Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Greening the Last Frontiers

I've been trying to replace many of my remaining day-to-day bad eco-habits with good eco-habits and I'm down to a few remaining vices. The last to go are tampons, pantyliners, cotton pads for toner, the impossible little bits of the various handmade soaps I love so dearly, occasional paper towels, tissues, toilet paper and what we, in this house, call "butt-wipes."

So, here is the most recent run down:

Menstrual Products
I have always used Natracare tampons which are 100% cotton and not bleached with dioxins as opposed to rayon combined with conventionally grown cotton, which in the United States mean genetically modified and laden with pesticides before they bleach them with dioxins, a known carcinogen. I still feel wasteful, especially since I use the kind in the cardboard applicator. In the world of reusable menstrual products, there are many options:
  • CupsJuJu, Lunette, The Keeper & the Moon Cup, Fleurcup, LadyCup, Yuuki Cup, DivaCup, MeLuna & MeLuna Soft, CupLee, Femmecup, Mpower, SheCup, Alicia Cup, IrisCup, Miss Cup (this site is not in English), MiaCup, MCUK, Natucup  I decided to try the DivaCup, a silicone cup available widely in the United States. The original cup, the Keeper, is rubber latex and, due to my immune system, I was worried I might develop a latex allergy. Some people do not like the idea of silicone, but I believe one or more of the above cups may be made of something else. There is a learning curve with a menstrual cup, but it is quite brief and I was fine by the end of my first period with the DivaCup. Most brands have videos and/or instructive illustrations to help you navigate the new experience, but if you need additional help you can check various forums or YouTube. Because you can leave them in for so long (8-12 hours depending on your flow) you will probably not have to deal with emptying and cleaning them in public. If you do, carry a small wipe in your pouch, dampen it before entering a stall, remove and empty the cup, wiping it with tp if necessary, and then clean with the damp wipe. I use Wyspi Wipes which are tablets that expand when wet and are strong enough to be rinsed and reused several times. There are many ways to keep the cups clean; follow the instructions on the site you buy from, especially pay attention to the Keeper's instructions as they are different for rubber than for silicon. A few companies make washes for between emptyings: Lunette and DivaCup are the two I've found and I use the latter. You could stick a small cloth wipe or washcloth in your bag as well. The bag they send you is kind of dorky and a bit too small, in my opinion. I went to Etsy and found many cute choices for a personalized bag. This is the one I bought.

  • Sponges: There don't seem to be many commercial brands, and for sanitary reasons, I am loath to try to make my own. There are Sea Pearls, Luna Sponge, Levant Sponge and Jam Sponge. If you want to make your own there are many sources for sea sponges online and directions for sterilizing them are here, although I would boil them a bit longer than recommended. Just make sure they are natural sea sponges and you follow the instructions to the letter to keep them clean. If you make your own, it is generally cheaper to buy a larger one and cut them into the sizes and number you need.
  • Pads: There are so many companies and home businesses which make and sell cloth menstrual pads that I shouldn't even begin to list them here, but a few good sources are GladRags, Lunapads.com, Party in My Pants, Comfy Cloth Pads, Sorella Luna, New Moon Pads, Sckoon and Amazon. If you'd like to support work at home parents, good sources are Etsy, Ebay, Cloth Pad Shop, Cloth Menstrual Pad Database and Hyena Cart. You can also find many sources to make your own pads, just make sure you use the correct materials and find a shape you really like before you make a bunch; try sewing one or two of a few patterns and seeing which one works well for you. I suggest you do the same when buying from any source. Don't go whole hog and buy a whole supply if you're not sure what will be your favorite. I only use pantyliners occasionally and bought one from Lunapads.com with which I am not in love, so I'm looking at several options on Etsy right now to try. In any case, you will need a wet bag for travel and one for home. (I bought a double pocketed one so that I can carry dry liners in one side and wet in the other.) If you you don't want to stain treat, rinse and soak and do frequent washings, you might want to look into a soaking jar, bucket (bucket 2, bucket 3) or bag. You'll still need to change the water frequently, but you should be able to make it through the week without too much hassle. Either way, follow the washing instructions for your specific pads. These are my travel wet bag and home zippered wet bag which I am using for two other reusable items, as well. (More on that below.) The seller, Sam of MyBeautifulgirl, is a SAHM/WAHM. I also bought a reusable travel trash bag, as my old, vinyl Hello Kitty one was shot after 7 or 8 years of heavy duty use. My new one is super cute and matches my car well. Then, as a free gift/sample, Sam also sent me one of her gorgeous, super-soft wipe/small washcloth made of organic bamboo velour on one side and sherpa on the other, like the nursing pads she is currently selling.

Cotton Cosmetic Pads and Soap Savers 
I use one, sometimes two, organic, unbleached cotton pads for my face per day. Then I throw them in the trash. I searched for a cloth version for a while, but I only could find pads or cloths which were too expensive, too smooth, too rough and/or much too large. I also found that many people crocheting face "scrubbies" of Etsy were using non-organic and/or bleached or dyed yarn. I finally found a seller (amieq of Stitches N' Stones) who was crocheting  "cotton ball" sized cotton pads (appx. 2" diameter before washing, smaller than the regular  "scrubbies" which are appx. 3" diameter before washing). I "convo'ed" her and asked is she could make me 40 of the small size pads in unbleached cotton yarn and I also asked if she could make two of her soap savers in the same yarn. She not only promptly agreed to make the order, but did not charge me extra for custom yarn and I had the items in my house within six days. Now, as my soap gets to the point where it usually melts away in the dish, I can put the bits in my soap savers to exfoliate and clean myself. (I bought an extra for when the first is in the wash.) My entire order with shipping was less than $20.00 which is about what I spend on cotton pads per year and the soap savings are a little bonus! She even included two of her regular sized scrubbies in the same yarn at no extra cost as a sample/thank you gift. I'll be putting used cotton balls in the wet bag pictured above with pantyliners during that time of the month.

