December 3, 2017

Dollar Tree Toys Might Be Toxic

Dollar Tree is a great place to find bargains on kids’ toys.  There are stocking stuffers for Christmas; party favors for birthday parties; fillers for Easter Baskets.  

 Thing is: some of those toys may be dangerous and even toxic for children.  


Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Of course, this is a much bigger problem than bargains at the dollar store.  The sad truth is that there are a shocking amount of toys marketed to kids of all ages that are dangerous and can hurt or even kill them.  They are sold all over the country, at all price points, at trusted stores like Target and Walmart and made by trusted companies like Hallmark and Mattel. 

In fact, each year since 1973, the safety group World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) publishes its annual Top 10 Most Dangerous Toys List.   

Read the list of the Most Dangerous Toys of 2017 here.  

Dangers and Toy Recalls

Dangers can come from flaws in the design of the product, or in the failure of a particular product to function properly.  Toys can also be dangerous because of what is used to make them.  Kids – even older kids – may ingest or inhale materials or chemicals from the toy that can hurt them.  They can be cut or burned or caused to fall.  

It's usually after kids get hurt and the injuries get reported that there may be recalls. 

Report Testing Dollar Store Products for Toxins Finds 81% Positive for Hazardous Chemical

Dollar Tree is not an exception.  Two years ago, the Campaign for Healthier Solutions tested 164 products from Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, 99 Cents Only, and Dollar General.  

They tested for a variety of toxins (arsenic, lead, mercury, tin, antimony, bromine, and chlorine) as well as phthalate and no-phthalate plasticizers.  Result?  

  • 81% of Dollar Tree products  had at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern;
  • 49% of Dollar Tree products contained two or more toxic chemicals above safety levels;
  • 38% of Dollar Tree products contained dangerous vinyl plastic; and of these vinyl products, a high percentage contained toxic phthalates above the CPSC limits for children’s products.
For more details, see the summary in an article entitled “Dollar Store Report, 2015,”published by the non-profit Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  

From the report on Dollar Tree findings, there were things like beaded necklaces and artificial nails, and toys that include:

·         Bath toys
·         Favor surprises
·         Inflatable dinosaurs
·         Jumpin’ frogs
·         Mermaid Sirene (Doll, Hairbrush, Tail, Torso)
·         Paddleball
·         Princess Rings
·         Princess Wand
·         Table Tennis
·         The Amazing Spiderman 2 Coin Bank
·         Tiaras
·         Ultimate Spiderman Dog Tags
·         Zyrofoam.
/ .

What about Dollar Tree Toys Today?  We Don’t Know


Of course, this report was published in 2015, so no worries now right?  Wrong.  

In June 2017, Kimberly Pierceall’s article in The Virginian-Pilot was published, entitled “Dollar Tree says it’s protecting consumers from toxic chemicals.  Group wants proof.   

Read the story and you’ll learn the details about how the company had no proof to offer shareholders at the 2017 shareholder’s meeting. 

Seems that Dollar Tree wrote some letters….  No feedback on any changes being made in the actual products being sold in the stores. 

And, at the Dollar Tree site, there are only three recalls listed: one in 2014 and two in 2015.  None are toys.  

Of Particular Concern: Lead Levels in Toys

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn there are children in the United States today that have scary levels of lead coursing through their blood.  Children may not exhibit any health symptoms even if they have been exposed to lead and had in it their systems.   

Things like fidget spinners can have toxic lead levels.  You can’t just look at a toy and know that it’s safe from lead exposure.  And lead poisoning is scary (see the CDC Infographic here).

Sure, toddlers may try and stuff a toy or a part of a toy into their mouths.  But think about it:  imagine a tween girl who has her plastic necklace looped in her mouth while watching TV, or a teenager who holds a plastic dog tag in their mouth while they’re tying their shoes?   

It’s not just the tiny ones that are at risk here.


Be Careful Before You Buy Toys at Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree is a great place to shop.  I’m not suggesting you stop shopping there!  I’m considering buying some toys there for the Salvation Army Angel Tree program myself this afternoon.   

But remember this:

1   You cannot trust the toys just because they’ve made it to the store shelves.  Dangerous toys are sold every day in this country. 

