - one of those littler ones that may have been for loose tea in a tea pot.  And a wooden cutting board (it did get stained by this process a bit), as well as a knife, a metal spoon, a ladle, and the big boiling pot, of course. 

4. The Natural Easter Egg Dyes.

I made four colors.  I left the eggs in the dye for around an hour, till they had the color I wanted.  Doing this in rounds did take some time, but that's why God made laundry, dust, etc. Also, I used some of the white vinegar from my humungous White Vinegar bottle that I got at Sam's Club -- cuz I use white vinegar all the time in housecleaning, and I didn't know how the Apple Cider Vinegar would work here since it has the mother in it, and those little granules might mess with the surface of the eggshell during dying ....

Blue

I used blueberries.  I took a bag of frozen blueberries, thawed that sucker, and then pluverized them into a pulp. Then I added a T of vinegar to them, mushed some more.  Finally, I strained them into one of my little plastic bowls, ladled some boiling water into them, and carefully lowered a couple of boiled eggs into the bowl with my metal spoon.

Pink

I used canned beets.  1 whole can.  Same procedure as above.

Yellow

I used tumeric. I got the spice awhile back at Central Market, and quickly discovered it liked to try and turn everything it touched yellow so I figured why not let it go crazy with some eggs, right?  Here, I didn't need to pulverize anything.  I just took a heaping tablespoon or FOUR and put that into the bowl and made sure it was fully dissolved in the boiling water -- and I added some vinegar in here, too.  Maybe a tablespoon.  I know I added the vinegar to the egg water, but I put some in the dye water, too, "just cuz" as my cousin MaryBeth used to say. 

Brown

I used coffee.  Old coffee from the coffee pot.  Touch of vinegar.  Boiling hot.  Actually, the eggs came out a little beige, or khaki, but they looked nice in the basket once they were done. 

Green

I mixed the blue dye and the yellow dye until I got a shade I liked. 

Orange

Dip an egg you've dyed yellow into the bowl of beet dye till it turns the shade of orange you desire.  Actually, you're dipping yellow into pink because the beets don't really make a dark red color.  But, heck, roaming thru the pantry, fridge, and freezer, I couldn't figure out a source for red, and I got something in the orange-family when I did this, so go figure.  If you, Dear Reader, discover a natural source of deep red, I'd love to know. 


Whew!  Now, I just made my eggs solid colors, nothing fancy.  However, you could wrap your eggs with rubber bands before dunking them in the dye bowl and then take the band off after the egg had dried, for a nice effect.  Stickers, same idea.  And of course, after they're done you and the kiddos can decorate them all sorts of ways.

Image:  Egg Hunt, from FreeClipArtNow.com, public domain.

March 29, 2010

What are Tonics? Recipes for Tonics You Make at Home

Tonics?  They're much more than an old wives' tale or a historic folk remedy.  Tonics are liquids made of good things that are good for you.  Tonic recipes have been around for years, centuries even.  And while modern health care providers can scoff at the value of tonics, there are many people out there who swear by them. 

Here's some scoop for you, Dear Reader, on tonics:

1.  Tonic Tea Recipe -- just an overall, good for you blend made up of good things like licorice, ginger, and sarsaparilla.  

2,, New York psychiatrist (and Lyme disease sufferer) and her husband, a psychopharmacologist at Columbia University, tell Mother Earth News all about a tonic made from a Russian herb that solved all her problems (which included serious things like severe fatigue, painful joints, and impaired mental function).  She did take the tonic over a three month span, but it worked.  And other stuff had not. 

3.  After telling this great story about the Russian herb, Michael Castleman reports on six great tonics that help in various ways -- though he does not give recipes.

4.  Recipes, though, are at the ready over at HomeMadeRemedies.com.  They've got a long list of tonic recipes, lots of which sound like they will taste great.

Me?  I'm going to investigate these tonics -- because I am so very happy with my Apple Cider Vinegar tonic and how it's benefited me.  Love it, love it.  Because of this experience, I'm sold on tonics for good health.

March 28, 2010

Silence - The Value and Power of Turning the Noise Off

It's amazing how much input we receive into our brains everyday. 

From TV to movies to games to music, much less conversation, it's possible to spend all your waking hours with some type of stuff steadily going into your ears and into your mind for analysis and storage.  That's before the other stuff: the traffic sounds, construction noise, dogs barking outside, ... you know, the stuff you aren't controlling yourself.

Which means that when you turn everything OFF and the only thing you're hearing is the whirr of the car motor, or the breeze through the branches of a tree, it can be overwhelming.  All that internal jumble is still bouncing around inside your head at first, like bees buzzing around.  It can be uncomfortable.

Just wait.  In a bit, this will subside and after you incorporate some silence into your life, that uncomfortable feeling will go away.  And with it, you'll gain an internal harmony that you'll be glad to discover.  It's relaxing, even joyful, to experience silence in this noisy life.

And, it's a lot easier to hear that still, small voice without all that other stuff competing for your attention.

'This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength ..., " ' Isaiah 30:15-18 NIV



"Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose."
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment."
- William Penn


Image:  A mountain stream on Raspberry Island, Alaska. Wikimedia Common, public domain.

March 27, 2010

Clear Wireless 4G Internet Service - Is It Any Good? Here's What I Found Out

A new internet service provider is making quite a splash here in San Antonio.  Its green and white signs are everywhere -- they even have green and whtie "Clear" flags attached to cars driving around town. 

And it sounds so great.  You're free to connect to the internet all over the place, you're not tied down to any one spot.  Plus, it's cheaper than your current ISP.  Wow.  And, wait!  There's more! It's faster than your usual WiFi.   It's 4G, in some places, it's 6G.  Broadband speeds, anywhere and everywhere.  Always available, faster, and cheaper. 