Toilet Paper
Toilet paper is a no go. I am much too germ- and fecal-phobic to convert the family to cloth "family wipes," which, when dampened, could also replace "butt wipes." [NOTE: At least two products included in that search are not for your bottom, so read carefully. If you use these types of wipes and have sensitive skin, please be aware that Pampers Kandoo makes the only fragrance free wipe available to the general public. There are wipes which are meant for home health care which are much more expensive, so unless you have a "thing" against Pampers, I'd skip the others.] Yes, we did use cloth diapers and cloth wipes, yet, somehow, although the concept is exactly the same, I cannot do it. Sorry, Gaia... My family--and guests, I'm sure--thank me for this. If you are so inclined, I suggest you ask the Etsy seller you choose if they can custom make wipes from organic, unbleached bamboo, which is super soft and sustainable. There are plenty of places to be found to answer any questions you might have about the logistics of "family wipes." Like I said, the logistics are the same as cloth baby wipes. Keep a container of clean, dry wipes by the toilet (along with a bottle of water with a touch of Dr. Bronner's, witch hazel, fragrance free pH balanced body wash or whatever you like diluted in it if you'd like to have moist wipes) and a bucket (such as a kitty litter bucket) or a diaper pail with an airtight lid next to the toilet as well. Depending on your preference and fabric used, you may choose to soak or not, with additives like OxiClean Baby, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or whatever you are advised by the maker of the wipes. You can buy wipes from Wallypop, Family Cloth Wipes, Etsy (link 2, link 3) and Ebay.

Tissues & Paper Towels
We use many fewer paper towels than most households. We have a full cabinet of rags made of old towels, washcloths and old, cotton clothes and sheets. We also have dozens of cloth napkins (fancy and plain, new and antique). We probably won't be getting rid of paper towels altogether anytime soon, but maybe in the next big push I can at least try to wean myself off of them.
Tissues? Well, we're a house full of people with allergies. I have dozens of beautiful hankies and sturdy white, men's handkerchiefs which I use for drippy noses and really runny noses, but the day-to-day blowing which takes places will be into disposable facial tissues for the unforeseeable future.

Every few years, we add a few more green habits to our repertoire and I think we're doing pretty well right about now.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Track Mind Tracks

When I have something on my mind, I mean really stuck in my brain, everything is about that thing. Songs and movies send me messages, the universe is collaborating and laughing at me because, even if I try, I will not get that thing, whatever it is, out of my brain. I'm not a paranoid schizophrenic; I don't really think the universe is conspiring, but it is easier to think that than to think my brain is stuck on something. (Although, the "shuffle" function of my iPod might be able to read my mood and create theme music for it... But I have heard other people say the same thing, so I do feel a bit less crazy for thinking it. Plus, you know, it is Apple... Isn't Steve Jobs kind of god-like? Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and whatnot. Maybe they figured out how to capture that in the shuffle function.)
The worst part of my brain's tenaciousness is when I am trying to figure out a person. Every thing they do--the way they move, what they eat, the set of their mouth, the color of their shoes, the music they listen to at the gym--isn't just a clue to me, but also a clue for me. Just for me. As if they know I am trying to decipher them and they decide to play along. I'm sure this obsessing is part of the reason why I find it difficult to make friends. I assume so much from the clues and I am so negative in general that these clues either add up to, "I do not like you, Kayly," or "I'm such a jerk, Kayly." Although, a few times in my youth, they added up to, "I'm a really great guy. You should totally try to date me." And the clues were so, so veddy, veddy wrong.
I've been in counseling a million times and know all about "negative thought patterns" and "dysfunctional behavior," blah blah blah. Cognitive behavioral therapy does not float my boat, though, and this behavior is so deeply rooted in who I am that I'm not sure I can change it or get rid of it, anyway.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fuck that shit!

Every year our insurance company has us take a health assessment so we can get a discount on our coverage.
I just completed mine.
I realize I am overweight. Obese, even. But the assessment just told me I need to lose sixty to NINETY pounds to be in the "healthy" range.
I haven't weighed NINETY pounds less than I do now since middle school. I was shorter, had much smaller breasts, had not given birth, was 27 years younger and people thought I was too skinny!
If I lost NINETY pounds at this point in my life, people would most definitely think I was terminally ill.
I wouldn't mind losing some weight; this is true. Due to certain health circumstances this would be difficult for me even if I was motivated and not moderately lazy and not in love with food (I don't eat a lot of food or much junk food at all, but I do eat what I like); but there is no way in HELL that I want to look like I would look if I lost NINETY pounds.
Like the title says:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dumb Dog Ain't so Dumb

We've always been convinced that Zev, the younger of our two dogs, is a bit "special." As in , um, "slow."
Tonight, however he exhibited some high level thinking, not just for himself, but for a not-human-animal.
He rang the bell on the back door and when I went to let him out Hahn got very excited and wanted to go out and Zev went into the other room, so I hooked Hahn outside instead.
When I came back in, I found that Zev had taken Hahn's pig's knuckle and went to his hiding place with it and was chewing happily on both his and Hahn's pigs' knuckles, with absolutely no interest in going outside.
Damn dog grifted the the big guy...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Early Blood

(Neither a Rambo movie nor a feministic pondering of menarche.)

I'm up late, or early, or whatever, reading and a mosquito is buzzing relentlessly around my body which is sprawled on my couch. It doesn't seem to light at all the entire time and when it does--seemingly for the first time--I smack the bug, squashing him flat and feeling the squish beneath my palm. When I raise my hand several large and bright red droplets of blood show me that I was wrong. He had landed. And with that realization, I immediately begin to itch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Outraged yet? Pay attention!

One of my favorite buttons says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I pay a lot of attention, so that should explain much to the people who know me.