2.  You cannot trust the toys even if they have a name brand on the label.  The big toy makers are as guilty of putting dangerous stuff out there into the marketplace as any shop in China; recognizing the manufacturer isn’t a guarantee of safety.  

So, I am educating myself on what dangerous toys may look like from sites like WATCH’s and I’m checking the recall sites, too.   If there is metal, maybe I won’t buy that toy because of the CDC’s lead warnings. 

And I’m suggesting, Dear Reader, that maybe you might want to do this, too. 

November 24, 2017

Dollar Tree Book of the Week: Alas, Babylon

This is my third Dollar Tree Book of the Week (see my first post for details). I discovered a sci-fi classic that's been around since 1959. 

It's Pat Frank's Alas Babylon in a Harper Perennial Olive Edition that is priced at $9.74 right now on  There are cheaper alternatives both in paperback and digital, but this is the edition that I found at Dollar Tree this week.

Read about it on Goodreads

And yes, I got an American classic, in pristine condition with great quality white pages, for a buck.  Finding great books at Dollar Tree never gets old!

November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Day Toasts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and most likely you already have a tradition on how the meal begins.  Perhaps it's a prayer.  Maybe your family likes to start off with everyone going around the table sharing something they are grateful for this year. 

Could be there's a toast or two.  Am I right? 

Toasts are great -- and they can start the festivities off with a flair or add something more to the meal.  But what to say, besides "Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!" or "Okay, Let's Eat!"

Thanksgiving Toasts

Here's are a few from the collections at and that you might enjoy reciting tomorrow (check out the sites for their full lists):

  • “For each new morning with its light. For rest and shelter of the night. For health and food, for love and friends. For everything Thy goodness sends.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Remember God’s bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!” – Henry Ward Beecher
  • "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." - William Arthur Ward
  • "We can only be said to be alive in those moment when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." -- Thorton Wilder 

... and please have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday, Dear Reader!

November 13, 2017

Dollar Tree Book of the Week: The Great Santini

This is my second Dollar Tree Book of the Week (see my earlier post for details).  I'm still reeling that I found something written by Pat Conroy at the DT.  What a find!  Pat Conroy is one of my favorite writers. 

Here's what I brought home -- The Great Santini by Pat Conroy, in paperback:

Maybe you recognize it from the movie version.  This 1976 novel was made into a movie with Robert Duvall in the title role, 1979's "The Great Santini."  It also starred Michael O'Keefe and Blythe Danner -- but Duvall really made that film IMHO. 

It was a good movie.  Critics loved it (94% at Rotten Tomatoes), but for me the book was so much better.  Maybe it was because I knew before I started reading it long ago that it was based on Pat Conroy's difficult childhood and that Santini, in many ways, was his abusive dad

And I got this paperback, crisp and clean, for a buck at the Dollar Tree.  What a treasure!!!!!

November 11, 2017

Resistant Starch and Gut Health: Pasta, Rice, and Potatoes Are Cool Again

Last fall, I discovered “resistant starch” and shared research about how eating cold potatoes was good for you because they contain this stuff.  See, “Resistant Starch: Potatoes are Good for You (Again).”

But silly me, I went off and forgot about it.  I had programmed myself against eating white stuff like bread and potatoes and rice for so long, I guess.  I skipped along, going my merry way, and never got on board with intentionally eating sources of resistant starch.

Big mistake.

Last month, I returned to investigating sources of “resistant starch” after the topic popped up in one of my research projects.  Turns out, I was including some forms of resistant starch in my diet (beans, for instance).  Good news.  But not enough, and not daily.  

Gut Health Boosted With Cold Potatoes

For personal reasons I’m not sharing here, focusing on my gut health is very, very important to me.  Gotta do it. 

So, beginning in October 2017, I started making sure that every day I had some form of these short-chain fatty acids in my diet. 

I ate cold potato salad.  I added some cold beans to my salads.  I tried a green banana or two (yucky).

And I noticed a difference.  I felt better.  I had more energy.  Emotionally, I was peppy.

This month, I’m delving into cold brown rice and rye bread.  Reuben sandwiches, yum!!! 