That sure sounds good.  Except I can't find anyone here in town who's actually USING this service, even if little Clear stores are opening up on every corner.  So, I went surfing around on the web to get the scoop.

First, I learned that it's a big deal.  This company has plans to cover the country with its little stores, and San Antonio is far from the first city to get inundated with these green and white signs and stores.  In Texas, it's already in Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Killeen/Temple, Lubbock, Waco, and other places. 

Here are some of the review that I found, from various parts of the country where Clear 4g Wimax has been in business longer than here in the Alamo City:

1.  Sarah Savage at Associated Content wrote in August 2009 that it was great for being able to pull out a netbook and write anywhere you wanted but there were drawbacks -- and recommended that if you're using the web mostly at home, it's not worth the purchase.  Also, some drop-off issues if the computer was idle for a couple of hours (no problem just signing in, again, tho).  Not sure what city we're talking about here, either.

2.  Yelp.com has 16 reviews for Clear WiMax Internet coming from Atlanta users.  Together, they're giving the service 3.5 stars out of 5.  Some comments include (1) lots of folk experience outages (2) and slow, slow service - not nearly the swift service that is touted by Clear.  There are some here that love this service, and some here that absolutely hate it. 

3.  Yelp.com has 30+ reviews for Portland's Clear WiMax Internet.  Yelp looks to have closed this forum sometime last year, but there's still lots of info here to consider.  And, there are lots of opinions here.  Again, some love and some hate.  Outages and slow speeds are discussed quite a bit.  Those trying to download big documents or watch videos seem to be very dissatistfied with the service.

4. Nick Mokey at DigitalTrends.com took Clear for a spin in Portland one day last July and bottom line, he liked it.  It wasn't perfect, but for some, Mr. Mokey opined that Clear would be just fine.

5. Nathan Roach in San Antonio gives it a thumbs up. I know Nathan Roach, and respect his opinion on all things Techno, so imagine my surprise when my surfing stumbled upon a review he'd written about trying out Clear -- here in my own hometown.  Perfect.  And, what does Nathan say?  His opinion is the same as Nick Mokey (see above, I'd just read Mokey's review when I found Nathan's so this was real deja vu)  -- and he gives lots of legal advice regarding the contracts and the service that's provided.  The reps lied to Nathan, I don't like that -- and there's a 2 year contract involved. 

What am I going to do?  I think I'll wait on Clear.  When I take my netbook to the B&N or local Starbucks, I'm happy enough -- and Clear's sounding too problematic to me. 

March 26, 2010

CellPhones and Driving - Pls Don't Talk or Text When U R Behind the Wheel

I didn't realize until yesterday how truly dangerous "distraction driving" is today. Then I saw some statistics provided by the National Safety Council and checked out some of the information over at a new site, distraction.gov.   Oprah is helping by organizing her "No Phone Zone" campaign.

Bottom line, someone talking or texting on their cellphone is 400% more likely to be in a car crash. According to studies, it doesn't matter if you are hands-free or not (though I'm sure there's lots of debate on this one).  And, according to these same studies, 81% of American drivers do this -- use cellphones while driving -- regularly. 

For many folks who are simplifying, they may think this isn't an issue for them.  Especially the frugal ones, who don't bother with those cellphone contracts in their budget.  I applaud them!

However, it's more than whether or not YOU use a cellphone.  It's also what's happening out on the street, where you and your loved ones drive and bike and walk.  Be aware of how many folk in your area ARE using their phones while they are driving a 3500-5000 pound vehicle. 

Just yesterday, driving around and pondering this, I was shocked to see how many drivers I could spot in traffic that were gabbing away on their cellphones.  Not good, Dear Reader.

So, Dear Reader, be careful out there.  And, if you are tempted to use your phone in the car -- please stop.  It's a danger that you can avoid -- plus it will make for a more peaceful drive if you do, right?

Image:  "No CellPhone Zone" sign posted on Bellaire Blvd in Southside Place, Texas from Wikipedia Commons, public domain.

March 25, 2010

How to Grow an Organic Garden

It's the right time of year to start a garden, and this is a great video for growing your own organic veggies. Thanks to HowdiniGuru for sharing this with us!


March 24, 2010

FDIC Failure List -- Bank Closure List Update

Last June, I wrote a post about the growing number of bank closures. I checked the FDIC web site and created the following tally.  By June 2009, there had been 45 bank closures, and the year was only half-done.

So, today, I thought I'd update that Bank Closure List.  Using the information from the FDIC bank failure list (and checking myself against a table of bank closures created by CNN.com), here's what I found: 

Oct to Dec 2000 - 2
2001 - 4
2002 -11
2003 - 3
2004 - 4
2005 - 0
2006 - 0
2007 - 3
2008 -24
2009 -- 140
      (Jan - June 28 = 45; June 29 - December 31 = 95)
2010 - 37 so far this year
      January - March 23 - 37

March 23, 2010

Naps. Take One. Naps are Good 4 U

Outside of the United States, a break in the afternoon is no big deal.  Siestas are an accepted part of the schedule in countries as varied as Spain, the Philippines, China, Greece, India, and Italy.  Maybe they've got the right idea.

Naps Aren't Just for Sunday Afternoons Anymore

Naps are good for you.  Taking a short rest in the afternoon -- 30, 45 mins -- helps you physically and mentally.  Research studies have shown that a little snooze, or siesta, in the workday can help your heart.  Even a 15 minute nap can help fight against strokes, and of course, stress.  And they get the job done: British researchers have compared the nap with the alternative coffee/caffeine break in the afternoon, and the nap was more efficient in getting you back in the saddle. 

When Should You Take Your Cat Nap?