"I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot - I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"--Quote from the movie Network (1976)

On Friday I completed the Live Below the Line Challenge which I wrote about with tips and recipes (of a sort) on this blog. The challenge (to which you can still donate here) opened up a lot of conversation with people I know--and a few I never met before--and many of these people either had tales or tips from their lives living on little money or questions asking for advice or tips from me.

One friend told me of going to a food bank:
"I was grateful for the help but blown away by the quantities of sugar they gave me. I understand processed foods like mac and cheese and canned veggies because they keep and are easy to donate. But why did they give me 5 packages of cookies, frosted flakes and 2 bags of marshmallows? A box of 'nilla wafers and two packages of sugar wafers too. There was way more than that in terms of sugar. They gave me beef liver and some kidneys, which I would not know what to do with even if I did eat organ meat. I guess that is what people donated and I should not be upset because I am taking a hand out."

Outraged yet? This person is not taking a government "hand out" (I am using quotes, because I don't see programs such as SNAP to be hand outs) but utilizing the charity of the citizens in the area. Compassionate conservatism, right? And for one's integrity, one gets marshmallows, cookies and kidneys. And we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic. Not only do we, as a culture, eat this way, but we see so little wrong with eating this way, that we consider marshmallows appropriate "food" to donate to those in need. I'm not saying we don't all deserve a cookie now and again, regardless of our station in life, but if you are donating a case of marshmallows and no vegetables or pasta or beans or rice to a food bank, then you might want to reconsider your own eating habits. And if you own a business and are donating a case of marshmallows which is about to expire so you can get a tax write-off, you might want to consider making a "real" donation, as well, so your conscious can stay crystal clear. And--hey!--extra tax write-off!

For the challenge, I just utilized things I've learned over the years. Yes, we used to be "poor." We utilized Medical Assistance, CHIP, WIC, SNAP and even, briefly, TANF. Here are some of those things:

  • Rice, beans, lentils and grains (like barley and wheat berries) are cheap in bulk and can be combined in infinite ways for breakfast, dinner and lunch and the leftovers always taste better than the first day, so you're less likely to waste leftovers. You just have to plan ahead because of the soaking. But you can soak a bunch a the beginning of the week and keep in the fridge until you're ready to cook. They are all pretty good sources of protein, as well, except for rice.
  • Nuts and nut butters are great sources of protein and not too expensive.
  • Eggs are a cheap source of protein and aminos.
  • You can add anything to pasta. (ANYTHING! Veggies, nut butter, sauces galore, butter, oil, spices, herbs, meat, eggs, fish, beans. Seriously: anything!) And pasta is cheap and filling and great reheated as leftovers.
  • Greens are probably cheaper bought frozen or bought in bulk and prepared for the freezer yourself [I highly recommend the previous link for instructions on freezing greens], because you won't have them going bad in your fridge if you don't want to eat the same ones three days in a row.
  • Weighing and measuring ingredients and portions allowed me to know almost exactly how much a meal cost and how many calories and grams of fat/protein/et cetera. So a good set of measuring cups and spoons and scale are important.
  • Freezing things like pesto, minced garlic, chopped onions and peppers in airtight bags or containers let's you buy items in bulk when they are on sale and makes it super easy when it's time to cook. (I did baby food this way when the kids were little as well. Cook, puree and freeze in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes into a freezer bag.)
  • Having a wide variety of condiments, seasonings, dried herbs and spices is important because it allows you infinite varieties with few ingredients. Buying these items in bulk is easy since they generally last forever under proper storage conditions. You can buy one or two bulk items a month until you've built up your cupboard.
  • TVP is a great meat "stretcher" or substitute, stores wonderfully and can be bought in bulk cheaply. I have a vegan "sloppy joe" recipe using TVP instead of ground meat, and you cannot tell the difference.
  • I learned to make a lot of things on the cheap from the Tightwad Gazette books. (Taco seasoning, cream of chicken soup mix, muffins using leftovers--don't forget to freeze extra muffins for later, shake 'n' bake, baby wipes--I used this a LOT and saved a LOT of money when my youngest was in diapers, but I used cut up flannel and terry, rather than paper towels as we did cloth diapers--and on and on...) I highly recommend checking your library for them if you can't afford to buy the compendium. (Don't forget, libraries will try to order books they don't have if they think it's a good addition to the collection. All you have to do is ask.)
  • Crock-pots! Crock-pot meals are not only easy, but help with eating on the cheap. There are a ton of great crock-pot recipes on the web, but one of my favorites is A Year of Slow Cooking.
  • The website MyFridgeFood is new to me, but really helpful if the cupboards are getting low or you have a craving for a specific ingredient but don't know what to make with it.
  • Sprouts are easy, even if you aren't a "green thumb," cheap when you buy bulk seeds, nutritious and can be used in myriad ways. Plus they are a fun project to do with your children. Even picky kids will eat healthier if they helped to make the food.
So, I hope you can use some of these tips, no matter what your economic situation and pass them along. These tips are a great starting point for eating less animal protein, saving money, using less packaging, consuming fewer "Big Food" products and getting creative with your diet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

FREE COUCH!! Please spread far & wide in Central PA--Must go SOON!

We bought a new couch to replace our somewhat dilapidated one and would like to offer this old one to friends and their friends before I put it on Freecycle. You must have your own truck and someone to help you load it. We are located in Penbrook (right outside of the City of Harrisburg).

This is, I think, a Broyhill. It was a very well made couch when we got it 12 years ago, but we are hard on furniture since we actually use it and have two sons and many pets. It was custom designed to have the big 4 for me:
  1. Removable back cushions.
  2. Rectangular--not t-shaped--seat cushions so they can be switched and flipped.
  3. Removable cushion covers so they can be removed, washed and line dried.
  4. Deep seating.
The current upholstery is the original, which is olive green canvas. Their is no skirt and it has four dark wood bun feet. I might suggest a fifth and sixth be added in the middle of the front and back if your are getting this to fix up. It might keep the frame from twisting again.

