Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Here's an interesting article about how exercise revitalized brain cells in mice.  Perhaps it might be the same with humans.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

End of No-Shopping Challenge Part 2

Due to a lot of busy-ness in my life, I neglected to mention my partner-in-crime in my no-shopping challenge.  Shona at LALA dex press not only joined me in this challenge but encouraged me to extend my challenge beyond 30 days to make it a full season.  Making it three times longer than planned made this challenge a real life-changing experience for me and for Shona.  At the end of the three months, I had a completely different mentality when it came to shopping.   It also helped prepare us for changes in our lives.  For me, it was my husband taking an early retirement from his profession. We had talked about it for many years but had never set a specific date.  In the midst of my challenge, we decided it was the right time for him to step away from his career and embark on a new adventure.  

I'll let Shona talk about her own experience - you can read about it here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quote for the Day

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."
~John Lennon

Saturday, September 24, 2011

End of No-Shopping Challenge

just say no to bad fitness and eating habits
This week marked the end of my no-shopping challenge.  If you count the forty-four days that I didn't shop during Lent, that means for almost half of this year, I have gone without shopping for non-necessities.

I did pretty well as I tried to only purchase food and personal care items.  And if I already had a personal care item that filled my need, I didn't go out and buy a newer, better, more improved version of it until it was gone.  I did purchase a newspaper once (not a necessity) and a couple of small potted plants (again, not necessities).  The biggest purchase I made that was not a food or personal care item was a bed sheet that I had to buy to replace a threadbare one that had started to tear.  Fortunately, I had some store coupons that brought down the cost quite a bit.  Overall, I stuck to my no-shopping pledge.

Making a decision like this and then going through with it has made me think a lot about our culture and our privilege.  I got thinking back to my ancestors who blazed trails across this nation.  They had an expectation of certain privileges which included personal freedom and personal individuality.  However, these were just two aspects of the personal "three-legged stool."  Early Americans also realized that personal responsibility came with the other privileges.  We can make individual choices as a result of our freedom, however we also need to recognize that we assume personal responsibility in those choices.

In this nation, we have so many benefits and choices.  And we've come to see those choices as rights and needs, rather than as the luxuries they really are.  A hundred years ago, a woman was happy to have one good dress in her closet; now we think we need a whole closet full.  When I was growing up, having dessert or going out for a meal was a huge treat; now many people eat out three meals a day, and include dessert with at least one of them. 

We're now seeing the consequences of this shift in mind set in what we consider necessities and luxuries.  We're overweight and broke.  Because we have such a wide variety of foods available to us, we indulge in them, all the time, thinking that we'll cut back "next week."  Because we see the latest, newest, fastest, shiniest products advertised, we happily hand over our cash and credit cards to obtain them, all the while thinking they are necessities and we will figure out how to pay for them, eventually.  

Obviously, we haven't figured it out.  The problem is, we never cut back.  Instead we push forward, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into debt or obesity.  We're in serious trouble yet don't want to do the hard work to get out of it.  We've lost that American belief in personal responsibility and its twin, self-control.  I remember the phrase that Nancy Reagan popularized, "Just say no."  Many people expect "the others" to apply this mentality to their lives when it comes to drug, alcohol, or any other vices.  However, all of us need to learn to "Just say no" to the cornucopia of stuff available.  We lack willpower when it comes to food, clothes, cars, electronics, even houses, yet we expect individuals with serious addictions and personal problems to have that very same willpower.

Now that my no-shopping challenge is over, I also will have to face the temptation of all the marketing techniques that are thrown my way.  Of course I do have advantages over others right now.  I've learned the lesson that I can do without much and will appreciate luxuries in small doses.  I also discontinued my television service almost a year ago, so I don't have Madison Avenue in my house.  Magazines no longer hold sway over me as I don't subscribe to any and, as a result of another challenge, am not tempted to buy them at the grocery store check out.  I now look at everything with an eye to whether or not it is a necessity and, if it's not, is it worth the price in the long run.  

I encourage my readers to take a similar challenge to gain a broader perspective on needs and wants.  You will come out of it a changed person.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

DIY Cosmetics

Just found this recipe for do-it-yourself bronzer on PETA's web site and thought it was worth passing on.  It contains no yucky chemicals and is extremely inexpensive to make.