Some suggest the optimal time for your little nap is 12 hours after you awake.  Others suggest that you take the "power nap" when you start to feel it's the right time -- usually between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, when your body temperature drops and your metabolism lags. 

Where Should You Nap?

Harvard Medical School is recommending a 30 minute nap in a cool, quiet, dark place.  Harvard also recognizes how some innovative employers acknowledge the importance of a siesta these days:  Google has "nap pods" for its employees.  (I think I might feel a bit claustraphobic in these Google nap pods, but they're such a cool idea.)

So, take a nap today.  Siestas are smart!

Image:  The Sweet Siesta of a Summer's Day, by John William Godward, public domain (Wikimedia Commons). 

March 22, 2010

Give Yourself a Hand - Applause Whenever You Need It

Give yourself a hand.
You deserve it, Dear Reader!
Get out there and have a great day, and the best week ever!




Thanks to MetalHoodMetalHood for putting sharing this via YouTube.

March 21, 2010

Make Yourself a Laugh List - Before You Need One

I found a mug during one of my sweeps through my local Ross (the discount store) that has the message "My attitude is entirely my decision."  I need to be reminded of this truth, so I bought the mug and here it is this morning, on my desk, holding my hazelnut coffee. 

You see, Dear Reader, being happy and positive, productive and at peace doesn't come naturally to me.  I have to fight against being worried, fearful, sad, mad, ... all those negative emotions that can stop progress come and hound me much more often than I'd like.  (I'm assuming you may know what I mean here.)

Today, I want to share with you one of the tools in my toolbelt that I use to keep my attitude in check.  It's laughter. 

I've found that all the bad stuff stops me from laughing, and if I start laughing, with even a mild giggle, then those bad feelings evaporate away.  Poof!  And I'm free to enjoy the rest of my day.  Getting stuff done -- instead of spending wasted energy on bad emotions/bad attitudes.  Casting my cares. 

Of course, this is a matter of self-control here.  Remember the mug's message:  my attitude is my decision.  I don't want to take myself too seriously, and I'm quite adept at making mountains out of molehills if left unchecked.  In fact, I can get so wrapped up in building my anger, or sadness, or worry, etc., that I need simple, easy tools to break myself out of the obsession, hence - the Laugh List.  One of my big helpers.

How to Build a Laugh List.

Modern technology is very helpful here.  You can save video and audio as well as the printed word, and you can carry these along with you, wherever you go.  So, don't limit yourself to just one medium.

Now, what to include?  Anything that makes you smile.  Something that makes you giggle or laugh out loud is a must.  It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, either.  If Roger Ebert hated the movie, but it brings tears to your eyes, who the heck cares about what Ebert thinks? 

Entertainment products (which is what TV shows and movies are, of course) are great sources for your laugh list.  However, some of your greatest sources of laughter for your Laugh List may be found in your personal stuff.  Those photos where the kids washed themselves more than the cars at the car wash.  The audio message from the grandkids, wishing you a happy day.  The hubby's big goofy smile at his surprise party.  Those things that make you smile -- they go into the Laugh List file. 

Each list will be different.  Not all of the list items will be the same on the Laughter Scale.  A photo of your son may make you smile, while a Letterman Top Ten List may make you laugh out loud, you need a range here -- and your Laugh List needs to build over time.  You can't make this thing too big.

Me?  Among my laugh list items are: 

(1) a photo of my beloved P in the middle of Canyon Lake right after he fell in (backwards), standing tall and dripping profusely and with wet cigar and whopperjawed glasses, serenading me with "Onward Christian Soldiers," (see? it's personal, a you gotta be there sorta thing). 

(2) a card from one of my kiddos from my CPS abuse/neglect docket days, with its personal message in crayon.  Red and blue and purple and green.  Carefully done. 

(3) "I Love Lucy" reruns.

(4) PG Wodehouse -- especially everything Jeeves and Wooster.  I love the language that he uses, and this stuff never gets old for me.  I listen to this on audiobook, and it's guaranteed to make me laugh out loud regardless how many times I've heard the material.

(5) Janet Evonovich's Stephanie Plum series.  Again, never gets old.  I laugh at Lula.  I laugh at Stephanie.  I know the car is going to be destroyed, and still.  I laugh. 

Of  course, there's lots more to my Laugh List.  Mine may make no sense to you.  You may have Will Ferrell movies, or reruns of The Office.  The Three Stooges (which I still don't get). 

No two Laugh Lists should be alike, but they should all do the same thing:  give us a chuckle, and with it, the power to move forward no matter how dark the valley may be.

God bless you, Dear Reader!

March 20, 2010

WalMart Is Cutting Grocery Prices on 10,000 Items In Time for Easter Holiday Meal

It's being reported this morning that WalMart is slashing food prices and hopes to have its famous yellow "Price Rollback" signage on around 10,000 items -- all set in place by April 1st. 

The fact that Easter is April 4th, a big 'home-cooking holiday' isn't lost here, those lower prices will be hitting just in time.  Wal-Mart saw lower traffic in the 4th quarter of 2009, right before Christmas, and looks like the monster corporation isn't taking any chances on a repeat for the Easter holiday season. 

Interestingly enough, I found this information in the news media, repeating a story released by Reuters, where the source was revealed to be a stockbrokerage firm that had received an email from WalMart on its new campaign. 

I did not find any official press release on the big price cuts at the WalMart corporate site.  And over at WalMart.com, there wasn't any big news (yet) and the "in-store rollbacks" page didn't have anything on massive cuts, either. 

Guess we'll all have to wait and watch for this one.

Image:  Soft drinks for sale at Alexandria, Virginia, grocery store.  Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

March 19, 2010

Apple Cider Vinegar - Folk Remedy That's Been Around for Centuries

Without going into TMI ("too much information"), I have gone to Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar as a tonic for what ails me and I've been really, really happy with the results. 

