Posts in March 2008

Compost Pile

on March 27th, 2008 by

I am continuing to be more environmentally friendly and I am always looking for new ways to improve. Back in October 2007, I decided the next step would be to compost bin. My anticipation was that our trash would decrease and not smell bad after a week and we could turn our food into compost that we can use in our yard. It has now been 5 months and our trash has decreased and doesn’t ever smell bad. The compost has been a little slow going but it is understandable since we just went through the winter months when the internal temperature of the bin is lower and doesn’t breakdown as fast. Below is the breakdown of my compost bin experience.

The Plan for building a compost bin:

  • Research Composting
  • Figure out the best area in the yard to set it up
  • Buy a bin or build one
  • Buy small bin for kitchen to collect food to compost
  • Collect food in kitchen bin
  • Take food outside and put in compost bin on a regular basis
  • Compost created in a little while

Filling of compost bin:

  • 1:25 ratio of green to brown
  • Brown = straw, hay, dried grass & leaves
  • Green = food, green plants
  • Layer brown and green
  • 8″ of brown on top
  • See website for more in depth instructions

The Result:

  • 2′ x 8′ plastic lattice from Home Depot
  • Twist ties to connect ends of plastic lattice together
  • scissors to cut end off twist ties
  • small bail of straw

CompostCompostCompost

Learned lesson:

  • Never leave food in compost pail in house for long before taking food out to compost – it breaks down and smells disgusting and/or grows mold

The Demise of TV

on March 25th, 2008 by

What has happened to TV? Creative sitcom programming beats reality shows any day.

How “reality” are some of the reality shows anyway? I don’t know anyone who got “stranded” on an island. Or anyone who is given lots of money for answering some questions correctly. Reality is what goes on around us everyday – not that. To me, reality shows are overwhelming the TV “guide” and are only minimally entertaining when there is something to learn. For example, the first season of The Apprentice. There were lots of business ideas and inspirations. The second season was a little bit of a rerun of the first season with a few new things, but as the series went on it degraded to an unappealing reality TV show with lots of drama.

I want to see more creative programming. The creativity of Friends has never resurfaced. The lives of Scrubs’ characters set in the medical world is so artfully designed. The dynamics between characters and the embedded morals are what make me like sitcoms so much more.

I am so happy that the strike is over and we can start seeing our sitcoms back on the air. If at some point in the future, most TV converts to reality shows, I will no longer subscribe to cable/satellite and just buy DVDs since I would rather spend my money on something I enjoy rather than what other people want to watch.

We live reality everyday. Why do we want to watch it when we get home?

Advice on choosing a club

on March 24th, 2008 by

Choosing a club to join is much like choosing friend. Personality, goals, and things in common all come into play.

If I could offer some advice to those looking to join clubs in general… before officially joining, go to a few meetings, get to know the people a little and see if your personality meshes well with those around you. See if you have common goals dependent and independent of the club you are thinking about joining. You will be happier with the club you join in the long run if you do a little research before you join.

I offer this advice because I was first introduced to an organization called Toastmasters a couple years ago.

The first Toastmasters club I joined was a joy to attend. After a few meetings, I continued to feel welcome and decided to join. Every one was wonderful. During my time there, I earned a communication award, and I took on leadership positions of Club President and VP of Membership (please see my other post for details). There were a few not so good days, but everyone has those – it is human nature. I enjoyed my 1 1/2 years I was there – I left due to an employment change.

With the second club I joined, the story was a bit different. There was no club local to my area so some out-of-the-area Toastmasters members got together with some interested locals and helped to form 2 clubs in our area. I helped in forming the club that was a little closer to me. From the beginning, there was tension with one of the other founding members (and I feel like I can get along with most people out there), but I thought in time things would change for the better. Things really didn’t get any better but they weren’t getting any worse, so I stuck with it.

One day I heard that the other club was having an Open House. So, I thought that would be a great time to visit them and see what their meetings were like. They were great! Organized, efficient, and welcoming. Everything I knew from my first club. I had thoughts of jumping ship from one club to another but it just didn’t feel right leaving the club that I helped form especially so early in their life-cycle. I thought about joining and attending both, but the cost and thought of spending more time away from home felt undesirable to me.

