Thursday, January 31, 2008

Health Care for All and HR 676

A really hot political topic for me is health care for everyone. My personal beliefs are that if we can afford to fund a war in foreign countries, then surely we can fund health care for our friends, families and neighbors. After all, if we don't look out for each other who will? Many developed countries offer health care for everyone in society and they seem to be managing it well, so why aren't we. I say, the best country in the world should have the best helath care in the world, so I decided to write my Governor, Senators, and House Representative. I'll post up the responses that I receive from them. My Representative, Mr. Elijah Cummings, is co-sponsoring HR 676 which will provide just that, free health care for everyone. I hope that we can realize the dream of free health care in time for my grandmother's generation to benefit. I'll try to include updates whenever possible. To learn more about this cause visit any of the websites below:


The Maryland SPCA 2008 March for the Animals



The Maryland SPCA
2008 March For the Animals
Sunday, April 20th, 2008
9:30 a.m.
Druid Hill Park
The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), Chesapeake Chapter is participating as a PACK for the 2008 March for the Animals. This annual 1.5 mile March raises money for needy and homeless animals.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED:
Members and friends of SMPS will walk as a pack, raising money for this fun and worthy event.
Each participant must raise at least $50 to participate – four‐legged furry companions are
encouraged (one dog per participant please). Maximum number of pack members is 25, so it’s first come first serve. Pack members receive a SPCA t‐shirt and a bandanna for your pup. This event also includes a fun‐packed day full of great activities, games, entertainment and demonstrations. 100% of the proceeds from the March go directly toward providing care, shelter, food and medications to needy and unwanted animals in the SPCA adoption center while they wait for new homes. Donations are also welcome!

Deadline to sign up for the march – April 4th, 2008
Deadline for donations – April 18th, 2008 (Checks payable to MD SPCA)
If you’re interested in participating or would like to donate please contact me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

First Run of the Soy Milk Maker

Well, my new soy milk maker arrived in the mail today. I had received my soybeans a few days ago and had already begun the soaking process. I unloaded the box and read the very easy to follow instructions. I loaded in the beans, pressed milk and voila, 15 minutes later I had warm soy milk. I added 3 tablespoons of sugar in the raw, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, and a tablespoon of vanilla. I drank a glass of the warm soy milk with my paht thai dinner and man, was it good. I'm so excited because you can also use the machine to make nut and rice milk. I can buy an optional tofu maker and make fresh tofu in under an hour. I'm really pleased with my new kitchen gadget and I would definately recommend it. mmm mmm goood.....

Weekend Sewing Project - Book/Page Weights

I am in grad school and have a lot of very large books, with far too many pages from which I need to take notes. I enjoy using my laptop for note taking and found that far too often I was attempting to hold down my pages with my elbows while typing with my hands. This was cumbersome and not very effective. I tried to think of some interesting way to sew a book weight. I settled on the following: I took a few t-shirt scraps and sewed two (2) corners and left one folded to form a pocket that was opened on top. Next, I filled the pocket with coffee beans, then pinned and sewed up the opening. I made a second larger pocket and snuggled the smaller bean pouch inside and sewed it up. Intially I hand-sewed on an old goggle strap to make an extendable two-ended book weight, but found it to be unwieldy. So.. I removed the strap and stitched up the edges again. I took two (2) binder clips and sewed those on to each side. This design allows me to clip the weight to the page I want have open and it doesn't obstruct the text. I've been using them and so far so good; I'm really pleased with them. Here are some pictures:



Garmin Nuvi (Nav) Cover/Case

For Christmas, my super awesome fiancee bought me a navigational system. This was a very good thing because I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag with a map. North is always straight ahead and East is always to my right. This is problematic, because I almost always do the driving and we love to go on new adventures. I was so happy to receive my new Garmin Nuvi 200 because it helps me find my way in the car, but it also works on batteries and I can walk around with it..ingenious! I am also accident prone, which meant that I needed some kind of protective cover a.s.a.p. I went to the thrift store to find some fun piece of clothing to transform into a case and decided on an adorable baby vest. It was green and had fun travel graphics and lined with soft, fuzzy orange fleece; perfect. Unfortunately, my sewing machine was not co-operating (and yes, I took it back last night), so I ended up handsewing using some funky multi-colored green thread and a whip stitch. I also poked two little eyelets and used an old t-shrit scrap to tie a bow and hold the whole thing closed. Now, my nav looks as adventurous as me and it won't get scuffed up in my purse!



