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

September 7, 2017

Equifax Data Breach: How to Watch Your Back for Identity Theft

I suppose the biggest hint of how serious this news release is for all of us is the fact that the Big Kahunas at Equifax jumped ship before the hack went public. 

Well, that and the timing of this big story while all of the media spotlights are shining on South Florida in expectation of Hurricane Irma. 

So, you need to assume you’re screwed here and do something.  But what? 

Their Site is Sneaky in How It Lets You Know You’ve Been Compromised

If you go to their site, and follow their steps, you’ll get a request to enter the last six digits of your SSN with your last name.  Then you get a message that you will receive their free Identity Theft coverage for one year … but you’ll have to come back on the date that’s given in order to join up. 

Yes, that’s right.  They want you to input the last six digits of your SSN into a site they’ve just admitted was compromised. 

In South Texas, we say they’ve sure got some big huevos, boy howdy.

And that’s it.  That’s the only tip to you that some of your personal information has been stolen from the site.  They don’t give you any details.  Heck, they don’t even tell you “yes, your information is involved.” All you get is this little invite popping up. 

But right now, their site is still sneaky in how it’s letting you know that you’re a part of the pack that’s been exposed to the Dark Side. 

What Can You Do Right Now?

So, what can you do, now that you know your personal information is out there, somewhere? 

1.  Have I Been Pwned

Well, Kim Komando recommends going over to the web site “Have I Been Pwned” – and that’s good advice. 

Be prepared, you’re not going to like what it tells you.  But at least you know, and can take action.

And you can sign up so the site will give you notice in the future if your accounts have been breached at other sites (like LinkedIn, or Adobe, or Dropbox). 

2. Identity Theft Protection or Credit Freeze

Next, you can get yourself some Identity Theft Protection.  That’s the freebie for one year that Equifax is offering you in the sneaky message affirming that your information on their site has been hacked.

Silly me, but I don’t know that I want to trust their Theft Protection service.  Call me paranoid. 

So, I surfed around and discovered advice from Steve Weisman, a law professor and cybercrime expert, who blogs at

In his April 22, 2017, USA Today piece entitled “Is identity theft protection worth it?” Mr. Weisman suggests that maybe it’s not the best course to take.

Instead, he suggests a “credit freeze.”  Go read his article – makes good sense. 

3.  Change Those Passwords

And, of course, you need to go and change those passwords.  Use different ones for each account, too. 

And I’m reading lots of folk suggesting that you do the two-step authentication for added security.  Problem is:  that in and of itself may open you up to being hacked.  Whattha?  Yep. 

Check out the May 2017 article by Joseph Cox in Vice, entitled “We Were Warned About Flaws in the Mobile Data Backbone for Years. Now 2FA Is Screwed.” The key language here (and the scary part):

"Everyone's accounts protected by text-based two-factor authentication, such as bank accounts, are potentially at risk until the FCC and telecom industry fix the devastating SS7 security flaw," Lieu said in a statement published Wednesday. "I urge the Republican-controlled Congress to hold immediate hearings on this issue."

4. Visit the FTC Site

Finally, you can visit the government site which stores lots of information about identity theft.  Like the following things you need to know because Equifax has been hacked.

What Do Thieves Do With Your Information?
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.

Clues That Someone Has Stolen Your Information
  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail.
  • Merchants refuse your checks.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account
  • If your wallet, Social Security number, or other personal information is lost or stolen, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft.  

Equifax’s Explanation of What Went Wrong

So, what has happened here, anyway?  Equifax has issued a long news release giving details.   I’ve inserted the full text of their news release, entitled “Consumer Notice” below for your convenience. 

Notice that they are telling you that “names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers … [and] credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers and certain dispute documents… have been stolen.

At Equifax, protecting the security of the information in our possession is a responsibility we take very seriously. This is to notify you of a data security incident that may have exposed some of your personal information, including your Social Security number and other identifying information. This

August 31, 2017

Food Prices: Comparing My Groceries in 2008, 2011, and 2017

How high is your grocery bill?  And are we paying lots more now than just a few years ago?  Seems like it to me.  And then I remembered my old personal survey that I did back as blog posts in January 2008 and again in March 2011.

So I decided to do it again. 

And now, because my local grocery store offers online shopping you can double-check my tally if you like.  Or just compare what food costs us here in San Antonio as opposed to your super market.

Comparing 10 Grocery Items: Prices in 2008, 2011, and Today 

Here goes.  And again, this isn’t official statistical analysis.  Back in 2008, I ran to the store for a few things.  I used the receipt for that post.  And here we are. 

Dole Yellow Bananas (higher)

·        .39/lb in 2008;
·        .38/lb in 2011;
·        .45/lb. in 2017 (I had to go with Del Monte because they didn’t have Dole). 

Small Limes (non-organic) (same) 

·        5/$1.00 in 2008;
·        4/$1.00 in 2011;
·        5/$1.00 in 2017. 

Store Brand Cage Free Brown Eggs – One Dozen (more than 2008, less than 2011) 

·        $1.99 in 2008;
·        $4.10 in 2011;
·        $2.76 in 2017. 

Silk Unsweetened Soy Milk -- Half Gallon (more) 

·        $2.79 in 2008;
·        $2.76 in 2011;
·        $3.28 in 2017.  

Store Brand 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup (more than doubled in price) 

·        $0.75 in 2008;
·        $0.72 in 2011;
·        $1.87 in 2017. 

Store Brand Canned Diced Tomatoes 15 oz. (a penny less than 2011) 

·        $.59 in 2008 (15 oz.);
·        $.75 in 2011, for a 14.50 oz. can;
·        $ 2017, for a 14.50 can. 

Regular Ground Beef Chuck 70/30 – One Pound (more) 

·        $2.08 in 2008;
·        $2.38 in 2011;
·        $3.07/lb. in 2017 for 73% / 27% (they didn’t have 70/30). 

Suave Invisible Solid Powder Deodorant (more than 2008, less than 2011) 

·        $1.48 in 2008;
·        $1.72; in 2011;
·        $1.55 in 2017. 

Store Brand Frozen Green Sweet Peas - 16 oz. bag (non-organic) (more) 

·        $0.92 in 2008;
·        $1.07; in 2011;
·        $1.32 in 2017.   

Barilla Plus Multi Grain Rotini Pasta (more than 2008; two pennies more than 2011) 

·        $1.65. in 2008 for a 16 oz. box;
·        $1.98 in 2011 for a 14.50 oz. box;
·        $2.00 in 2017 for a 14.50 oz box. 

Now, again, this isn’t a serious statistical analysis.  You can read formal research on food prices here.  I’m not delving into things like the “elasticity of food prices.”  Yawn.

I’m just comparing this stuff because I’m curious.  And food does cost more now than in 2008; or 2011, for that matter. Maybe not as big of a difference in the last six years, though.

And maybe there are other things going on.  For instance, I don’t by soy milk anymore.  Or deodorant that contains aluminum.  And I never buy beef.  

It’s interesting and it’s something to ponder.  So I’m sharing this with you today, Dear Reader.

How do these prices compare with your neighborhood market?