So, I decided to stay with my current club (despite my uneasy feelings) and give them my full and complete attention. The second club seemed to get better. I earned more awards and I was even elected to be President.

But then suddenly, it blew up between me and the person I had some opposition with. Rather than dread going to meetings as the Club President, I resigned after 11 days in office and I just left the club even though most of the members wanted me to stay. There was no club reason that I had to leave, actually had a pursued what caused the blow up between me and the other member and filed a complaint with Toastmasters, the outcome would have been much different. But, I just didn’t want to cause waves and cause the club as a whole heart ache, so I thought it best to remove myself from the situation and let others choose their path. It is unfortunate how one toxic personality can ruin a whole group. I just did not want to go to a learning environment where I didn’t feel comfortable. It was supposed to be fun and it just wasn’t fun anymore.

I did hear that others left and joined the other club nearby shortly after I left. Sometimes I wish things would have been different and had joined the other club. Maybe one day I will visit them and see how they are doing. For now though, I am happy having more free time and using what I have learned from this difficult but rewarding learning experience.

Toastmasters

on March 24th, 2008 by

Toastmasters is a International organization that teaches you communication and leadership though a hands-on experience. The meetings have a structured meeting format, however, instead of sitting and listening to someone else talk all of the time, you get to do speeches in front of the group too and inform, educate, and/or entertain those who are watching you. The environment is friendly and encouraging and all are welcome. There is a yearly membership fee for the local and international levels. Many places of employment will reimburse partial or full fees since communication and leadership are vital to your employment, so check with the company you work for to see if they will help with your fees. Your experiences in Toastmasters will make you a better worker and leader in your work place, so your employer should be able to see their investment in you grow.

The feedback loop in Toastmasters is an award based one. Awards are earned when you work toward and complete achievements. There are awards for Communication and Leadership achievements. It is up to you which path(s) you choose. If you want to earn the highest award you will have to follow and complete both paths – one for Leadership and one for Communication. There is a wonderful Educational Program description and diagram on the Toastmasters website.

I am currently not part of any Toastmasters club at the moment, however in the past, during my 2 1/2 years with Toastmasters, I accomplished and learned many things. I was a member of 2 (almost 3) clubs – Debedeavon Toastmasters and Delmarva Toastmasters. I officially served as a President, a VP of Education, and a Mentor – sometimes some of them at the same time. I have unofficially served as a VP of Membership, VP of Public Relations, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sergeant-at-Arms. During my time in Toastmasters, I earned many awards. In the communication track, I achieved my Competent Toastmaster award in 2006, the new Competent Communicator award, and completed a few of the Advanced Communicator speeches. In the leadership track, I earned my Competent Leadership Award, my Advanced Leader Bronze award, and was working toward my Advanced Leader Silver award. All of these awards are explained in the Educational Program portion of the Toastmasters website mentioned above.

Please go to the Toastmasters site and find a club near you. You will find a lot of information on the Toastmasters site, so happy reading!

No More Plastic Bags… Almost

on March 23rd, 2008 by

In the news recently there has been news of many countries and cities banning and taxing the use of plastic bags. I am very excited to see that some places are taking action. We have to reduce our dependence on oil and this is a small step in that direction (actually it is potentially a big step with a majority of compliance). The US, however, has always had problems issuing blanket regulations due to stifling a freedom, states choosing to not follow, or one of many other reasons. We all choose what regulations we want to follow whether a law states it or not. While no one is telling me to, I am choosing to reduce my plastic bag consumption.

Where I live, over the last couple of months, I have seen a slight change in people’s perspectives with regards to the use of plastic bags. I am not saying that there is a significant movement to the non-use of plastic bags, just the acceptance of not using plastic bags.

I did some research and found some wonderful reusable bags at none other than ReusableBags.com. I have bought many different styles over the last two years and I use different styles for different reasons. I will get into the benefits of certain styles of bags in another post.