Sure, there are those that scoff at drinking some cloudy vinegar in some water and having it heal what ails ya.  Fine, then they don't have to drink the stuff. Me?  I'm keeping a bottle in my cabinet from here on out. 

And rather than go on and on about how apple cider vinegar has been used literally for centuries to heal various ailments -- digestive troubles (ahem), migranes, sinus infections, arthritis, high blood pressure, the list just goes on and on and on -- I'm going to share with you, Dear Reader, some of the sites that I found to have helpful info.  If you want to find scoffer sites, you're on your own.  Apple Cider Vinegar worked for me and I'm sold. 

EarthClinic

Alternative Medicine - About.com

HomeRemediesWeb

Natural News


Image: Bragg's Organic Apple Cidar Vinegar, sold in your local health food stores as well as the Bragg's own website, http://bragg.com/products/bragg-organic-apple-cider-vinegar.html

March 18, 2010

Census 2010 - What You Must Answer and Yes, There Are Scammers

Well, I just received my Census questionaire. I bet you have yours, too. I got another envelope, too, which made me wonder about the Census ... so I went surfing to find out some scoop. Here's what I found out:

 
1. Scams.  Yes, Dear Reader, there ARE scammers out there that are trying to get identity theft info using fake Census forms. The real questionaire doesn't ask for your Social Security Number, or your bank account information. The real questionaire is on paper, NEVER online. Be careful out there!  Doughroller.net has some great information here as well as some suggestions on what you should do if you think you've received a fake census questionaire. 

 
2. What's Being Asked.  The 2010 Questionaire is one of the shortest in history, according to the Census site.  It asks you 10 questions, and you can see them online (which is important if you're checking a possible scammer against the real thing).   Each question shown here also has a brief explanation of how long the question has appeared on the Census, and why they're asking for the information. 
  1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010? 
  2. Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you did not include in Question 1? 
  3. Is this house, apartment, or mobile home: owned with mortgage, owned without mortgage, rented, occupied without rent?  
  4. What is your telephone number? 
  5. Please provide information for each person living here. Start with a person here who owns or rents this house, apartment, or mobile home. If the owner or renter lives somewhere else, start with any adult living here. This will be Person 1. What is Person 1's name? 
  6. What is Person 1's sex? 
  7. What is Person 1's age and Date of Birth? 
  8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin? 
  9. What is Person 1's race?
  10. Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?

 
3.  Do you have to answer?  Yes.  It's federal law and there are penalties if you don't give a response.  If you don't fill in the census form, someone will come to your house to ask you face to face these same questions.  Remember, the right of the government to take a census is in the Constitution.  Dovetailing that provision, Congress passed a statute that created penalties for those that failed to participate. 

4.  The controversy arises over how much information the federal government can obtain under this right -- and how this information will be used.  Libertarians (led by Ron Paul) are against the Census as being too invasive of an individual's privacy.  There's also a racism charge regarding the language in Question 9.   Personally, I've heard discussion about the ability of ne-erdowells to hack into the Census information and use this info for identity theft purposes, but I haven't read any news stories on that concern (or didn't find one in my cursory surfing). 

5.  Does everyone answer?  Apparently not.  A Palm Desert, California, report shows that for each census returned in 2000, that community received $2000 in federal funds.  However, the Coachella Valley only had a response rate of 50% then -- and from the news report, it looks like there may be more folk riled up now than back in 2000, as one person is quoted with asking why the government needs the info when the government is broke and has no money to allot.  And, the Response Rate of the 2000 Census is shown online, divided by state.  The District of Columbia had a 60% response rate in 2000 according to the site. 

March 17, 2010

How to Dye Your Hair at Home - and How to Touch Up the Roots, Too

I've written about my friend, S, before.  She and hubby E brought home an adorable puppy a little while ago, and now the house is filled with little kids and a baby dog.  And a hub that works from home.  And S, who works from home, too.  It can be loud, it can be crazy.

When leads us to the morning that S missed her hair appointment for blonde highlights, decided she'd had enough of spending $100s at the salon, and drove her bad self to CVS.  There, with the help of sales clerk, she bought a box of L'Oreal for less than $10 and went back home -- where at her convenience, late that night after the kids were in bed and the hub was happy surfing the TV channels, she returned herself to her natural brunette color.

And she is so happy with the results, she's telling everybody that they should do this too.  Time saver, money saver. 

So, Dear Reader, here are two videos that show you not only how to dye your hair at home, but a great video that explains how to keep up with those roots once your hair starts to grow:

Here's a Great Video on How to Dye Your Hair at Home



Here's a Fabulous Video on Touching Up your Roots at Home

March 16, 2010

Limeade With No Calories and All Natural Sweetener (Stevia): An Option to Soda That's Good 4 U

Every once in awhile, I post here about stevia as a sweetener, because it's just so wonderful -- all natural, no calories.  So much better for you than those artificial sweeteners, and there are those that claim stevia has additional health benefits.  It's been used in Europe, Japan, etc. for decades - centuries - but the FDA hasn't been too accommdating to the marketing of stevia in the American marketplace until recently. 

Stevia is great for diabetics.  Stevia also helps with things like high blood pressure and depression, and Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Michael Murray are both big fans of stevia

When I first starting buying stevia, my only option were the bottles of loose powder or liquid at the local health foods store.  Then, Whole Foods and Sun Harvest started offing stevia in individual packets.  This was handy, but whenever I pulled the little green packet out at the restaurant, no one knew what it was. 

Now, TruVia and PureVia are in your local grocery store, brought to you by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, respectively.  And other brands of stevia are popping up, as well.  Heck, I saw a big box of individual stevia packets for sale at Sam's Club under its own "Member's Mark" brand just last week. 