And now for the flaws.
  1. The top piece of wood across the front has become detached on both ends and twisted so it is now 1" high and 4" deep instead of vice versa.
  2. Along the top of this area of the frame--but under the cushion, and only on the one side of the sofa--the upholstery is split open.
  3. The upholstery has been split along the seems in two places.
  4. One of the seat cushion covers has a large hole on both sides.
With a knowledgeable re-upholsterer who could fix the part of the frame, it could be as good as new. With a slipcover it is perfectly serviceable for a rec room or first apartment. As is, an upscale frat house might enjoy it.

Please pass this along to anyone who might be interested. We will be getting our new sofa this Saturday, the 21st, right before the "Rapture." Whoever wants it will need a truck and a friend to help take it out of the house and load it. Our house is smoke free, but we do have both cats and dogs. Please call 717-314-1217 or email kaylynewcomer@yahoo.com ASAP.

Click the pictures for a larger view, if you see a magnifying glass icon, click again for even larger pictures. The lighter "stripes" on the first picture is the sun coming through the window. The afghan on the back is not included.

(LATE! SORRY!!) Day 5! I made it! YAY! Where's my chocolate cake??

[This post was written, but sat in "Drafts" until just now.]

Day FIVE!! I'm at the finish line! YAY!
For a brief catch up if it's your first time here, scroll down to the post Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!! and read your way back up to this post.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website:
9. In 1982 half the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. By 2005 that number was reduced to one quarter. It’s feasible it could be reduced to zero if the world keeps its promises made under the 8 Millennium Development Goals and works to tackle the structural barriers that keep people poor.
10. The UN estimates it would cost just $160 million a year to achieve the Millennium Development Goals whiles he US alone spent more than $8.5 trillion on bailing out failed banks and car companies

Over the course of the day I had two cups of tea from the same teabag, each with one teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.05Link

I made one big meal and split it into two different small meals. Black beans and rice. TOTAL COST: $.74
Soak 1/3 dry black beans in 1-2 cups of water overnight, drain and rinse, place in pot and cover with enough water so no beans are poking through the surface of the water.
Simmer on low (again, I use a heat diffuser) for 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes or until bean are tender.
Add 1/2 tsp of Goya of Annatto and Cilantro seasoning
Add 2 tbsp of "trinity" [recipe follows]
Add 1/3 of a can of diced tomatoes with juice
Add 1 oz of frozen corn
Add 2 tbsp of Frank's Red Hot
Cook until everything is cooked through
Serve over 1 cup of cooked white rice

If you eat a lot of rice and beans, stews, soups, jambalaya, et cetera, the "holy trinity" is easy to cook up on Sunday night and keep in the fridge as needed for the next week or so.
1 medium or 1/2 of a large onion (I prefer white or sweet) diced
1 medium bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
4 large stalks of celery diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat oil in heavy skillet
Cook ingredients until translucent
Let cool uncovered and store in airtight container in the fridge for a week or two.

[NOTE: We use glass storage containers as it have been proven that chemicals in plastic leech into your stored food. We use these but buy them cheaply at Costco. Costco is also great for buying many cheap foods in bulk and many other household items. If you can't afford a membership, find some friends who will share a membership with you or who will let you "ride along" on their shopping trips. You can also create your own "buying co-op" if you don't have a lot of storage space for bulk items. If you have kids in diapers and don't use cloth, I highly suggest Costco just for the diaper savings alone, but you will come for the diapers and stay for the rest of it. I also advocate Costco because they pay a living wage and treat their employees fairly unlike other warehouse clubs which are owned by the Walton family...]


Overall, I raised $345, which was $45 more than my goal. You can still click the link and donate if you'd like, since you know now that I did it, lol.

By the way, at midnight of the last day I celebrated with Kraft shells'n'cheese and two craft beers.

Day 3 & 4: Feeling Like I was Cheating When I Wasn't

Days 3 and 4 are done. Sorry I didn't post last night; I've been feeling really tired since Saturday. It might be related to some mold we found in the house as I am pretty allergic to molds. There wasn't much to recap, anyway, since I didn't really feel like eating. I wasn't terribly hungry today, either, so the past two days I feel like, by being sick, that I've been cheating by having a "leg up" because of being sick. Just wrong, right? Well that's the way my mind works...

For a brief catch up if it's your first time here, scroll down to the post Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!! and read your way back up to this post.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website.
5. 75 Million Kids miss out on going to school, most of them girls
6. The end of extreme poverty can be achieved. The World Bank found the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from approx 52% in 1982 to 25% today.
7. In 2011, February 19, the US put forward a motion to make huge cuts in this year's budget. Poverty-fighting, cost-effective programs - which make up less than one percent of the US budget - were sharply cut.
8. Key programs that fight AIDS, malaria and hunger were cut by 40%. Programs that promote long-term economic growth were chopped up to 30%.

Day 3
I had a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045
Later, I had a bowl of cooked barley with a tablespoon of honey. TOTAL COST: $.14
For dinner I had two eggs fried in part of a tablespoon of Country Crock Spread and a piece of Martin's potato bread toast with the rest of the tablespoon of Country Crock. I also had 3 ounces of applesauce. TOTAL COST: $.50
For a snack, I ate half of a banana. TOTAL COST: $.09

Day 4
I had a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045
Later, I had an open-faced tuna melt. TOTAL COST: $.73
Mix 1 tbsp mayonnaise with 1/2 can of drained tuna (packed in water)
Toast a piece of bread and spread tuna on toast
Top with a slice of American cheese
Broil until the cheese is melting. (We have a toaster oven, so broiling one tiny thing isn't as "decadent" as it sounds.)
I had another cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar, but I had to use an new teabag, as Nate had thrown my used one into the trash. (Not even the compost, sheesh!) TOTAL COST: $.045

Then I had a bowl of full-fat Greek yogurt with half of a banana sliced and six chopped almonds (which is approximately 1/4 ounce) and a tablespoon of honey. TOTAL COST: $.68

I'm pretty sleepy, so I'll see you tomorrow. Last day! You still have time to sponsor me by clicking through the link in the title of this post. It's a secure and tax deductible donation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day Two: Hit it on the nose!

