September 28, 2016

Resistant Starch: Potatoes are Good for You (Again)

Resistant Starch Helps Fight Inflammation and Does Lots More Good Things

Awhile back, I shared Bill’s Hash Brown Potato Salad recipe. Now, admittedly Bill likes to put hash browns in most anything. And he’s usually right. Hash browns combined with eggs and bacon in your morning breakfast taco? Nothing better, my friend.

Now, however, there seems to be medical research supporting eating those hash browns along with other kinds of potato fixings as well as other starchy stuff you thought was on the Bad Food List.

Potato flour It’s called “resistant starch.” Time Magazine covered the topic in its May 2016 article, “Eat This Carb and You Won’t Gain Weight.

That’s right. That is the title – from an article in Time Magazine. 

Good news, right? You’re already thinking French Fries, aren’t you?

What is Resistant Starch? 

Resistant starch is found in potatoes, as well as beans, unripe bananas, brown rice flour, and more stuff. It’s found in lots of leftovers because cooking certain foods and then cooling them down helps to create it.

There are different types. All forms fight against being digested in the human digestive tract, which means that they help fight against weight gain as well as boost consistent blood sugar levels.

They are also supposed to help fight against bad bacteria in the gut (as in the evil Candida that causes so many problems).

From Today’s Dietitian: 
"As their name suggests, resistant starches are starches that resist digestion in the small intestine. Their definition is “the sum of starch and products of starch degradation not absorbed in the small intestine of healthy individuals.”2 Starch polymers are present in granules in plants and exist as either a straight chain (amylose) or a branched chain (amylopectin). The structure of both the granules and polymer chains affect the starch’s digestibility, making some more digestible than others. 
Resistant starches are classified according to structure or source, as follows2,3: 
• RS1 is physically inaccessible to digestive enzymes. Its sources include whole or partially milled grains, seeds, and legumes. 
• RS2 resists digestion because of the granule’s nature. Sources include raw potatoes, underripe bananas, some legumes, and high-amylose starches, such as high-amylose corn. 
• RS3 is produced in the cooking-cooling process. Sources include bread, tortillas, cooked and cooled potatoes, rice, and pasta. 
• RS4 is a chemically modified starch found in a wide range of products. 
Check out the full article from Today's Dietitian here.

Exciting news, isn’t it?

Read more in this May 2016 article by Samantha Olson published in Medical Daily, “How To Eat Carbs And Still Lose Weight: Resistant Starch Foods Improve Gut Bacteria.

September 26, 2016

Time Ladders in Planning:Thank You, Ben Franklin

This month, I'm pretty obsessed with Time Ladders.  I suppose the first one I saw was this one, created by Benjamin Franklin as he planned how he would spend his day.

You can find it here, in the free online version of his Autobiography, provided by (see pp. 68-69):

However, there are different ways to build a Time Ladder, and different uses for it.  I'm discovering that they really help me in planning out how much time a project should take, from research to final draft, among other things.  

For more examples, check out "time ladders" as a search in Pinterest or Instagram.  

September 25, 2016

Free Public Domain Image No. 4 - Encouraging Word


I created this image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain.

This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.

PSALM 46:1

Scripture source is the World English Bible - a version placed into the public domain. 

September 21, 2016

Will OTC Dog Relaxants Help My Pup’s Fear of Thunderstorms?

My senior dog has developed a terror of thunderstorms. Will a dog relaxant help him? 

I’ve written before about my old boy and how he has developed a real fear of thunderstorms in his senior years. He paces, he shakes a bit, and it’s very disturbing to him and to those who love him.

 This is a big concern here in our neck of the woods, because we get something called “super cell thunder storms,” which bring with them heavy rain and high winds along with lots of booming thunder and lightning strikes.

Supercell near Teague, 04-25-2011
2011 Supercell Thunderstorm near Teague, Texas 
When one passes through, my pup is hearing not only the thunder itself but the sound of the wind whipping through the trees, and things getting bounced around outside. Like patio furniture, or trash cans, or tree branches.

Recently, I heard about something called “dog relaxants” made from natural ingredients and by they sound great. After lots of investigating I’ve ordered some and we're going to get them a shot.