Monday, January 28, 2008

Health Inspection Videos...Yikes!

As if you didn't have enough reasons to make your own food at home, here come many, many, many more reasons.

http://www.healthinspections.com/video.cfm?bWVkaWFJRD0yOA

From the site: "Seeing is Believing and it's Hard to Believe What Inspectors See!
A mouse swimming in the marinade. Flies in the slaw. French fries stored in the garbage. These things really happened – and now you can see them! Healthinspections.com videos show it all...putting you 'on the beat' with America's kitchen cops. From photos of actual violations to interviews with health inspectors, you'll be amazed by what you see happening in your favorite restaurants. So, view the videos - seeing is believing!"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

High Fructose Corn Syrup is in Everything!

One of the first things that started me on this journey to attempting to do more for myself and my family at home was learning that high fructose corn syrup (hfcs) is in absolutely everything... Everyone has highlighted the trend among Americans of growing increasingly overweight and far outpacing the rest of the world. I wondered why it is that this could be happening, because it seemed rather sudden. When I was in grade school there were very few overweight children and parents. Sure, the decline in outdoor activities and many, many other factors are involved, but one trend that I noticed paralleling this growth, was the incrased use of high fructose corn syrup. Perhaps it is just a conicidence, but it isn't one that I'm interested in proving through consumption. I've read a good deal aout hfcs over the years and I'll include some excellent links below that are representative of what I have learned. Once I learned that high fructose corn syrup isn't good for me, I made an active attempt to avoid it. Have you ever read your food labels? Hfcs is in everything! It's really pretty horrifying. I've spent hours reading grocery store labels trying to find bread, salad dressing, and jelly that doesn't contain it. I've started baking my own bread and making a concerted effort to only buy and consume products that don't contain it. It's harder than you would think, but I really feel like its worth it for my family and I. So, my advice gentle reader is... do as much for yourself as you can. Make your own bread, its easy, its inexpensive, and its fun to do with your family. Isn't it amazing that the very things that are good for you, your family, and the environment can also help you save money too? Corporations do not have your best interests at heart, they don't care if the products they create have less healthy nutrition choices, as long as they can make them cheap. I'll include some of my favorite recipes for home-made bread, pancakes, and pizza. It really is easier than you think.

My favorite place to buy great bread flour: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/ (I also buy the most used flour in bulk from BJ's warehouse).

Buy a refurbished Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer; it's worth its weight in gold: http://www.amazon.com/Factory-Reconditioned-KitchenAid-RRK150WH-Artisan-5-Quart/dp/B0001ZYYQU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1201483845&sr=8-1

For loaves that come out perfect: http://www.amazon.com/Creuset-Stoneware-Deep-Dish-Loaf-Pan/dp/B00007BHZI

Bread books:

The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread (Hardcover)by Peter Reinhart (Author), Ron Manville (Photographer)
http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bakers-Apprentice-Mastering-Extraordinary/dp/1580082688/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201484265&sr=1-1

The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes (Paperback)by Beth Hensperger (Author)
http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bible-300-Favorite-Recipes/dp/0811845265/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201484312&sr=1-2
I would absolultely recommend a pizza stone and peel also; they come in handy more often than you would think.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Links:

"High-fructose corn syrup: Why is it so bad for me?"
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588

"Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Have to Be in Everything?"
http://www.lewrockwell.com/alston/alston13.html

YOU: The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger (Hardcover)by Michael F. Roizen (Author), Mehmet Oz (Author)
http://www.amazon.com/YOU-Owners-Insiders-Healthier-Younger/dp/0060765313