Now, let's think about limes.  Green, wonderful smelling limes.  They have all sorts of health benefits.  Limes  help digestion, help to heal ulcers, and they can detoxify the body.  Limes had stuff in them that help your gums too (as does stevia).  There's lots more on the health benefits of limes on the web if you want to investigate this in detail. 

Which leads us to today's recipe. 

Reba's Really Fabulous NoCal Limeade - Tastes Great and It's GOOD for You

Gallon pitcher
Juice of 4 big limes, 6 smaller ones
Stevia to taste (I still use my KAL shaker bottle, and put in around 12 shakes)
Water
Optional: slice another lime into circles and float them in the pitcher
Serve in big glasses over lotsa ice

This is so easy to make, and it takes sssooooo great.  I've given it away in quart jars, tied with gingham bonnets on the top and a bottle of stevia looped around the top with a ribbon to friends who I think will like stevia if they try it. 

Image: Backyard limes, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

March 15, 2010

How to Sell Your Gold Jewelry

I"ve written here about buying gold, heck - recently, I wrote about a site that is selling SEEDS for barter - but this morning, I realized that I hadn't thought about the flipside: selling your old gold jewelry. 

There are those TV ads, where you send your old gold off in an envelope, and voila! a check comes back to you in return mail.  Is this the best way to exchange one asset for another?  Maybe. Maybe not.  There's lots on the web about selling gold jewelry - here's some of the best stuff that I found out there:

  1. Karen Datko at MSN Money warns that you're better off selling your old gold jewelry as JEWELRY, not as scrap metal, and explains why.
  2. Susan Carpenter at the LA Times advises you on getting your stuff appraised -- and discusses the option of leaving your jewelry for sale with a consignment shop.  Did you know that there are things you can buy on the web to value the quality of your gold by yourself, at home?
  3. E-How has a video that discusses how to sell used gold jewelry, and gives you the scoop on cleaning your jewelry as your first step.  (There are also other videos that demonstrate ways to clean jewelry, I suppose there are various methods.)
  4. Consumer Reports has some advice for you, too.  From here, I learned that you need to ask a jeweler to weigh your gold jewelry in pennyweights or troy ounces.  Then, they've got an online calculator right there for you, to input your item's weight and get its value based on the price of gold that day.  Cool.
  5. EBay Jewelry Selling Guide is filled with all sorts of details.  Vintage jewelry?  Still in the box?  Little details that may make a difference in the sales price are collected here, along with lots of advice on setting a price and maximizing your sale. 
Image:  Gold and Platinum Rings, Wikimedia Commons - public domain

March 14, 2010

Peaceful Places - Find Your Own Place of Peace

Living a simple life does not mean living a slow, sluggardly one.  For instance, no one lives a life more simple that the Amish - and they're busy from 5 am to bedtime.  (By the way, lots of good info on the Amish has been collected by Amish,Net though the Amish themselves, of course, aren't on the web.)

Living a peaceful life takes some work.

There's the daily check on what's going on -- strife can sneak in when you least expect it.  Letting go of anger, forgiving those who've done wrong to you (which doesn't mean you're a doormat allowing repetitive abuse, by the way), overcoming frustration, are all things that are continual tasks when you're trying to move forward in life. 

Having a personal spot, a place of peaceful surroundings, can be a great big help. 

Long ago, back when I was living the Materialistic Lifestyle, if you'd asked me about a peaceful place I would have responded that for me, it was the beach and that I went there a couple of times a year.  A good friend felt the same way, but the answer was the Rocky Mountains. 

In stressful times, having these vacation spots as the only place that you can find a peaceful spot isn't enough  because they are too hard to reach, too far away.  You need to know Your Place of Peace in advance of a Stressful Time (because, Dear Reader, they are periodically guaranteed), that you can access almost immediately.  You need a nearby place of peace that you can incorporate into your routine.  

What's a Personal Place of Peace?

As a Christian, I obviously include prayer as one of the big things that happens in a place of peace.  However, it's more than a prayer spot. 

A personal place of peace is an oasis from everything else in your life where you can get some distance, mentally as well as spiritually, and hopefully, some perspective. 

It's a place where there is no additional input -- other than beauty -- which allows you to gain control over your emotions, get a stress break, and put a halt to running from problems or reacting instead of being proactive about things.  You're there alone, by the way -- a golf game or a drink at a bar are NOT places of peace. 

Also, it needs to be close to home or work, where you can reach it within 10 to 15 minutes by car or foot.  Sometimes, your place of peace can help you just by knowing you have this Secret Oasis nearby -- imagining it during a meeting, a traffic jam, or a family fight can really, really help. 

What You Take With You

Maybe you take a Bible, maybe you bring a Journal.  Maybe you listen to music (but it needs to be appropriate, not distracting).  Books that bring you encouragement and supportive thoughts can be helpful (from Joel Osteen to Erma Bombeck to Shakespearean Sonnets, this is a personal thing).  Sure, you can have something to drink or eat (if you're there awhile, this may be a prerequisite, or all you'll be thinking about is how great a cheeseburger sounds). 

Where do You go?

Ah, the big question.  You, Dear Reader, have to go FIND your personal place of peace.  Consider yourself on a mission.  It can be a public park, a garden, a museum, the rooftop of a skyscraper ... it could be the zoo.  I have a friend who has a zoo membership, and regularly leaves his office to walk the zoo just to think and pray and get "re-grounded."

How he can eat there (he brings a snack) is beyond me because the wild animal poop smell cannot be escaped no matter how great the San Antonio Zoo is about keeping things tidy. Which just goes to show, one person's place of peace is another person's place of distracting smelly elephant poop. 