Dog Relaxants: Big Variety of Products 

Will they help him? We’ll see – the next time that there’s a big band of yellow and red and purple storms on the South Texas radar, we’re going to give them a try.

There are lots of different recipes out there. I ordered one that is liquid and another that comes in easy to dispense chew treats. The Lord only knows how I’m going to get those liquid dropper doses down this boy; he’s very stubborn and cranky!

Maybe I won’t have to worry about it – maybe the chews will do the job.

What are Dog Relaxants? 

Now, these are not heavy duty drugs. They won’t make him sleepy or knock him out. They’re supposed to take the edge off a bit. I’ve read all the reviews and researched the ingredients and purchased products made in the United States from companies that I trust.

He has a Thundershirt. I have found that tying one of my old long-sleeve tee shirts around his neck works better for him. This does help him some but it does not do all that much. He’ll pace around the house with the shirt tied around him. It looks adorable, but I don’t think he appreciates it as a fashion statement.

So, fingers crossed. Especially since we’re apparently getting an active hurricane season this year. 

September 19, 2016

5 Things to Help Make Paper Planners Fun and Productive

Last week, I talked about my path to “planner peace,” and the variety of paper planners and time management systems I have tried along the way.

One of the key reasons that I use paper planners is because I enjoy using them, for all sorts of reasons. There’s the feel of the ink flowing on the paper as I write; the control I have over the colors (I like color-coding); even the weight of the paper itself has a bearing on the experience of working with a paper planner.

Paper Planning Works Better for Me Than Online Productivity Systems

The bigger deal: having the siren song of creativity helps me stay on schedule. It’s more fun for me to use a bullet journal combined with a Happy Planner than it ever was for me to insert information into an online program.

I’m easily pleased, I suppose, but having those little squares in the Tracker that I fill in with different colors of ink every day when I’ve accomplished a task? That’s enough to make me do the task, and enough to make me stay current in my time management, too.

5 Fun Things That Keep Me Dedicated to My Planners and Time Management

Here are five things that help me with that creative spin on scheduling my days and weeks:

Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens 

When a friend recommended these pens to me, I smiled politely and thought “no way.”

Why? They are erasable, and I’ve had lots of bad experiences with erasable ink. It didn’t work. Or it worked but to get rid of the ink, you were likely to tear the paper.

Not with these. I love the Pilot FriXion Gel Pens. They don’t write as deep or dark as other pens, that’s what you’re giving up by using them. But it’s well worth it in my book, because heck – they’re ERASABLE.  

Washi Tape 

I love using washi tape on my monthly and weekly calendars, as well as in my Bullet Journal. I divide the weekend from the weekdays; I block big project deadlines; you get the idea.

Heck, I’ve used Washi Tape in my Bible – I have put tape around the entire edge of the pages for the first page of Psalms, Proverbs, Genesis, Matthew, and Revelation because it’s a great index tool.

That red in the back of the book? I know it’s the first page of Revelation. The blue one? That’s Psalms.


There’s a mad, mad world out there for you if you like stickers for your planners. Etsy Shops have all sorts of inviting stickers, dedicated to specific planners and their sizes. Erin Condren? Go find your Erin Condren sized stickers there. Ditto for Filofax, Kikki K, all lots more.

Me, I’ve stuck with Amazon and Hobby Lobby so far. And I’m playing around with making some of my own using sticker paper that I can feed through my printer.

You can get Calendar Reminder Stickers (birthdays, etc.) if you like. Me, I like stickers that have “to do lists,” flags, and other references which allow me to write whatever I want on them. I’d rather have a blank sticker where I write “Bill’s Birthday” than have a sticker with Birthday already printed on it. That’s just me.  

Clear Plastic Ruler 

I need a ruler because I like my lines to be sharp. Having a clear plastic ruler lets me see where I’m going with my pen.

The shorter six inch ruler works better for me in my Bullet Journal, which is a Moleskine.

Markers and Gel Pens for Color 

As for markers, some people love Sharpies, but not me. Not for my Planners, it’s too easy for them to bleed through the paper or at least leave a heavy shadow. Instead, I like Bic highlighters that I can get at my local HEB grocery store. Nothing fancy.