High Fructose Corn Syrup
http://www.sprol.com/?p=236

Make-up

One area that I certainly need to cut back in is....make-up. I've had a love/hate relationship with make-up since I was about 12. I love that I can have a flawless finish that makes me look perfectly even-toned and matted. However, I know that its terrible for my skin and leading to my over-sized pores, splotchy complexion, and perpetuating my acne cycles. I always found it ironic that I was wearing "the natural look" when putting on my make-up, but it is a painful cycle once you've begun. You start wearing make-up to feel grown-up, to look pretty, because that's what society teaches you is good (i.e., normal). The make-up makes your face break out, and now you have to wear it to cover-up the breakouts. It's a never ending cycle; and did I mention its a ridiculously expensive addiction? I've begun wearing less make-up, but have been having a hard time transitioning to nothing at all. I'd like to wear eye make-up on the weekends and for special occasions, but I hate having to wear foundation. I usually purchase MAC make-up, which is as ridiculous as my budget would allow. However, a friend of mine recommended something new, E.L.F (or eyes, lips, face). They have super cheap make-up, so I dove in and ordered about 30 different pieces of make-up (and it only cost me $30.00)! Included in this make-up binge is a knock-off version of the bare minerals. I've heard that it can really cover imperfections and clear your face over time. My best friend and I tried wearing it today and we quickly made some observations: 1. It feels totally weird; like having nothing on at all. 2. The coverage is not the same as traditional make-up, so your blemishes or discolorations do still show 3. It doesn't transfer (so your S.O.'s clothes won't be tan) 4. we got lots of compliments and were told that we looked radiant, and glowing. I'm going to continue to give it a shot. I really like the idea of wearing less make-up and regaining my choice to paint my face or not, and still look good.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Home-Made Soy Milk!?

Have you ever stopped to think about how strange it is that we drink milk? Humans are the only species to drink milk from another species (outside of extreme circumstances like dogs nursing stray kittens, etc). Also, the purpose of milk is to help babies gain as much fat in as little time as possible and with we Americans drinking so much milk; who should be surprised that we all seem to be gaining weight at an alarming rate? Even more disturbing are the hormones that transfer directly from the cow to you...eek! There are many excellent sites that give information about why cow milk may not been good for us to drink. Did I mention that its also pretty expensive considering that it is mostly fat and water? About a year and a half ago I started to exeperience some pretty unsettling adult acne. My dermatologist suggested that I stop ingesting dairy for about two weeks and then take a look at my skin. It really was amazing, my face cleared up completely. I have also developed estrogen related liver lesions, could my life-long love affair with dairy have aided in this development? One site that will really give you pause is http://notmilk.com/. I decided to cut back on dairy as much as possible and switched to fat free milk to begin the process. Since then, I've learned to prefer fat-free milk to whole and I've even learned to enjoy soy milk. My biggest issue with organic fat-free cow milk and soy milk are the prices. I currently live in Baltimore, MD and with the price of milk at nearly $4.00 a gallon it has certainly aided in my dairy cut back. However, I'm not about to start putting water on my cereal and I really enjoy baking, so what to do? Well, I may have found the answer...While shopping for my favorite bread ingredients at the King Arthur Flour online I noticed that they were having a sale on the Soyabella Soymilk Maker. Make your own soy milk, I wondered..that's kind of strange. As I read further I realized that you can make your own soymilk at home for about .50 a gallon; crazy! At $79.95 this thing will pay for itself in less than a year, and I don't have to drive to the store each week to buy milk for my daughter's breakfast; awesome! If you are interested in checking out this soy milk maker yourself, just go here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/detail.jsp?id=4351. Mine is in the mail now and here is some information direct from the manufacturer for your reading enjoyment: http://www.soyabella.com/index.php. Next, I sought out where to buy some beans to make my own soymilk and stumbled upon a few good reviews pointing to here: http://www.fairviewfarms.com/. Fairview Farms sells 14lbs. of Non-GMO (genetically modified) soybeans for $18.95, which includes shipping. The website indicates that 1lb. of beans will make slightly less than 2 gallons of milk in a soy milk maker. That means that my 14 lbs. of beans should last me about 2-3 months months. I can't wait to get started!