Day two is done. Still doing pretty well, thanks for asking. For a brief catch up if it's your first time here, scroll down to the post Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!! and read your way back up to this post.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website.
3. 884 million people do not have access to clean drinking water leading to 2.2 million deaths per year – mostly children under 5. We spend globally $60 billion on bottled water this year. – twice what the $30 billion the UN believes is needed to give everyone clean water
4. One child every 3.5 seconds dies from hunger and entirely preventable diseases. This year American households will throw out millions worth of food – more than three times the budget of the World Food Program which has $5 billion to support the World’ hungry.

Today's menu:

When I woke up I had a cup of tea with one teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045

My first food of the day was a pack of instant oatmeal with apples and cinnamon (already in the pack). I made a second cup of tea with the same teabag (total old lady chic, dontcha know?) and added a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.155

About two hours later I had one egg over easy fried in a portion of a tablespoon of Country Crock spread and a piece of Martin's potato bread toast on which I spread the rest of that tablespoon. TOTAL COST: $.28

My late afternoon/early evening snack was half a banana. TOTAL COST: $.09

Now here comes the BIG ONE!! For a late dinner I experimented. I made stir fried mixed sprouts and sweet potato over rice. TOTAL COST: $.78 (I know!! I thought it was expensive, too!!)
4 oz. cubed sweet potato (about 1/4 of a large sweet potato)
1 oz Protein Powerhouse Sprouts
2 tsp stir fry oil
1 tbsp The Ginger People Ginger Peanut Sauce
1 tsp Sriracha (which, if you seriously don't know where to buy it near you, you can buy online here)
I steamed the cubed sweet potato in a covered pot for about 10-15 minutes. During the last two minutes I threw the sprouts into the steamer basket as well.
Heat the stir fry oil to the point where water sizzles when you drip it into the oil. DO NOT let it start to smoke. Throw all of the sweet potato and sprouts in and stir fry quickly adding the ginger peanut sauce right at the end, but be sure to coat all of the food with the sauce. Serve over rice and garnish with Sriracha.
This was pretty good, but if I made it again, I'll use more ginger peanut sauce and serve over one of the Lundberg Gourmet Rice Blends.

My "second dinner" or big snack was--drumroll!--a pack of ramen. TOTAL COST: $.15


Again, today was a day of much water and more peeing. Yay!

You still have three days to sponsor me if you are so inclined. Even a dollar or two. The donation is secure and tax deductible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day One: Chocolate and change to spare...

Well, I made it through day one. I did drink a lot of water. And I did pee a lot. Other than that, it wasn't too bad.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, read this and this.

Some facts from Live Below the Line's website.
1. There are 1.4 Billion people still living in extreme poverty despite the fact that there is enough food to feed everyone one and a half times over.
2. Half the world’s population are women yet 70 % of the world’s poor are women. They work 2/3rd of the world’s working hours and earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1 % of the world’s property

On to the food!

I don't usually eat when I wake up. I'm just not hungry and my first pills of the day need to be taken on an empty stomach, so I had a cup of tea with a teaspoon of sugar. TOTAL COST: $.045

A few hours later and I was hungry so I had a bowl of cooked barley and water to drink. TOTAL COST: $.085
1/4 cup dry barley (rinsed)
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup water
In a small covered saucepan simmer ingredients over a low flame (I have a gas stove and use a heat diffuser under the pan) until the barley are tender. Don't let them get mushy or you won't get to enjoy chewing your food.

Through the afternoon until dinner I had two snacks: 1/2 ounce of raw almonds (about 15 almonds) and an ounce of applesauce (two tablespoons). I drank as much water as I wanted through the day. TOTAL COST: $.14

Dinnertime! I had black eyed peas, rice and spinach with some Frank's Red hot. TOTAL COST: $.42
1 cup soaked (overnight) black eyed peas
Place beans in the bottom of a small saucepan cover with water so no beans are "poking up" through the surface of the water.
Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, checking occasionally for tenderness.
When the beans are tender stir in 1/4 teaspoon of Goya cilantro and annatto seasoning and 1/8 teaspoon of Goya ham seasoning.
Cook for another minute or two to ensure the the seasoning is cooked through the beans and "bean juice."
Stir in one ounce of frozen chopped spinach and cook until spinach is heated through.
Serve over one cup of white rice. (Cook rice with water at a 1:2 ratio. For example: 1/3 cup of dry rice plus 2/3 cup of water. If you don't use a rice steamer, simmer the rice and water on low in a small, covered saucepan and DO NOT stir at all. You stir: you get sticky rice.)
Serve with one tablespoon of Frank's Red Hot sauce.
NOTE: Goya seasonings contain MSG which some people do not like and/or to which they have sensitivities. I use it because I enjoy the slight saltiness and the strong umami flavor. If you can't use them, experiment with your own herbs and/or spices.

As the evening went on I snacked on a mixture of 1/2 ounce whole, raw almonds, 1/2 ounce of craisins and 1/2 ounce of raisins. TOTAL COST: $.23

I stay up pretty late, so I have my third "meal" between 10:30 p.m. and midnight. Tonight I ate one pack of cooked ramen noodles. TOTAL COST: $.15

After my noodles I finished the dried fruit and almonds from before the ramen. And then I ate three Hershey Kisses. TOTAL COST: $.12


In case you are wondering how much "a lot" of water is, I drank 3.75 liters and just refilled my 750 mL bottle to take to bed. On an average day I drink about 1.5 liters.

Anyone wanting to know how I arrived at specific prices, please email me with your question(s).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Night Before Day 1

In case you did not see my previous post, go read it now. Go on; I'll wait.