When I want to highlight with color, they work just fine. And I also like to use Gel Pens to add color, too. I have one of those sets that they sell for adult coloring books, and it has come in very handy in my Bullet Journal (and in my Bible Art).

September 18, 2016

Free Public Domain Image No. 3 - Encouraging Word

I created this image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain.

This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.

1 Timothy 6:12

Scripture source is the World English Bible - a version placed into the public domain. 

September 14, 2016

Cursive Handwriting vs Typing Your Words

Cursive handwriting may be old school, but it’s something I love to do and it’s got scientific backing for having cognitive benefits, as well. 

Most of my day is spent using a keyboard. In fact, I have a special mechanical keyboard that I use with my desktop for most of my work. It has a fun clicking sound as I type, which is nice. More importantly, it is designed to fight fatigue for those who type for long periods of time.

Does it work? I think it helps. I like it. This does not mean that I prefer typing over using a pen and paper. I like both, and when I am writing by hand I appreciate that I am adept at writing in cursive. Sad to think that cursive handwriting is not being taught in schools any longer.

Palmer Method alphabet
Example of the Palmer Method of Cursive Handwriting

Benefits of Cursive Handwriting 

There are lots of good arguments for writing in cursive. For me, the benefits are personal but there are lots of educators, psychologists, and researchers who argue that handwriting, particularly cursive or script handwriting, benefits the human brain.

Why I Like Cursive Handwriting 

  • It’s faster than printing your words.  Personally, I like cursive handwriting for the purpose given to me long ago by my teachers: it is a faster way to get thoughts down on paper when you are writing by hand. That’s true. (Sure, typing is faster than both.) 
  • It’s also pretty. I like using cursive handwriting in thank you notes, birthday cards, etc. It also makes my planners look nice. 
  • It’s great to use in brain dumps. When I am trying to dump all sorts of random thoughts down on paper, I appreciate cursive handwriting. It may lose some of its beauty with the speed, but it works well when I’m fighting to get control over all that junk in my head by getting it down on paper. 
  • It’s nice to use in my journals. I have been journaling all my life, it seems. Diaries, if you will. I have tried to journal online, but it’s not the same. Writing down entries in my journal suits me, it seems more personal maybe. Or it’s just one more excuse to use a nice pen. (I admit to being a pen addict.) 

The Science of Handwriting and Your Brain 

However, these are just my reasons for using cursive handwriting. From some news stories I’ve collected over the years, it appears that there are some scientific reasons to use cursive handwriting, too.

For instance, from the Neuroscience section of The Guardian, an interesting article discussing how cursive handwriting may have an impact on how we learn – including how we read and assimilate information.

And in Mental Floss, coverage of the trend to return handwriting back to the classroom, after Common Core removed any kind of handwriting instruction (print or script) from schools. Why? Cursive handwriting helps you learn as it connects your motor skills (what your hand is doing) with your mental thought processes (what you’re thinking) in ways that typing does not.

More discussion on the connection between cursive handwriting and cognitive abilities in the following articles:

Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter,” by William R. Klemm, Ph.D., published in Psychology Today;

How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas,” by Gwendolyn Bounds, published by the Wall Street Journal; and

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” by Maria Konnikova, published in the New York Times.

How to Write in Cursive Handwriting 

Wanna try it?  If you didn’t learn cursive in school, or if you are very rusty, then surf around for online instruction. For instance, there are some nice practice worksheets provided online at HandwritingWorksheets.

September 12, 2016

Choosing the Kind of Paper Planner for Managing Your Time: My Road to Planner Peace

Time Management Tools: I prefer the old school paper and pen approach.

Productivity and time management are popular topics these days – but most of the stuff that I read on the web has to do with software.  Calendars like those offered by Google; task lists and project management that can be coordinated between phones and laptops through online tools like Trello or Asana.

Sure, I use Google Calendar.  I like it.  However, when it comes to keeping track of my time, from my calendar for the week or month, to how I will be spending my day, I prefer to use pen and paper. 