DIY Bronzer
  • Cocoa or cinnamon powder
  • Powdered sugar or baby powder
  • An old mineral makeup sifter jar or an old compact
Mix the ingredients together until you've reached your desired shade for bronzing. Add more cocoa or cinnamon powder to darken, or add more sugar or baby powder to lighten. Pour the mixture into the sifter jar or compact and apply using a blush brush.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wellness Wednesday*

delicious pear 1
Seems the color of the fruits and vegetables you eat affects your stroke risk.  In one study, participants with a high intake of "white" produce like apples, pears, cauliflower, bananas, and cucumbers lowered their risk of stroke by 52 percent.  Researchers believe part of the reason is because apples and pears (which made up over half of the white foods consumed during the study) are high in dietary fiber.  Another explanation is that individuals who consume a lot of produce tend to lead healthier lives.  Read more here.

(Photo credit:

*Haha!  Got a day ahead of myself and published on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quote for the Day

I say: NO TO WAR! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.
International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, the noble exercise of diplomacy; these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. 
~Pope John Paul II

Thursday, September 15, 2011


When it comes to consumerism and finances, I have for years felt like Cassandra crying in the wilderness, warning people of the dire consequences of their quest to live in affluence.  Rebekah, a fellow blogger who is also a financial counselor, recently put up an excellent post exposing the dangers of living the "good" life when you cannot afford it.  I recommend you go here to read it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Here's an interesting article linking the virtue of patience with health:
Various studies over the past decade have pointed to a correlation between impatience and several health issues.
One report from 2003 found a link between impatience and the risk of hypertension in young adults.  A 2004 study in the Journal of Biosocial Science uncovered an association between impatience and obesity.  John Komlos, PhD, one of the researchers, explained that seeking instant gratification (i.e., being impatient) is a means of justifying that extra dessert or ice cream.  Furthermore, in 2007, European researchers found that impatient people are more likely to experience financial insecurity.
So, if tension, weight gain, and feeling broke seem unappealing, try making patience your number one virtue.

(Article source:  Taste for Life, February 2011.  Keene, NH:  CCL Publications.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to Be Caring and Sensitive

Often I hear people refer to certain individuals as caring and sensitive people.  What they mean is that if those individuals happen to see something a bit uncomfortable, they get teary-eyed.  Or that those individuals are the ones who worry about whether or not someone is able to afford a meal at a nice restaurant or whether or not they've provided enough pillows or blankets for their overnight guests.  

I'm often surprised that these same people, when confronted with the atrocities of the world, say, "Oh, it's too hard; I don't want to know about it."  These are the very people who need to know about it as they would be the ones most likely to take steps to do something about it.

Although I am a gentle vegetarian and I don't confront people over the issue nor do I expect others to follow in my path, I am appalled by the response of caring and sensitive people when the topic is discussed.  On the occasions when I am actually asked the reasons I am a vegetarian or when people share myths they've heard about vegetarianism, I try to clarify and educate.  I tell people that one of the reasons I am a vegetarian is because of the way factory farms torture the animals.  In most instances, people whom I consider caring and sensitive immediately respond, "Oh, don't tell me about it.  I don't want to know.  I can't give up meat."  What they're saying is that if they knew the truth, they would have to make that sacrifice.

When talking about 9/11 and the aftermath, I rarely hear any discussion about the innocent children in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been maimed and killed.  Bringing it up among caring and sensitive people turns me into a social pariah.  They don't mind talking about the brave American firefighters and other emergency personnel who gave their lives to help others, probably because that is over and done with.  There is no ongoing ugliness to deal with.  It is easier to commemorate the fallen and departed than to confront the grim realities of people "over there."

We need caring and sensitive people who are caring and sensitive about serious issues.  While it is nice to be hospitable to one's neighbors, there are far greater needs in the world than the comfort of friends.  Caring and sensitive people need to see photographs of maimed and wounded children and videos of cows, chickens, and pigs as they are inhumanely treated in the factory farms.  Yes, these things are hard to view, but refusing to look at these images means not being moved to tears to do something.  And this is how atrocities continue to occur - people don't want to know.  People with sensitivities need to put that very disposition to use effect change in the world however difficult it may be.

(Photo source:

Monday, September 12, 2011


Green Piggy Bank
While waiting to get my car inspected, I overheard one of the employees of the automobile repair shop talking to a customer about the high price of food in this country.  I ran across the following chart in the fall issue of Heifer International's World Ark magazine that puts food prices into perspective.   Below is a list that gives the percentage of the people's total expenditure towards food in several countries, including the U.S.  Here's how it breaks down:
  • Azerbaijan 46.9%
  • Pakistan 45.5%
  • Kenya 44.9%
  • Ukraine 42.1%
  • Cameroon 38.4%
  • India 35.4%
  • China 32.9%
  • Peru 29.0%
  • Russia 28.0%
  • Mexico 24.0%
  • Japan 14.2%
  • France 13.5%
  • United States 6.9%
It is hard to believe that even in France food is twice as expensive as in the United States.  However, one can see the correlation between food price and obesity.  France has an obesity rate of less than 12%, whereas the obesity rate in the United States is almost 34%.  So, while we might be saving money on food, the trade off is that we're not saving our waists.

