Saturday, February 28, 2009

Paperless Books

I watched Charlie Rose the other night and heard's Jeff Bezos talk about Kindle 2 - Amazon's next generation wireless reading device.

I saw Kindle 1 advertised on Amazon's site a while ago and paid no attention to it. I didn't think there was any substitute for that cozy feeling of curling up with a good book. But...I'm willing to consider for a moment that I may be wrong. I won't go into all of the features of Kindle 2 on this post, but you can watch videos at and read the reviews.

The features that struck the biggest chord with me were these:
  • The display is not like a computer display. Bezos calls it "Electronic Paper" which causes less eye strain than a computer monitor (which is like "shining a flashlight in your eyes".)
  • Books are paperless - there are no longer considerations about how many copies should be published. You can imagine how much paper this would save.
  • Clutter-free. You can put 1,500 books on this device. We must have 100s of books in our house, some of them never read. I can imagine how nice it would be to have more space where books would be.
I'm not considering getting the Kindle 2 (cost prohibitive), but if I had the money I may be in the market.

What about you? What do you think of "paperless" books?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Weeks 31 & 32 Bean Challenge: 1 Dinner a Week

These past to weeks were bean dinner repeats: tofu stir-fry and and pinto bean burgers.

No complaints...from anybody!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sauna Love

Now that I have your attention...My newest obsession is the sauna. I got to spend some time with my friend this weekend and she asked me if I wanted to take a sauna at her house after we hung out for a while. "You have a SAUNA at your house?" "Yes, we've had one for a couple of years. I can't believe I never told you. Usually when I tell people the think it's weird or icky."

Uh-uh, not me. It's sauna time.

Just look at these healthy folks in their living room sauna. Smiling and relaxed. It's hard to be pissed off in a sauna. You'd have to really be trying to get enraged in a sauna.

This is the exact sauna my friend had. Is that luxury or what?

And it's truly the ultra-Scandinavian answer to our long long winters in the Upper Midwest. Those Finns know how to deal.

According to my friend (who is a runner) it is very therapeutic and good for post-exercise. It removes toxins and lactic acid from your muscles, so you can recover quicker and not feel sore the day after.

Here are some other health benefits, according to the North American Sauna Society (yes there is such a "Society"!)
  1. Improved circulation and lowered blood pressure
  2. Relieves tension, stress and mental fatigue
  3. Better and more restful sleep
  4. Removal of toxins and impurities from the body
  5. Maintains clear and health skin
I'm filing this under "remedies". Catch you later sauna - I'll be back.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I have never set foot in "The Container Store" (or the like) for fear that I would go completely bonkers and sign over my entire paycheck. I don't consider myself ultra-organized. My self-assessment is "B minus" - slightly above average with room for improvement. If only I bought some more "stuff" (containers, etc.), I could achieve organization nirvana. Right?

Probably not. For me, buying more containers isn't the answer - getting rid of stuff and making better use of the containers I already have typically works out fine.

Trust me, I'll set foot in The Container Store some day. I hope I'll have the sense to leave my credit cards at home. Until then, I'll stick with these "reusing theme" containers:

Milk jug holds tools (Ugly - keep hidden in basement)

Kleenex box keeps plastic bags organized (Ugly - keep hidden in drawer)

Baby food containers double as mini-containers for holding tomato paste (frozen) or spices.
No more babies. Planned.

Glass jars hold beans, rice, pasta (this one's a keeper - appealing purple top)

Anybody else have Container Store fever? Any tips for reusing items as containers?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weeks 29 & 30 Bean Challenge: 1 Dinner a Week

Our bean challenge dinner this past week was homemade empanadas. I've never made them before and decided to make both the refried bean filling and dough from scratch. My challenges to myself are not usually without mistakes. But like I tell my's OK to make mistakes, because that helps you learn. The same applies to me & my home cookin'.

If you don't know what empanadas are, they're pastries stuffed with either meat/beans or a sweet filling. Being my first time making these, I made the mistake of making the dough too thick. Next time I'll be more patient and keep rolling out that dough. Hungry bickering children were all the motivation I needed to get those empanadas in the pan!