That’s right.   I use a physical planner made of paper, and I don’t use a time management system that appears on a screen. 

Why I Like Paper Planners Instead of Online Time Management Tools

Why a paper planner?  I enjoy them.   It’s fun to use a paper planner.  Fine!  Okay.  I love pens.  

Pens!!!  Blue ink, black ink, green, red, or purple: always a fine point, preferably an extra fine.  I like to write as much or more as I like to type. 

Plus I like buying pens.  Using planners is another reason to feed my pen habit.   

Some people like shoes, I like pens. 

However, I do think that working with a paper planner works better for me.  It makes me stop and think in more detail about how I will be spending my time – it’s too easy for me to type in an entry here or there and keep going without much thought.

Writing the events into the paper planner’s calendar makes them more of a commitment, somehow.  

Deciding how I am going to delegate my 10 hour work day between three rush projects is less stressful for me when I’m using pen and paper. 

Maybe I’m strange in this; maybe not.  I just know what works best for me, and it’s not keeping track of time on a computer screen. 

Different Kinds of Paper Planners and Finding Planner Peace

Not that dedicating myself to paper planners for my time management has been the end of the road in decision-making here.  Nope.

Why?  For me, once I got to the stage of deciding I would be using a paper planner, then I had to decide which kind of paper planner I wanted, and which system I preferred.

There’s a phrase to describe this process:  it’s the search for “planner peace.” 

And I’ve learned that if you do find your planner peace, don’t get comfortable – as time goes on and your life evolves, that peace may evaporate and you’ll be back on the hunt again. 

Not to say this doesn’t have its perks. For one thing, you may have more excuses (ahem, reasons) to buy fun things like stickers … and pens!!!

6 Kinds of Paper Planners - My Reviews

There are all sorts of paper planners out there.  Here are six that I’ve personally tested and liked, for various reasons.

Franklin Covey Planner

I used a Franklin Planner for many, many years.  The most that I ever did was change the size.  I’ve had them all: Classic, Pocket, Compact, and Monarch.  The key thing about using a Franklin Planner is the system it provides:  you are working with a planning system set up to sync with Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  

You can use these paper planners without reading the book or going to the Franklin Covey classes, sure, but these planners work best if you understand them as tools for this approach to time management.

What I like best about these planners:  the time sheet feature, where you can keep track of your day as it progresses.  Reminds me of my years as a Baby Lawyer, writing down my time on my time sheet each afternoon before I left the office. 

DayRunner Planner

The Day Runner Planners are designed to compete with Franklin Covey.  They cost less.  Similar additions are available for purchase, too: things like contact Information lists; lined paper pads; pocket dividers; etc.

You can get them at your local office supply store, which is really convenient.  (And it’s so near their pen aisle.)

BlueSky Planner

When I first veered away from Franklin Covey-esque Planners, and I admit to feeling a bit rebellious in doing so, I bought a Blue Sky Planner at Border’s Book Store.  Since Border’s is long gone, that should give you a hint on how long ago this happened, right?

Mine was pink.  It was pretty. 

How did it work for me?  Well, it was a change. Here, there’s a spiral ring binder system holding your planner’s inner workings together.  No ring binder like the Franklin Planner, which I did come to miss.  I like adding things into my planner – it’s not the same to clip or tape something into a spiral bound planner as it is to punch holes and insert it into the rings.  I like that.   

However, I did enjoy the ease of use here.  Less muss and fuss.  I didn’t have to ask myself if I was “SharpeningMy Saw” (a key component of the Franklin system). 

However, it didn’t offer me a daily time sheet and I missed it.  Plus, I started making my own To Do Lists on separate paper (or index cards), which I clipped into the Blue Sky Planner.  That got bulky and hard to control.

So, my search continued.

Tools for Wisdom Planner

My next step in my search for planner peace was a Tools4Wisdom Planner.

I bought this one off of Amazon after searching online about planners for a bit.  It seemed to combine what I liked about the Franklin, which is the ability to keep track of my time during the day, with the more informal and light approach to time management.

It had pretty graphics with inspirational quotes, for instance.  

And while it was another spiral binder, I was willing to get it a try.