Some other interesting milk related websites:

"Milk, Doing Your Body Good?" http://www.jyi.org/volumes/volume6/issue3/features/lee_and_wei.html


"Does Milk Really Look Good On You? Don't Drink It!"
http://www.mercola.com/2000/feb/27/no_milk.htm

"Milk Sucks!"
http://www.milksucks.com/index2.asp

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My First Sewing Machine!

I went to my local Jo-Ann's and purchased lots of sewing notions during their 50% off sale. I also made the decision to pick-up my first sewing machine. I purchased a Singer 2932. The dealer inside Jo-Ann's offers 10 day money back guarantee, 90 day trade-up policy, and a free sewing lesson. I purchased the most basic of machines and at $100.00 seemed like a good initial investment. However, I've spent about 3 hours on the machine and as a noob I have found out the following the hard way:

1. The tension is very finicky and I have spent more time unjamming the machine then sewing.
2. The front-loading bobbin is a pain.
3. The self-threading needle option is useless and it's faster and easier to thread it myself.
4. At this rate, I will spend more time on my machine then sewing so I'm going to return it and try out a few other machines. I've killed one sweater and two spools of thread; not good.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Room Makeover 2



This section of my room highlights my furniture transformation. My 1980's black lacquer and brass furniture gets a modern makeover with chocolate paint and new brushed nickel hardware. My friend in charge of the design element even took an old painting and repainted her original artwork on top; now that's recycling!

Jan 9 2008 - 30th Birthday Room Makeover


For my 30th birthday my awesome friends did a complete room makeover and re-used an old electric fireplace that was hiding in the basement. The fireplace, previously light oak colored fibreboard and brass colored accents was repainted a fabulous black matte which works with both the black and brown elements of the room. This heater allows me to keep the rest of the house much cooler, while I remain toasty in my sanctuary. Cutting back on gas and electric and re-making stuff I already own makes me one happy birthday girl.

Shopping!

So I've gotten some great inspiration from my recent book purchases on sewing and refashioning clothes and decided to get started. I went to the Salvation Army and dropped $100, which was a bit shocking, but I have enough clothing to keep me busy for the rest of the year to be certain. I picked my first project from Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt by Megan Nicolay and got started right away. It didn't require any sewing, so it seemed the best place to start. I learned that cutting straight lines with old scissors can be challenging, at best. The project came out well and I modeled it for my friends. Next, I tackled converting a thrift store sweater into mittens and a scarf. I will definitely need some practice sewing, but I've found the whole process to be relaxing and fulfilling. I sported my new mittens at work and everyone marveled over my craftiness. Feeling the creative juices begin to flow I went to my local thrift store and purchased a ridiculous amount of clothing that certainly will require some refashioning and I am eager to get working on some new projects. I'll begin posting each project with a before and after shot and any challenges or time savers I find along the way. In the meantime, I'm definitely going to need to stock up on sewing supplies and practice my hand-stitching.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Noob Dives In

I've been standing on my recycling soap box for quite some time while wearing name brand sunglasses, bags, shoes, clothes, lip gloss, you get the idea... This blog commemorates the beginnig of my attempt to use less and find more. I'll chronicle the areas in my life in which I choose to cut back and how, hopefully, I attain more by doing so. I look forward to making some new accquaintences among you gentle readers, who might provide some new ways to see, do, and live.

splash...

Chronicling my adventures in proving that less is more. I'll learn to refashion/recycle clothes, prepare gourmet meals using as many natural/basic/raw ingredients as possible. I'll learn to spend less, live more, and reclaim those things that are truly valuable in my life.

Feeds

Below are feeds from websites that I find to be interesting and from a similar vein.

ReadyMade

craigslist | free stuff in baltimore

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