Worthy of note: this is a man who is a position of tremendous power, a Big Kahuna guy, and he makes a lot of jokes about how he escapes one zoo by going to another.  It works for him.

Drives are good, they may start out with that fantasy of just driving and driving until you hit a Coast, East or West, but for peaceful places they aren't the best because you do have to be safe while driving a vehicle that weighs around 3500 lbs.  A place of peace can involve crying, or yelling, the release of emotion -- and you need to be free to allow those things to escape you without being worried about Big Rigs on the road.  Better: a pretty drive that leads you to a pretty place.  Maybe a great view -- you can stay in the car, just don't keep driving forever. 

Places of Peace are Private.  One last thing, Dear Reader -- when you've found your place of peace, don't blabber about it to everyone.  Keep it your secret oasis, it's part of its power: knowing that you're in a safe spot for a mental and spiritual breather where you won't be interrupted is important.  Plus, it's fun to have your own SECRET PLACE in the world. 

Image:  Female African Bush elephant (named “Duchess”) at Paignton Zoo, Paignton, Devon. Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

March 13, 2010

Beer Really Is Good for Your Hair - The Monthly Beer Rinse

It's true! Using beer as a rinse will help you hair shine more, and according to some, it also helps heal dry and damaged hair as well.  My experience has been that while beer is not a miracle worker all by its little self, I can tell a difference - in shine, especially. 

And while some say do this once a month, I've been doing it twice every month for the past few months, and I'm sold on leftover beer as a beauty tip. 

Why? From what I've read, the hops and the malt contained in beer are comprised of proteins. These proteins can bond with the individual hairs, strengthening them. 

How do you use the beer for a great hair day?


First, you want flat beer. Some folk suggest that you choose something will less beer smell than others, but after I rinsed the beer out of my hair, I couldn't smell any festive beverage remains so I'm not sure that matters. Your choice, Dear Reader.

Second, after you shampoo your hair as usual, take the can of flat beer and pour it on -- make sure all your hair gets its fair share of the brew (I left a can open on the counter overnight, so it was nice and lukewarm on my scalp).

Third, let it set there for a minute or two.  (This process works best in the shower, because while you're letting your hair soak up that Beer Rinse, you can make sure the excess beer gets rinsed off your shoulders, arms, hands, etc.  This isn't the neatest process I've tried.)

Fourth, rinse out the beer thoroughly.  Now you blow dry or air dry or whatever you usually do.  Done!

For more info:

ChagrinValleySoapandCraft has some recipes for beer rinses that sound good -- adding in jojoba oil, or the scent of rosemary, you get the idea. 

HowStuffWorks reports that a beer rinse can remove residue from hair.  CBSNews reports the same thing.  Good to know. 

Hairpedia reports that beer not only adds shine but volume as well when used as a hair rinse.  (They've also got the skinny on using vinegar, avocado, eggs, and mayonnaise in your hair care regimen -- fascinating stuff.)

March 12, 2010

Daylight Saving Time Begins on March 14, 2010

Daylight Saving Time always sneaks up on me.  It always seems like the minute that I've adjusted to the new time, I'm moving the clock backward or forward. 

Maybe it's a family thing:  I remember visiting my mother's Great Uncle Billy (my grandmother's uncle, he was an old guy) when I was very little. On this one visit, which must have been shortly before Easter that Spring, Uncle Billy had made a Major Life Decision which was twisting my mom and her cousins into knots. 

The Origin of Billy Time

Uncle Billy just decided he'd had enough, he was retired and he wasn't going to change the clocks anymore.  He'd just go by "Billy Time" in his house.  He didn't care that Gunsmoke would be an hour off.  (He loved him some Marshall Matt Dillon, this was thought to be a powerful argument advanced by my mother.)

The more they argued, the more he chuckled.  I still remember that chuckle with a smile -- coming from a jaw with white and grey stubble covering it, because Uncle Billy didn't always shave in the morning.  I remember that he became quite fond of "Billy Time," the phrase became part of the family vernacular (and not always in a good way) and to this day I always remember that we fall back to Billy Time and spring forward from it.

So, here we are leaving Billy Time tomorrow night - only to return sometime next November.

By the way, there's a neat article over at About.Com written by Matt Rosenberg that gives all sorts of background on DST.

I learned that it's "Saving" not "Savings" - who knew?  I also learned that it all began back when we were fighting World War I, so factories had more sunshine time to churn stuff out - saved energy costs back then (guess the theory is that it still does).

March 11, 2010

Joyce Meyer Talks Simplicity This Week

Joyce Meyer's televised broadcast this morning was the first of a two-parter dealing with Simple Living.  The title of the show today is "Simple Prayer and Simple Living, Part 1" and it's well worth your time.  (Her book, The Power of Simple Prayer, is being offered with a set of DVDs this week as a special offer, and you can read a sample chapter for free on her site.)

Today's show is very funny.  Joyce Meyer always makes me laugh.  Today, she talks about letting that load of clothes build up, and then when you carry it to the washer, you realize you've already left a load setting in there.  Except when she talks about doing this (I've done it, how about you?), it's hilarious.  She talks about the time that she started out with a simple invite to four friends after church, come over next week for hot dogs, and turning that into a steak BBQ for 32.  Again, it's really funny when you hear her telling stories on herself.

Really good thing here -- she makes an excellent example for how simplicity - simple living - isn't always the same as frugal living.  They aren't synonimous terms, and it's really clear here, in how she talks about taking the complications out of your daily life, for a higher quality of living.

Another really good thing -- her book on simplifying.  There's a separate post on that one, it's really good. 