Brown Rice and Reuben Sandwiches

So, Dear Reader, if you want to do more for your intestinal gut health (and of course you do, it’s your “second brain” after all), then maybe you’ll like to eat more cold potato salad, too.

For more information, check out:

9 Foods That Are High in Resistant Starch, by by Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN and published by Healthline on October 6, 2016;

Keenan, Michael J., et al. "Role of resistant starch in improving gut health, adiposity, and insulin resistance." Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 6.2 (2015): 198-205.'

Sawicki, Caleigh M., et al. "Evidence Mapping: Resistant Starch Interventions and Health Outcomes." Diabetes 3 (2016): 5.

November 3, 2017

Dollar Tree Book of the Week: The Man Who Was Thursday

I know there are arguments against buying new books cheap (remainders). The big one:  the author will not be paid anything from the sale. 

So when I see a new book at a low price, it gives me pause.  Still, when I see a treasure at the Dollar Tree, which happens more and more often these days, I grab it up.

It's an amazing thing, to find great books for a buck -- and with the bargain, there's this feeling that I'm saving them somehow.  How can they tossed aside like this?  They need love. 

So I buy them.  And I'm buying more and more. 

In fact, so many wonderful books are showing up at my local Dollar Tree, I thought I'd start sharing them with you.

Maybe you, like me, Dear Reader will feel like you've discovered treasure too ....

My Dollar Tree Book of the Week

This week's Dollar Tree Book of the Week, The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton, published by Penguin Classics:

Look carefully, and you'll see a quote from Kingsley Amis on the cover, "The most thrilling book I have ever read."

For more on the book, check out Wikipedia, Goodreads, or the 2016 movie.

And, yes, I know it's in the public domain over at Gutenberg.  Doesn't take away from the excitement of finding this book on a DT shelf.  

October 30, 2017

Queen Elizabeth, Kate, and Me: Our Favorite Essie Nail Polish Is Non-Toxic

Simple living means many things to many people, of course.  For me, one of my lifestyle changes has been to do my own manicures and pedicures.

My initial incentive here was saving cash.

However, an added bonus has been safety. I've learned that pedicures come with all sorts of nasty health hazards. I discovered that most nail polish is toxic.

Which is why I'm happy to report that my favorite nail polish, which you can buy on Amazon or at Target, is a pretty light pink shade called "Ballet Slippers" by Essie.  That's it in the image below.  Nice, isn't it? 

Essie is a non-toxic brand of nail polish. There are others, if you want to shop around.

Queen Elizabeth and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge 

And if saving money doesn't spur you to action, much less having toxic chemicals seeping into your nail beds, consider this:  This same Essie shade (Ballet Slippers) is said to be the favorite nail polish of Queen Elizabeth and Kate Middleton.

My. Who knew the royals were so simple-savvy? 


October 18, 2017

Salvage Stores: When You Want to Buy New Stuff at Thrift Store Prices

Thrift stores offer amazing buys, but there are drawbacks.  For one thing, this stuff is used and lots of people are wary about buying used merchandise.  Repairs may be needed.  Some fixes are obvious, mending a hem or sewing on a button.  Others are not, like faulty wiring.  

Shopping at a Thrift Store

Then there’s the thrift store experience.  The inventory turns over rapidly, and their stuff isn’t placed prettily on the shelves.  Stuff is stacked, clothes are shoved onto racks.  You have to search through lots of things to find your treasures in a thrift store.  Dig through bins.  Look through the dishware stacks on the lower shelves. 

But the prices!  Thrift store finds can be amazing, especially for savvy shoppers with experience in thrifting. 

So, what if you want that thrift store price but you want new stuff?  You want things from nice stores, no previous owner, and still in their packaging – for pennies on the dollar?

Well, then you may want to investigate salvage stores in your area….

New Stuff for Sale at Salvage Stores

There are different kinds of salvage stores.  Here in San Antonio, for instance, we have more than one salvage store that sells “architectural salvage.”  That’s not what you want. 

You’re looking for stores like these, some selling merchandise and some selling food items:

1. New Merchandise at Thrift Store Prices


Some salvage stores sell stuff.  New stuff; good stuff.  You’re still going to have to sort through the inventory, but you are looking at new products. 

Example:  Dirt Cheap

The Dirt Cheap chain has stores in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee.  They are closed on Sunday.