One of my first experiences using my bags that I bought from ReusableBags.com was at Wal-Mart. The cashier told me that if I wasn’t going to use plastic bags, that she wasn’t going to bag my groceries. Well, being the non-confrontational person that I am, I told her that I was going to use my bags so I would bag my own groceries. When I came home and told my husband, he said that she was lucky he wasn’t there with me. I think she would have received one heck of a feedback/complaint to her manager on the spot. I did write the details of the encounter on the receipt, but never did call back and complain. Instead over my next couple of trips to Wal-Mart, as I was asking the cashiers to use the non-plastic bags, I would tell them of my unpleasant experience with one of their coworkers. A couple cashiers even told me who they probably thought it was. I never did see the rude cashier again – I would have reported a complaint should it have happened again – maybe she didn’t last long with that awful attitude. She probably gave everyone a hard time about everything.

This experience just fueled my want to change to buying my groceries at someplace other than Wal-Mart. By this time, I had many reasons to not shop at Wal-Mart that I will write a-whole-nother post about. The one reason that I started going to Wal-Mart was a lack of money on our part. I know how evil the Wal-Mart corporation is in their doing of business, so I wouldn’t be going to Wal-Mart because I like the place. I rarely find nice shoppers during my shopping experience. From the people who run into your cart while you are standing still and never apologize to the people sitting outside of the front doors in their running cars looking like they are going to need to do a fast get away but in fact are just too darn lazy to get up off their butt and walk a couple of steps. Luckily, money is better now and I realized that if we modified our food habits that we could afford to shop at a nicer grocery store like Giant, Superfresh, or Food Lion (since those are our only other choices in the way of larger grocery stores).

Now that I have switched my grocery shopping to Giant, I don’t receive any opposition to my cloth and recycled plastic grocery bags. Actually, I don’t even have to ask. All I need to do is put them on the moving belt with the food in the front and they automatically bag the groceries into the cloth bags. In addition to the friendly cashiers, Giant even gives you a credit of $0.03 for each reusable bag you use during your purchase. Some of the lines at Giant were recently converted to Self-Checkout lines – I really enjoy those. There is a person over there that helps you if you need it and not a lot of the people use the lines so there is no waiting time. Plus, I actually love bagging my own groceries. I know how much I can fill each bag up and how heavy they need to be for me to carry. I like putting similar items together and while they do a really good job of that at Giant, I just wasn’t used to good bagging at Wal-Mart – who really wants 2 items per bag, oh maybe it is because the bags will break if they put too many items in or maybe it is just Wal-Mart’s was of being wasteful – that is probably it. I just need to figure out how to put in how many reusable bags I am using and get my credit and I will have mastered the Self-Checkout lines at Giant.

I do have to admit that I haven’t been fully converted to no plastic bags completely – not out of want but necessity (for now). We have 2 cats and I use plastic bags to clean their litter boxes. I haven’t figured out a sanitary way yet of cleaning their cat boxes without the plastic bags. I can say though that over the past 3 months that I haven’t been getting plastic bags at the grocery store at all, I am still going through the plastic bags that I had stock piled. They will eventually run out though, so before they run out, I need to find a solution.

MOPS

on March 22nd, 2008 by

I was reading Christie’s blog, Carla’s friend, and noticed one post about a group called MOPS.  She didn’t describe them other than she liked the group and ended up joining, but I thought it probably had something to do with supporting moms.  So, I wanted to do some research and see what I could find.

MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers.  It is an international organization with meeting groups all over the United States and many other countries.  It is a Christian faith-based organization.  The group has a small yearly international membership fee, but it is not unreasonable and you get goodies with your membership.  Local chapters may have a small fee too, but it all depends on the group.

If you want to check it out, go to the MOPS website and find a MOPS Group in your area.

Health Store in Salisbury!

on March 18th, 2008 by

For the last 11 years there has been a health store in Salisbury, MD and until last week I never knew about it. I have even been to the shopping center where it is located and never noticed – and I think of myself as a pretty observant person. I think they need some marketing since I think it is the only health food store in Salisbury. Granted I could be wrong about it being the only one since I didn’t know this one existed, but it never hurts to have a little marketing here and there. Since the people there were so kind and they had quite an assortment of organic and natural foods, I wanted to give them a little free marketing by plugging them on my blog. Not that a lot of people read this so far, but more and more are starting to read my posts, so it can’t hurt a small businesses to get their name out there – it only needs to reach a few people – those people can tell their people and so on. Well, here is the name, address, and phone number of the health store in Salisbury…

Health Store and More
Healthful Habits
720 College Ave
Salisbury, MD 21804
(P) 410.749.1997

Sweetness

on March 9th, 2008 by

With the removal of Splenda/sucralose from our home, a void has been created in the sweetener category. The search for a safe sweetener continues…

When we switched to Splenda in late 2003, I gave away all of my refined sugar. Now, in early 2008, we are ruling out Splenda and any artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, saccharin). I don’t want to go backwards and start using refined, table sugar again, so the movement has to be forward which means more research.