I don’t think it lasted the year.  

Happy Planner

After the Tools for Wisdom fiasco, I tried using online time management tools for a bit.  It didn’t feel right for me.  I wanted to go back to paper, but not to Franklin Covey – though I was leaning toward returning to them when I discovered the Happy Planner.

For many, a Happy Planner is a less expensive alternative to an Erin Condren planner.  I get that.  

However, I was none too sure about using one of these whimsical planners, where a new world of stickers and washi tape (what, washi tape?!! Oh my!!! Fun stuff!!!) was open to me.

I suppose you could put some washi tape on a Franklin Covey planner, and I did try it.  It felt bad.  It just seemed wrong somehow.

But washi tape on a Happy Planner?  Zowie!  That was fun.  Stickers on a Happy Planner?  Ditto.

I bought a Happy Planner with a coupon at Hobby Lobby for around ten bucks.  That's simple living, folks ... and I was happy right off the bat, when I compared that price tag to a comparable Erin Condren! (Not that they aren't nice, of course.)

I'm so grateful for that Happy Planner.  I learned that having this planner freed me somehow, allowed me to be creative in building my monthly plan, or weekly plan.  

This was fun, and it brought me back to that planner more and more often just because it was a pleasure to work with all this creative stuff.  I used it more.  I got more done.  That's key.  

Now, Happy Planners don’t have a time sheet function.  That’s a problem.  However, they do come in a format that breaks each day into “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening,” which I like.  So it has time blocks, but not the actual hours. 

There are horizontal spreads and vertical spreads (I prefer the vertical).  And they do have a nifty ring-binder like method of holding the pages together.  See those gold gizmos on the side in the image?  Martha Stewart likes these gizmos, she sells a planner version with its disc-binding at Staple's, I believe.  

As for the Happy Planners, they do make me happy.  I still use one today, but they aren’t the ones that I think are bringing me planner peace.  At least, not by themselves.  

For that, I’m able to pick up just about any paper notebook because I’ve discovered Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journaling with a Moleskine

Today, I have a blue Moleskine notebook that I call my “Blue Brain” and here I track my goals, my projects, the meals I eat, well … just about everything.  I use all sort of pens here, and I get to try out my cursive handwriting as well as doodles, too. 

I have a second basic notebook, leather and a Moleskine-wannabe, that I use specifically for my daily stuff.  Each day, day by day, is recorded in here. 

My month at a glance remains in my Happy Planner.  Ditto my Week at a Glance.

But the guts of my day gets recorded using the bullet journaling method.  This includes diary entries as need be. 

Keeping track of all my personal stuff that I will need over time goes in the Blue Brain. 

This is working for me … for now.  

Have I achieved planner peace?  Maybe I have.  I think so.

September 11, 2016

Free Public Domain Image No. 2 - Encouraging Word

I created this image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain.

This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.

Philippians 4:6 

Scripture source is the World English Bible - a version placed into the public domain. 

September 7, 2016

Mosquito Gizmo That Works: ThermaCell Mosquito Repeller Review

This Mosquito Device Is Working Great on Our Texas Patio 

This spring, we saw lots of storms here in South Texas. Big Texas Thunderstorms, with thunder and lightning and drenching downpours. 

They come and go fast here – it’s true that if you don’t like the weather in Texas, just wait 30 minutes. It’ll change.

One thing, though. As soon as those storms come with all that rain we can count on one thing not changing: the skeeters’ arrival. They were really, really bad this June.

On the phone, I was comparing how bad things were here in San Antonio to the mosquito problem a friend was having over in Miami. We couldn’t decide which was worse (this was pre-Zika).

So, I surfed around on Amazon and found this cute little “mosquito repeller” for a nice price. And it was pink. How could I not give it a try?

I Ordered a Pink Thermacell Mosquito Repellent 


It was really easy to put together and it was silent as it sat on our black metal patio table that evening. Key here, though, is that it WORKED.

I would turn it on about 15 minutes before we were going to go outside. Morning or evening (I like to start my day at dawn, out on the patio if weather permits).

And no skitters! Now, there were still flies. It doesn’t stop the flies from buzzing around my coffee cup.