From Live Below the Line's website:
The Rules
The “what”: Feed yourself on $1.50 per day for 5 days
The “when”: May 16 – 20, 2011
The “how”: Each day’s food budget is $1.50. However, you can spend the entire week’s allotment once. So you can go shopping at the beginning of the week and spend $7.50, but you won’t be allowed to purchase anything else for the remainder of the challenge.

The Goal
Live Below the Line was designed to give you a glimpse into what it's like for the millions of people living in extreme poverty. It’s an experience meant to be shared with others, as well as an important opportunity to raise funds for the campaign to end extreme poverty.

It's Sunday night and I've done a lot of my prep work for the next few days.
Beans are soaking:Beans and seeds are sprouted: Price list is nailed down:(A note on my prices: We do almost all of our shopping at Costco and the rules allow for using partial packages. I've based the price list on these two factors.)

Some "holy trinity" is cooked up:
I'm planning on eating little bits of food many times a day instead of a few meals and I'll be drinking a lot of water.
So, other than weighing and math and cooking and eating, what will I be doing this week? When I'm hungry and not busy, I'll probably be painting my nails. It keeps me occupied and you can't eat with wet nails.
I finished tonight with a few leftover blueberry pancakes, then some Hershey kisses, then a hyooooge gin and tonic. See you next week, old friends. Sigh.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Shameless Promotion for a Good Cause/PLEASE SPONSOR ME!!!

From May 16th to May 20th, I'll be taking the Live Below the Line challenge and eating and drinking on just $1.50 per day to raise funds for CARE and Global Poverty Project. CARE’s maternal health programs, which seek to safeguard women’s health during pregnancy and childbirth, and ensure mothers have access to emergency lifesaving health care. Healthy mothers are essential to poverty reduction. I hope to raise awareness about the issue of extreme poverty and encourage others to join the cause. I will do the challenge individually, but in concert with thousands of other people across 3 continents. I hope to be a voice for change.
My fundraising goal is $300. If everyone on my friends list gave just $1.00, I would exceed that goal.
PLEASE SPONSOR ME by clicking through to make a secure donation.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Help with buying a new Kindle, please?

I'm looking at getting a Kindle. I already own many Kindle books which I now have on my free version of Kindle for iPhone.
The new Kindle with Special Offers--henceforth referred to as KwSO to save typing--is only $114 dollars and is supported by ads at the bottom of the screen. It appears that the only difference between it and the regular new Kindle (for $139) is the ads, but with the cheaper one you get-wait for it--special offers (some decent sounding money savers which I would almost definitely use). Neither of these have 3G wireless, but with the wi-fi, I wouldn't much care. I'm not one to buy on the run when it comes to books, as it were.
For $189, the Kindle 3G + WiFi offers an extra 2/10 of and ounce in weight and a shorter battery life. Um, what? Okay, it also offers free 3G wireless with "global wireless coverage" in 100 countries and territories. (Is that really "global?" Anywho...) Since I don't "buy on the fly," as I mentioned, and the KwSO holds 3,500 books (the same as all of the other versions) this seems unnecessary. Am I missing any functionality that warrants paying the extra $50 to have the 3G other than the "need" to access more than 3,500 books on the go?
Lastly, there's the $379 Kindle DX. The extra $190 gets you a larger screen (which also means 10.2 ounces heavier and 5/100 of an inch thicker), an all around shorter battery life (wireless on or off), automatic screen rotation rather than manual for, I guess, the super-lazy, and... well, that seems to be it. Is the $190 worth, basically, just a larger page? (Especially when that means it will take up more packing space and also weighs in at over a pound, which seems a bit sucky for arthritic wrists such as mine...) Not to me, especially since I am currently unemployed and about to embark on an expensive journey to my undergrad degree.
So. The choice is KwSO for $114, Kindle WiFi for $139 or the Kindle 3G for $189 (currently being offered with a $25 gift certificate).
Have I missed any features?
If you were me, which would you buy?
UPDATE in repsonse to a question:
There is internet browsing ability on both the wifi and the 3G + wifi versions. So internet browisng on the go for the extra $50, yes. But I have an iPhone on which I do that now and it would be with me anyway.
From Amazon: "Special offers and sponsored screensavers display on the Kindle screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen—they don't interrupt reading. "

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

O hai! Iz u my dokter?

OK, so. I hate being vulnerable, and feeling ugly or gross makes me feels very vulnerable. But I have this rash, these hives, this swelling, this peeling, burnt looking skin and it's not getting better. In fact, each phase has been uglier and more gross and more painful and humiliating than the last. So, I'll lay the whole thing out here for a few reasons.
  • I feel like if I talk about my most vulnerable moments that I will eventually realize I shouldn't feel bad about normal bumps in the road.
  • Maybe one of you has gone through this same thing or something similar and can share some advice.
  • I'm pissed off about the whole thing and maybe putting it out there will calm me down a bit.
Early in the year I had a rash on my chin and the right side of my face. It looked kind of like ringworm which is not a worm at all but a fungus. It is related to the fungus that causes women's yeast infections, thrush, athlete's foot and the yeast infections babies get with diaper rash sometimes. I used several things to treat it and it went away.
I used the following treatments:
  1. Twice a day I applied Skinbiotics Treatment Oil by Derma E which is tea tree oil and oregano oil, both anti-fungal and tea tree oil is also an anti-bacterial.
  2. Twice or three times a day I applied Nelson Bach USA Pure & Clear Acne Gel which contains tea tree oil and calming homeopathic ingredients.
  3. I continued my acne routine which is the kit by Nature's Gate called Natural Results Acne Treatment containing a cleanser, toner and lotion. I made to sure to remember to do the routine twice a day, every day, even though I'm usually a bit lax with it. The salicylic acid in the kit is anti-microbial and the ingredients are calming, soothing and moisturizing.
  4. In between the toner and moisturizer steps above, I wiped a cotton ball with colloidal silver all over my face and let it mostly dry .
  5. I drank 10 drops of NutriBiotic Grapefruit Seed Extract in water three times a day.
  6. I took 15 drops of BioAllers Allergy Relief Mold Yeast and Dust Allergy Treatment under the tongue every four hours.
  7. I drank a ton of water. Way more than my normal amount.
  8. And I tried to cut back on sugars as much as I was able.
The rash seemed to disappear and I continued the treatment for about two extra weeks just in case there was still something in my system. That brought me to the middle of February.