How do they explain their store?  From their site:

“With over 90 locations across eight states, Dirt Cheap is a bargain hunter's paradise.  We offer leading private label and name brand merchandise for as much as 30-90% off regular retail prices.  …  We purchase our merchandise from retailers all over the country, so we may carry items that you would not usually find in your region.  Our merchandise changes weekly, and sometimes daily, so it pays to stop in often!"

2. Food Bargains at Salvage Stores

There are also salvage stores that sell food.  Groceries at really low prices (like a quarter for a soda).

Example:  AAA Freight Salvage

 This is a local salvage store with all sorts of online five-star ratings.  Surf the web for similar locally-operated salvage stores in your area. 

Here’s the thing: it’s a food salvage store.  One Facebook reviewer describes it as the T.J. Maxx and Marshall's for groceries.  

Test the Waters with YouTube Hauls

If you want to get the feel for shopping at a salvage store before venturing forth, then check out “Dirt Cheap Store Hauls” on YouTube. 

Shoppers there will take you on tours of their stores, as well as share their bargain finds. Here’s one for you:

September 29, 2017

Walmart vs H-E-B Price Comparison: Guess Who Wins?

Where does your food budget dollar get the most bang for its buck?  Well, here in San Antonio, you're gonna find better prices at Walmart for most everything.  

I was surprised by this but after surfing around both their sites for my own grocery list as well as some products that just popped into my head (like Nutella; I never buy it), Walmart beat my local H-E-B chain hands down.  Wow.  Here's what I found:

Prices are from the online websites for Walmart Grocery and H-E-B Curbside Pickup as of September 28, 2017.  I started checking Amazon Prime as well, but it got ridiculous.  There’s no comparison (yet) on grocery prices between your local grocery chain and Amazon’s online service.  Amazon is WAY higher.

Fifteen products are listed.  Prices for each product appear from lowest price to highest price.  Only edible items are included here (no aluminum foil or parchment paper or toilet paper comparisons). 

Winner:  Walmart.  No contest.  

1.  Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother) 32 oz.

  •  Walmart  $5.98
  •   H-E-B  $6.16

2.  Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Mixed Berry Four Pack

  • ·         Walmart $3.47 
  • ·         H-E-B $3.57

3.  Nabisco Triscuit Crackers Reduced Fat 8.0 oz.

  • ·         Walmart $2.56
  • ·         H-E-B $2.64

4.  Seedless Red Grapes, 1 Lb.

  • ·         H-E-B  0.87 per pound
  • ·         Walmart 1.88 per pound

5.  Dole Salad Spring Mix, 10.0 OZ (Clamshell Container)

  • ·         Walmart $4.68
  • ·         H-E-B $5.13

6.  Chicken of the Sea Chunk Style Pink Salmon In Water,5 oz

  • ·         Walmart $1.22
  • ·         H-E-B $1.26

7.  Smartfood Popcorn, Variety Pack, 0.5 Oz, 20 Ct

  • ·         H-E-B $6.16
  • ·         Walmart $6.98

8. DiGiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza, 27.5 oz

  • ·         H-E-B $5.47 and Walmart $5.47

9.  Stevia in the Raw Zero Calorie Sweetener Packets, 50 each

  • ·         Walmart $2.77
  • ·         H-E-B $2.85

10.  Sara Lee Delightful 45 Calories Healthy Multi-Grain Bread

  • ·         Walmart $2.84
  • ·         H-E-B $2.93

11.  Lactaid Reduced Fat 2% Milkfat Milk, 96 oz

  • ·         H-E-B $5.84 and Walmart $5.84

12. General Mills Multi-Grain Cheerios, 18 oz

  • ·         Walmart $3.28
  • ·         H-E-B $3.48

13.   Nutella Hazelnut Spread with Skim Milk & Cocoa, 13 oz

  • ·         Walmart $3.48
  • ·         H-E-B $3.58

14.  Oreo Sandwich Cookies, Chocolate, 14.3 Oz

  • ·         Walmart $2.98
  • ·         H-E-B $3.07

15.  Prego Traditional Pasta Sauce,24 oz

  • ·         Walmart $1.84
  • ·         H-E-B $1.90
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