This Thing Really Worked: It Kept the Skeeters Away

There’s also the need to buy replacement butane cartridges as well as the little “repellant mats” that you slide behind the gizmo’s grill. (It works by heating the “mats” which release an odor that the mosquitos hate. You can’t smell it.)

Lesson to remember: You need to turn off the device when you’re done sitting outside. This will keep your little butane burner supply around a lot longer.

I made the mistake of forgetting to turn it off because I was busy blabbing with a friend who popped in to visit, and when I returned to my little oasis, I was out of fuel. About thirty minutes later, the skitters were back and I was online, reordering a refill pack.

September 5, 2016

What are Dollar Tree Hauls?

I’m addicted to watching Dollar Tree Hauls on YouTube.  Here’s why.

Right off the bat, you have to know about Dollar Tree before this will make any sense to you.  And you have to know that I’m an enthusiastic fan of this chain of stores. 

I’ve been shopping at Dollar Tree for years. 

I can’t remember when I first entered into a Dollar Tree store, but I know that I was writing about making homemade dishwashing soap using stuff from Dollar Tree back in July 2006.  

Yikes! That was over ten years ago!  Wow. 

And as a long time shopper at Dollar Tree, I can confirm that shopping there gets better as time passes – something I don’t know that I can say about some of the other places where I spend my money.  You?

Example?  Back in September 2013, I was excited to find really great books at my local Dollar Tree. Good stuff, not strange topics by unknown authors.   

I remember being soooo excited to find several Janet Evanovich paperbacks there – I really love her Stephanie Plum series.  Well, most of it.  But that’s another topic, for another day.  Plum series lovers know what I’m talking about here ….

What is Dollar Tree?

Dollar Tree is a national chain of stores where every product sold is priced at $1.00.  That’s right: One Dollar. 

There are competitors out there that have Dollar in their name, but they don’t have the same deal once you go inside.  They will have products that cost more than a buck.

Two big selling points for me and my Dollar Tree loyalty:  first, the stuff that they sell isn’t junky or dirty or dusty on the shelves.  Many of the Dollar Tree items are good quality.  You can find name brands there, too.

For instance, their web site is promoting Betty Crocker Food Storage Containers with Lids this week, for $1.00 per pack.  And there’s an in-store special of Top Ramen five-packs for a dollar, in case your kids (or you) want to try Kylie Jenner’s Ramen recipe with garlic salt and butter.

The second selling point for me:  most of these stores are clean and tidy, with helpful clerks, and well-stocked shelves.  Not all of them, but almost all of them.  And they are located in nice shopping strips or centers, with good lighting and ample parking space.

So, now that you have the warning that I’m a big Dollar Tree fan and what Dollar Tree is selling, let’s get to the Dollar Tree Hauls.

Hauls of Dollar Tree Stuff on YouTube

Dollar Tree Hauls have been around for a while -- at least a year.  I stumbled upon them on YouTube after I added the YouTube channel on my Roku Streaming Device. 

These are short videos (anywhere from a couple of minutes to around 20 minutes long) where real people are showing you the bargains that they’ve found at their local Dollar Tree. 

Some of these folk go there every single day – or pretty close to it.  Some of them upload Hauls every so often, maybe with a theme (School Supplies at Dollar Tree) or with reviews (products they or their families love, like Joanne DelBalso’s family addiction to Dollar Tree pretzels with cheese). 

3 August 2016 Dollar Tree Haul Videos on YouTube

Here are a few of the Haulers who shop their local Dollar Trees that I watch on a pretty regular basis.  

One is shopping on the East Coast, one on the West Coast; it’s interesting to see what they are finding that isn’t in my San Antonio store.  Sometimes, it’s a hint to be on the lookout for something that is coming in the next couple of weeks.

Now, these three videos are just a sample – surf “Dollar Tree Hauls” on YouTube for yourself, and see what you find. 

September 4, 2016

Free Public Domain Image No. 1 - Encouraging Word

I created this image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain.

This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.

2 Samuel 22:31 

Scripture source is the World English Bible - a version placed into the public domain. 
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