After some quick research to verify what I found out a little while ago… We are back to using Stevia that we had sort of switched to for a time a little while back, but ended up drifting away from due to cost. However, now I have found that it is a little cheaper than is used to be but is still one of the more costly sweeteners. Really though, what is cost when it comes to your health… pay for it now or pay for it later, right? So, to sweeten tea and when using sweetener in small amounts, we are using Stevia which is a sweet herb that comes in small packets like many other sweeteners. I have so far found Stevia at Giant, Vitamin Shoppe, and GNC.

Then after more extensive research, I found that Black Strap Molasses are not only high in Potassium but are are excellent sweetener. So, this past week, I bought Organic Black Strap Molasses and natural Brown Sugar Molasses that unfortunately only work in certain recipes. Both of these sweeteners have a certain flavor to them that doesn’t go very well with many basic recipes. So, I am back out on the search.

I recently (as in earlier this evening) find out some good information about brown rice syrup. I will look into it a little more, but it looks like the best bet for now when needing to use a sweetener on a larger scale. It is gluten free and a complex sugar (doesn’t spike your blood sugar like simple sugars) – those are pluses – so if I can be organic as an added plus and find it somewhere where I live, then I will get to try it out and see how it goes.

Who knew trying to sweeten foods in a non-harmful way to your body would be so difficult…

Splenda Begone Continues

on March 7th, 2008 by

The continuing saga of the Splenda purge… Lots of research later, some alternative have been uncovered. The fun part has been finding alternatives to some of the foods that we have grown to love that contain sucralose. It has been easier than expected though. With a trip to Giant, which is one grocery store that is really doing well with the organic and natural foods, all but just a couple of our old sucralose laden foods have found replacements. The wonderful part is that in addition to finding foods to replace those we needed to, we were also able to convert many of the foods that we eat with alternatives that are Organic. It is amazing when you go from shopping at Wal-Mart to Giant what a difference it makes. The differences however I will cover in another post though and once I write it, I will include a direct link from here. I am just so happy to find so many wonderful food options. Now, we need to make the decision to throw out the last few sucralose items or consume them until they are gone. And, those last few items need to find alternatives which I hope to find soon. We will see…

Splenda Begone

on March 3rd, 2008 by

To all of those family, friends, and acquaintences that I have raved about Splenda to – I will rave about it no more.

I thought I was up-to-date on many of the food related issues out there, but apparently I dropped the ball when it came to Splenda. I tried to do my research but there just wasn’t much out there – well, there is now. Over the last year or two, there has been news that Splenda is potentially bad – put in the category with Equal for artificial sweeteners.

With all things, there is controversy; however, when it comes to your health, how far are you willing to go?

Please view the article that started me and my husband on the long IM chat about what we were going to do about the foods in our house that contain Splenda/sucralose.

After reading the article and lots of the comments, we decided to rid our home of Splenda/sucralose. There are only a couple of foods left in our house that contain sucralose and they are dwindling quickly. We threw out the bag of Splenda and any small packets that we had along with the brown sugar Splenda. A few other foods were donated because we may choose to not consume sucralose, but we don’t have the right to deny others if they so choose. We even purged the house of foods with aspartame in it. We want to rid the house of as many artificial foods as possible, so this seemed like the best time to go through everything. The are however a few everyday foods that we are just going to consume and then be done with them. I am not saying that is the best thing and we may change our minds as we are knowing what we are drinking or eating, but there is no more than 2 weeks worth left of any of the sucralose foods, so if we find healthy alternatives before that time is up, then we might just get convert completely and get rid of the remaining foods too. We will see.

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