March 10, 2010

Fear: How Scared Are Americans of the Economy These Days? Massa, Glenn Beck, the Survival Seed Company, and Lisa Scottoline

Yesterday, I veered from my usual day-in, day-out writing schedule and its corresponding mental whip of meeting my Word Count quota because a pal had let me know that Ex-Congressman Eric Massa was going to do two interviews, and the first would be on television that afternoon, on Fox's Glenn Beck show.

I waited for Massa to become a Congressional Whistleblower.  It didn't happen.

I rationalized this, work-wise, since one of my long-term projects is working with a book editor and an author on a whistleblower memoir (easiest way to describe it, "Enron-esque") and if Massa was going to jump onto a live TV show to be a Congressional Whistleblower on some mysterious corruption stuff, well - there was some sorta work correlation there.  Sorta. 

Nothing much happened during this Hour of Massa, however, whistleblower-wise.  Beck looked as disappointed and frustrated as those Congressmen during the Michael Corleone hearings, where the brother from Italy appears in the room, sitting next to Michael and suddenly, the snitch knows noottthhhing.  Remember that?  Godfather II.  Great movie. 

Then I Saw the Survival Seed Company Commercial During the Glenn Beck Show

What got me during the show were the commercials.  Lots of gold sales, that's not new.  But for the first time, I saw an ad for SEEDS.  That's right.  Seeds, as in gardening.  And, they weren't promoting the seeds for the beauty of the fruit, or the nutrition of the vegetables, or the size of the blooms.  Nope.  They were trying to sell me these special seeds as BARTER.  Better barter than gold, in case of Doomsday here in the USA.   The company is the Survival Seed Bank, and when I surfed around about them this morning, I found that others are pondering this event, too.  Places like BoingBoing and Steve Pendlebury over at AOLNews.

Later, I'm Reading Lisa Scottoline's new book, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog, laughing away ....

Skip to evening.  Look, the truth is that most of my time is spent reading or writing, I'm such a dull girl, and last evening, I was reading through Lisa Scottoline's new book, Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog

This is one hilarious book - it's a collection of essays from Lisa Scottoline's "Chick Wit" column at the Philidelphia Inquirer.  Funny, funny stuff.  (Read or listen to some of this book here.)

And suddenly, Lisa S is writing about going to a website -- she provides the reader with its address in the book, it's http://www.whatsyourrq.org/ , and writes about taking the test and finding she's zero on the scale (and the average American scores a 4). 

The Readiness Quotient Test

Wow.  Oh, yeah, sure -- of course, I'm going to go over there and take the test.  At the site, I'm told that its the first test of its kind, to let me and other Americans evaluate their readiness for all sorts of disasters -- they mention natural disasters and terrorist attacks -- as well as providing info on what I/we need to do ... to be ready. 

(Lisa Scottoline is particularly funny answering the question, ready for what? Check out the essay "Disasterous" in the book. Page 191.)

Here's what I'm pondering:  how afraid are we Americans today? 

We've got commercials about seeds for barter, we've got a great writer - humor and thriller - describing her experiences with a Readiness Quotient. 

I don't want to be a lemming.  Neither do I want to be the proverbial frog who is placed in the pot of cold water and dies rather than jump out when the water heats to boiling.  What I do know: fear is a dangerous thing.  Clouds your thinking, monkeys with your response, all sorts of destructive things both individually and collectively arise from a spirit of fear. 

I haven't finished pondering all this, but I thought I'd share this much with you today, Dear Reader.  Fear is a powerful, sneaky enemy of which we should all be aware.  Looks like it's here. 

Image:  The Scream. Edvard Munch 1893, from PublicDomainClipArt.

March 8, 2010

Mothballs Have All Sorts of Uses

Mothballs are smelly, white balls of the chemical 1,4-dichlorobenzene that are traditionally placed in drawers and closets to keep moths away.  Why?  Moths eat holes in fabric, and can ruin your clothes.

However, mothballs have lots of other uses around the house, too.  Here are a few of them that I've personally tried with some success (check out the linked sites for other ideas):

1.  They stink so much that animals don't want to nest around them.  So, throw some mothballs around and keep rats, bats, and stray cats away from your garage, attic, or shed.

2.  Keep puppies and kittens out of potted plants by putting a couple of mothballs around the topsoil -- IF you're sure that they won't try and eat them.  Mothballs are toxic to the little babies so make sure they hate them before you put them into the plants. 

3.  Put the family silver in a plastic bag with a couple of mothballs and voila! nothing tarnishes. 

March 7, 2010

Serenity Prayer - Long Version (It's Not Just for Alcoholic's Anonymous)


Written by Reinhold Niebuhr in the early 20th century, the Serenity Prayer has been adopted by many Twelve-Step programs - following the pattern established by Alcoholic's Anonymous, whose use of Niebuhr's short prayer has made it famous world-wide. 


The Serenity Prayer


God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

May God bless your day, Dear Reader.

_______________________________________________________________________________
Image: Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Robert Williams, from Chicago, prays in the ship's chapel aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73), Atlantic Ocean, November 13, 2003. U.S.Navy photograph released into the public domain.

March 6, 2010

Probiotics Info - You Don't Have to Eat Yogurt to Get Digestive Help

Probiotics - everyone seems to know all about digestive bacteria that help enrich our daily lives (ahem).  What are probiotics?  Probiotics are bacteria -- microorganisms that live within your gut, helping to break down foods and support your digestive tract.   They're such a big deal that there's even an International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. 

If you like yogurt and you're not lactose intolerant, then eating yogurt (especially that brand promoted by Jamie Lee Curtis) seems like and easy and simple answer.  But what if you're lactose intolerant?  Or you just hate yogurt?

Well, there's other ways to get probiotics into your system -- and into your family's digestive systems, too.  In fact, some are promoting eating more than one kind of probiotic for maximum health benefits. 