Then, the weekend before last, I got a small rash on my chest. The area covered was about as big as my hand and the bumps appeared to be hives. They varied in size between two or three times the size of goosebumps to slightly smaller than a pencil eraser. They itched. Not horribly, but as much as you expect hives to itch.

I happened to have a dermatology appointment due to my ongoing hormonal acne (for which I am now trying spironalactone again; I had used it years ago for polycystic ovary syndrome) and showed them the rash. I mentioned I had had an unknown rash on my face a few months before and that this rash itched. They--the resident and attending--diagnosed me with folliculitis even though it doesn't look like folliculitis I've ever seen and this was on an area where clothes don't rub and I--obviously--don't shave. I have been around no new environments, tried no new products of any kind, had no new foods and didn't think I was under any new stress or anything. So I thought, "Fine, I'll take the two doctors' word for it and use the 10% benzoyl peroxide body wash" which is the first line of defense for folliculitis, though you may be familiar with it solely as an acne product. They said use it at bedtime and wash with my normal stuff in the morning.
The first morning I woke up with a slightly red, slightly dry and tight (even though I had moisturized with the advised cream), somewhat larger patch of rash. "Hm, maybe it has to get worse before it gets better?"

The second morning everything was the same as the first, but the rash had spread on my chest, and further up my neck. "Weird."The third morning my skin was "severe sunburn red," dry as hell, flaking, burning and painful. The rash had spread up neck to my face. That night the entire rash and inflamed areas itched like hell. I'm talking crazy making itching. Over the course of this rash I had been taking benadryl to no avail and it still didn't help. Not even the benadryl spray or hydrocortisone gel. I had an event to go to that night so I slapped some makeup on and tried to be brave. It wasn't to bad. [This picture is from Monday but is indicative of Saturday as well.]
Sunday and Monday were pure hell and the call I put into my dermatologist's office Monday wasn't returned until 4:55. I didn't hear the phone ring. I saw the message from the resident who said he needed me to call him back, but he was done at 5:00. By the time I called it was too late. Meanwhile all day and night for those two days, I continued using Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion for cooling and itch relief, Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion for skin protection and itch relief and moisturizing with La Roche Posay Lipikar Body Balm (which, incidently, costs the same for a huge-ass bottle in France as the little tube costs in the US: RIP-OFF!). The glycerin in the lotions always burns a bit at first as my skin is highly sensitive, but, let me tell you, I've never experienced burning this bad. But I powered through those first few minutes because it seems every lotion has parabens, glycerin, fragrance and/or petroleum derived products and they all burn, but glycerin is the only one I don't get a reactive rash after using it.
All the while, since shortly after the rash started, I have been waking up with swollen upper and lower eyelids and lips. The doctors did not seem concerned at all about this. Not that it wasn't related to the rash, but that it is perfectly normal to start waking up with swollen eyelids and lips all of the sudden. The swelling is worse on some days by others and looks not all that bad--but still noticeable--by the time I photograph it.
This morning I called the dermatologist's office again and the girl I talked to yesterday (to leave a detailed message for the resident) told me that he said if the benzoyl peroxide was too drying then to use Cetaphil cleanser (which contains SLS, which I normally avoid like the plague as it also badly irritates my skin) instead and to keep moisturizing. "Great," I said to the woman, "And what do I do to get rid of the rash since I can't use the benzoyl peroxide and Cetaphil obviously will not clear up the rash, even if it is folliculitis, which I highly doubt it is at this particular point in time as I did when he diagnosed that." She paused and admitted he did not give any pertinent directions as regarded the rash. She asked me what drug he had given me for the itching. "Um, none? And it is about ten times worse than it was." She paused. Then she took thorough notes on the call and said either she or the resident would call me back today.
It's now 6:26. I think I'm not getting a call back. What do you think?
But just in case this plague is somehow related to the February plague, I've taken it upon myself to add steps four, five and six back in for now.
The phone literally rang as I typed that last sentence and it was the resident, who seemed to remember nothing about my case, insisted it was probably my "acne acting up on [my] chest neck and face." I said, "But it looks nothing like acne, it itches like hell and I've never had more than a half dozen to a dozen spots at one time in my entire life, much less a full face, neck and chest eruption resembling poison ivy at this point in appearance and itchiness even though I've been nowhere near the plant since last spring." Doctor: "Sigh." Me:"..." Doctor: "I guess I can fit you in tomorrow.Can you come around 3?" "No I have another very important appointment then, but it's in Hershey so can I come right afterward?" "Sure, I'll let the nurses know to put you in for about 3:45."
So. At least one more night of this hellish itching and Hellboy redness. Dude better give me something other than a damn wash or I'm kicking him in the balls and telling him that pain he feels is acne.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Old Playboy vs New Playboy