Here's the link to the recipe I used. I varied it by using butter instead of shortening, used masa harina (corn flour) for one of the cups of flour, and pan fried instead of deep frying. The family liked them, not too many complaints. The suggestion for next time is "use meat". Umm...that's slightly missing the point, but I get it.

The other recent bean mistake was omitting the bean challenge from week 29 (gasp!) For as long as I've been doing this, you'd think I would remember. The week slipped by and no bean dinner. Oddly enough, the kids didn't miss it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Viva Variety (or "I'm All Over the Map")

I'm all over the map on this post. I have a few updates to throw out there:

1) I'm planning a bean dinner for tomorrow night - Empanadas. Please let me know if you have any empanada tricks up your sleeve - I have never made them before. Ben from What's Cooking...if you're out there, I'd love to hear your tips! I have masa harina or flour to choose from. Check out his cooking site - it's fabulous!

I meant to make these empanadas Sunday, but instead we ate take-out. When I make plans for cooking and it doesn't happen...well...that kind of bugs me. It's a pet peeve of mine. But we knew it was a risk, playing with our kids' eating schedule like that. We decided to go to the bookstore in the late afternoon; by the time we paid there was a chorus of "I'm hungry!" and "WAHHH!. Chipotle was next door. How convenient for us. And them. Do they plan on families being famished after book shopping?

The kids got chicken - and didn't eat it. "Too SPICY!" I got beans (of course). I couldn't help but notice if we planned a little better, we could have avoided the expense and the whining. *sigh*

2) I was all about consignment store shopping on Saturday. I bought 7 spring/summer shirts and 1 shirt for my daughter. All brand names and pretty good deals. I bought a shirt that was originally from Forever 21. That's a mall store I will never set foot in. It's not because I don't like the clothes, it's because of the name. If they renamed it
Rapidly Approaching 40, I might reconsider.

3) And lastly, there's a video contest called "My Co-op Rocks". Spread the co-op love...submit your top 10 reasons why your co-op rocks and win fabulous prizes. 1st prize - a Mac Book.

Yep. I'm all over the map.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Public Transportation: I'm a Hypocrite

I love public transportation. My first bus ride was in 7th grade with my friend Ann who knew the bus schedules inside and out. Riding the bus gave me a freedom I hadn't known before...I could go to the strip mall without needing a ride from my parents. Watch out County Seat, Hot Dogs and More, and Two Plus I come, bus tokens in hand!

Despite my adoration of public transportation, I am a hypocrite. Our city got a light rail system a several years ago and it's been a great success on all accounts. But I rarely ever use it. I don't need to - I have a car and a less than 5 mile commute. Taking a bus and transferring to the light rail would take 3 times longer than driving to my job. I value my car as a time saver and would never switch to public transportation willingly.

But a tiny opportunity to redeem myself arose this week: I had to attend an off-site meeting in a high traffic/pedestrian heavy area of our city. A co-worker mentioned how easy it was to take the train and transfer to a bus to get to the meeting. Fantastic - I was dreading the drive and public transportation was so far from my routine that it didn't even dawn on me.

I felt good about my choice that day. And my conclusion is still the same: I'm a hypocrite.

Are there any other hypocrites out there?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Skin Deep

Occasionally I check cosmetics, lotions, and shampoo products at the "Skin Deep" site. Here's Skin Deep's Mission:

Skin Deep pairs ingredients in more than 41,000 products against 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases, making it the largest integrated data resource of its kind. Why did a small nonprofit take on such a big project? Because the FDA doesn't require companies to test their own products for safety.

This evening I looked up a product sitting on our bathroom sink: Kiss My Face Fragrance Free Olive & Aloe Ultra Moisturizer. According to the health hazard score, it received a 4 out of 10 (10 being the most hazardous).

This is confusing to me since the label on this moisturizer has the tag line "obsessively natural". Apparently not, Kiss My Face. I'm guessing if this line were truly obsessive about being natural, it would rate lower than a 4.

I like using this site but...I'm not a science-type, so I'm not sure what some of the statistical info means (such as the"data gap" percentage). If you have any insight to that issue, let me know. I'll keep using Skin Deep, despite being statistically challenged.