Foods Containing Probiotics

Yogurt (if it has ""Live Active Culture" on the label)
Buttermilk
Acidophilus Milk
Kefir
Kombucha
Fermented Bean Paste (Miso, Tempeh, Doenjang)
Sauerkraut
Kim Chi
Brewer's Yeast
Soy Sauce
Pickled Vegetables (yes, including pickles)

And don't forget your PREbiotics....

Prebiotics are foods that your body cannot digest and which boost the work of those probiotic microorganisms there inside the colon.  Essentially, prebiotics feed the probiotics inside your intestine, allowing the probiotics to remain and thrive there - a good thing.  Together, prebiotics and probiotics are called "gutflora."

Foods that contain varying levels of prebiotics include:

onions
leeks
asparagus
garlic
artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes
wheat/sprouted wheat
oats
soybeans.
honey
Apple Cidar Vinegar (with the mother)
tomato

March 5, 2010

Meetup.Com - Looking 4 Something to Do This Week? Great Site to Find New Local Fun Stuff

Meetup.com may have a name that suggests it's another one of those online dating sites - but that's not at all true. 

Here, you enter a national site by finding your community within its database.  Once there, you can roam thru the topics, or scan the current month's calendar, for things to do -- and see the members of the various groups who are coordinating getting together via the site. 

Walkers and runners can find events here, as well as info on trails and upcoming races.  Dog lovers can find out about dog parks and dog walks.  Farmer's market info is here, and so is lots of stuff on a wide variety of support groups. 

It's free to join.  There is a fee to start a group.

March 4, 2010

Free Tax Software - Which is the Best Free Income Tax Preparation Software (2010)?

There's lots more free tax software out there on the web than I realized, and there's also lots of great sites that have taken the time to compare and review these offerings, giving you, Dear Reader, the skinny on which is the best deal in free tax preparation software for 2010. 

Here's what I found:

Top Ten Reviews - it's reviewing nine different tax filing software packages - but not the freebies are evaluated, these are the packages you pay for ... still, some good info in this review and I'm providing it here anyway.  (Who wins?  TurboTax.)

Tax - Compare - it's reviewing 4 free tax software packages (TurboTax, H&RBlock, TaxACT, and CompleteTax) and opines that TurboTax is best and CompleteTax is ... well, not so good.

Consumer Search - while they don't tell you all the versions compared, they are pretty bold about recommending TaxACT as the best free tax software out there (it came in 2d at Tax-Compare, by the way).  However, when you read their review of tax software overall, they're all over TurboTax as the best tax software out there.  Go figure.

March 3, 2010

How to Give Yourself a Great French Manicure At Home

Back in my Materialistic Past, I remember the days of going to the fancy-schmancy salon to have my nails done. I had a set appointment with my favorite pro manicurist.  They gave me wine.  I got to pick my color from a bunch of turning columns filled with every hue in the world, it seemed.  The whole process took hours. 

For a long time, I had the long, fake nails - but they creeped me out after awhile, how could they be healthy? - and I stopped having "salon nails" or whatever they're called these days.  That acetone is skeery. 

After the fake nail chapter in my life, I had the professional manicure chapter. My nails only, nothing acrylic, but still spending time and money at the Fancy Salon to get my nails done.

Then, as my simple life progressed, I didn't want to bother with going to the Fancy Salon to do something that I knew I could do at home.  On my time schedule, without spending much dinero.

I knew I could do my nails at home, I imagine most of us did back in the day. High school, college, think back, Dear Reader!

I distinctly remember drinking the new-on-the-market bottled wine coolers with my friends as we shared different colors of nail polish and walked around trying to keep our toes from touching as Robert Palmer played in the background. But I digress.

Now, I do my nails at home while I watch TV. Last night I used a fancy French Manicure Kit that I found at TJ Maxx, as Jethro Gibbs figured out on NCIS that his ex-mother-in-law was a killer.  (And didn't Gina Rowlands look fabulous?  Love her!)

Today my nails looks so darn good (if I do say so myself) that I keep stopping to admire my handiwork. Pardon the Pun. I promise you, this manicure is as good as anything I paid a professional to do for me.

Here's how I did it (thanks to Dramatic Makeup at YouTube for making this video and sharing it with us):

March 2, 2010

Recipes to Use Up Those Bananas

Bananas - they go bad so fast.  What to do with them, other than making banana bread?  Here are some ideas, and I've tried to find some alternatives ( 7 - 10) to the usual sweet stuff:

1.  Banana Pudding
2.  Banana Fritters
3.  Berry-Banana Soy Shake
4.  Banana Coconut Cream Pie
5.  Banana Cookies
6.  Fried Bananas
7.  Banana Vodka
8.  Spicy Banana Zucchini Balls
9.  Sweet and Spicy Banana Salad
10. Cheesy Ham and Banana Cassarole (by Paula Deen)

March 1, 2010

City-Data Is a Great Source of Local Information

Just discovered City-Data.Com, a web site that contains forums organized by your city or town, and within that geographic umbrella, has all sorts of forums where folk ask questions and get answers from their neighbors in the community.

For example, today I was surfing around, investigating where hotels sell the furniture they don't want any longer.  (Yes, I'm still on my search for the Perfect Reading Chair.)  I stumbled upon City-Data's San Antonio forum on "furniture" -- and I learned about a scratch-n-dent for a local furniture store that I may check out this week. 

I also spotted:

Favorite Hole in the Wall Restaurants (San Antonio, Austin, etc.)
Where to Go for Hair Styling
Finding a Holistic Doctor in San Antonio
Low Budget Wedding in San Antonio

There's tons and tons more.  Folk relocating, people looking to chat about stories in the news, people asking for help in dealing with neighbors, all sorts of stuff.   And, it's free.  Check it out!