(Photo source:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quote for the Day

"Love your enemies."
~Jesus of Nazareth

Saturday, September 10, 2011

No Brown M&Ms


I love the story of the band Van Halen and how, in their contracts, they require a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones picked out.  On the surface, this bizarre request makes them look like prima donnas.  However, turns out it is a very shrewd business move as it alerts them to the potential for serious problems at a concert venue.  You see, Van Halen buries that request in the safety section of their contracts.  If they arrive at a location and see a bowl of M&Ms containing the brown ones, they know the concert promoter did not read their contract very carefully, especially when it comes to the safety requirements.  Whenever that happens, they take the time to go over every specification to make sure each one has been fulfilled.

I occasionally need to remind myself that this is an important principle to apply to both business and personal transactions.  Whenever I’m working with others and I see small but careless mistakes that others overlook or let slide, it makes me realize I need to dig deeper to see what other more serious problems I might be missing.

(Photo source:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Weight Scale
Well, I've been enjoying the summer and am not looking forward to the winter chill which seems to me to be just around the corner.  Unfortunately, I've been enjoying this summer so much that I haven't been paying attention to what I've been eating and have put on a few unwanted pounds.  Although I'm jumping the gun a bit, my fall challenge is to get back on a more healthful diet and fitness program to get rid of these extra pounds.

One question that came to mind today was how many calories does a person need to consume? I found a handy formula for sedentary people (which most of us are) to calculate one's basal metabolic rate (BMR):

Calculate your BMR with the following formula for men:  66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years).  Women should use this formula:  655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) = (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years).  Multiply your BMR by 1.2 to determine your daily caloric needs in a sedentary lifestyle.

Keep in mind that this formula tells us how many calories we need to maintain our current weight.  To lose one pound, a person has to decrease calorie consumption or increase activity by 3,500 calories.  Medical professionals recommend no more than a two pound weight loss per week.  So, in order to lose those one or two pounds, I need to decrease my intake or increase my physical activity (or a combination of the two) to consume the appropriate number of calories.  Anyone attempting to cut calories must be careful, however, to not over do it as women should never let calorie consumption drop below 1,200 calories per day and men shouldn't go below 1,800.*  

Now I have my work cut out for me - math and otherwise - but I think this is a very worthwhile fall challenge.

*I have no medical training or qualifications and am not offering medical opinions or advice on this blog.  I'm just passing along information I have found to be useful.
(Photo source:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Did You Know?

According to one web site:

  • It takes up to 400 years for a landfill to break down
  • Recycled plastic only takes 2/3 the energy needed to make new plastic
  • Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 1,500 gallons of gas
  • Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour which creates 150 billion caps (700 million pounds) of which 90% go to landfill

In an effort to recycle more items, I started researching what to do with plastic bottle caps.  I found two sources that will take a variety of plastic caps.  The drawback is that they have to be mailed and postage isn't paid by the company.

For anyone interested in recycling plastic caps, the two sources are:

Caps Can Do (Weisenbach Recycled Products) - they take yogurt and butter lids, too

Caps-n-Cups - they take #5 plastic cups, too

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quote for the Day

"May the love hidden deep inside your heart find the love waiting in your dreams. May the laughter that you find in your tomorrow wipe away the pain you find in your yesterdays."


Friday, September 2, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Enough or Too Much

As I've entered the last month of my no-shopping challenge, I've been thinking about how one can determine how much is enough or how much is too much, especially when it comes to clothing.  Here are a few rules of thumb I've come up with:

1) 80% of your clothes are too much.  Most people only wear 20% of what they own.
2) Anything hidden in an attic or basement that isn't part of your regular seasonal rotation.
3) Anything you have stored in an off-site storage facility.  If you've had to move it out of your house and are paying a monthly fee to store it, it's too much.
4) Any piece of clothing that you've owned for some time and still has the tags on it.  Face it, you will never wear that item.
5) Anything that isn't used at least once a year.  This applies mainly to holiday items such as punch bowls, turkey platters, Christmas trees, etc.

I think by following these rules, you'll be well on your way to decluttering your life and enjoying what you own.