I just read an article on Bust's website [NSFW] about a Tumblr [NSFW] consisting solely of pictures of vintage Playboy models.
It's weird: When I was a child I remember all of the feminists talking about how these images promoted unhealthy body images for women. I would sneak peaks of my grandpa's Playboys whenever we visited my grandparents in Chicago, where my grandpa was also a member of the Playboy Club, which was the first of the clubs. I thought these women were beautiful and glamorous and thought, "I hope I look like that when I grow up."
Fast forward about thirty years and you'll find me saying, "The women in Playboy promote unhealthy body images for women." I created a memory that the women from the '70s and early '80s Playboys were not so different than those today. Mostly white, mostly blond, mostly fake tanned and fake titted and mostly unnaturally thin. The only thing I remembered was that the whole infatuation with hairless vulvae did not exist back then. (Translation: There were lots of large, scary, unruly bushes back then; even in Playboy.)
Trotting over to the Tumblr [not kidding: NSFW] page, I found myself pleasantly surprised. These women may not be fat, but some are certainly zaftig by today's standards in media-- soft porn or otherwise. I even recognized my upper arms on one woman, my breasts on another, my bum on another and on and on. Yes, the women had large breasts most of the time, but there were also women with fairly small breasts and, as far as I can tell, these breasts were original operating equipment. Yes, there was an obsession with tan lines back then, but they were so much cuter than the orange fake-bakers of today's Playboy who want us to believe they all live near nude beaches or something.
These images were so much healthier for girls and boys as far as realistic expectations. So why did my generation and the one before ours corrupt these fairly wholesome, healthy looking images into the plastic looking women of today? And if Playboy and other nude magazines keep going at this rate, what will the women look like ten, twenty, thirty, even 75 years from now? Will it circle back around or will bizarre fetishes continue to force the models to deform themselves until they are almost not even human anymore? When Mr. Hefner created his visions for Playboy, it was supposed to be wholesome, girl-next-door nude fun. “Clean sex has greater appeal than tawdry sex,” he said. So how did the fetishes for hairlessness and oversize breasts (along with other fetishes which used to have their own, special magazine) creep in? What will it take for it to creep back out?
At this point in history, I doubt Playboy will ever go back to the au naturel girl-next-door types since they are competing with the abundance of internet porn creating stiff--er, no pun intended--competition for the Hefners to keep up with if they want to make a buck.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's the Ciiiiiircle of Liiiife

It's a lazy Sunday on the couch with the Times and I happen to glance out the window just as a strange "pop" emanates from the waste vent pipe on the roof of the service garage down the block. I see something that looks strangely like a bird arc out of it and hit the ground. Then I notice the hawk--I'm not sure what kind, but not an overly large one--which has been sitting on the roof of a neighbor's house swoop down and snatch up the bird, which is about ½ the size of the hawk. The hawk must've heard the trapped and/or injured bird and was waiting for a solution to how to get this easy prey.
The hawk clamps in its jaw the bird by its midsection. Nate and I listen while the bird expires. Sad squawk-y screeches and then nothing. The hawk is being vigilant all the while, it's head moving around to keep an eye out for predators and rival hawks, I guess.
Finally, he clamps the bird in his massive claws and starts plucking and eating. He plucks a bit, feathers flying and floating on the breeze; then he eats a bit, stringy, bloody grossness hanging from his beak.
We live in the suburbs of a large city. Less than a mile from three different "ghettos." We never saw anything like this when we lived on the farm in Lancaster County. The chemicals had killed off all but the mice and the barn swallows and barn cats there. Since we've moved here, I've checked many birds off in my birding book. I've known squirrels well enough to name them and be sad when they stop coming around and have had the pleasure of sitting on my back porch at dusk and watching "our" bats keeping our large yard relatively free of bugs.
The world continues to amaze and educate me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

more blahg blergh

I just really haven't had much of import to say lately. I still don't, but in the interest of cheering myself a bit and keeping this blog active, following is a list of things which make me happy. [Note: This list is just "stuff" and does not include important things like friends and family... It's just "stuff."]
1) that shade of orange which you normally see in Shinto shrines
2) mashed potatoes with sauerkraut
3) finding a package of free books on my doorstep
4) an email in my inbox which is an actual letter to me
5) Cincinnati chili 5-ways
6) scarlet and crimson
7) a great song I totally forgot about coming on the jukebox or radio
8) finding a new beer which I really, truly love
9) clean sheets on the bed right after a long, hot bath
10) a long, hot bath
11) sandalwood, patchouli and peppermint scented anything
12) my fantastic collection of sophisticated perfumes
13) getting jewelry as a gift because it is totally useless and makes me feel girly
14) when the sun comes through the clouds in actual streams
15) First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
16) Angostura bitters
17) my beautiful and well-stocked bar
18) SIGG bottles
19) Nate's Aunt Sue's totally unhealthy fruit salad
20) my collection of collections
21) my Prius Betty Blue
22) peonies
23) Dark Chocolate truffles by Godiva (the ones dusted with cocoa powder)
24) my beautiful and oh-so-fucking-comfy bed
25) MAC lippie

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

How to Feel Twenty Years Younger

  • Go to a concert with a girlfriend and gab like kids the whole way there, the whole way back and everytime the music is not blaring.
  • Be a tad saucy, but still very sweet, with the bartenders when ordering drinks. They'll like your attitude--and maybe your cleavage--and serve you faster next time.
  • Enjoy and dance a little during the opening band, even if you haven't heard of them before, and vow to find their stuff online when you get home.
  • Let a guy old enough to be your dad buy "a pretty young lady" (you) a shot of whiskey.
  • Squeal like a teenager when the lights go down and the band's "coming out" song comes on. Especially when it actually is a song you loved as a teen.
  • Squeal like a "tween" when the band actually comes out.
  • Bounce like a fool to every single song. (Until you're sweating like a freak and dripping on strangers, but don't give two shits, because you're having so much fucking fun.)
  • About two-thirds of the way through the show, yell, "I'm going in!" And bounce into the throng of sweating, shoving, bouncing overgrown frat boys up front. (Even if you have to come back out one song later because there is no oxygen up there... Revel a bit when a couple of young, cute guys give you attaboys on the way out.)
  • During the first encore say, "Fuck it." And throw yourself back up front.
  • Laugh, but still feel flattered, when you are offered a hand up so you can crowd surf during the second encore.
  • Hang out up front after the show to get a set list. And actually get one before the other young cuties get theirs.
Good times.

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