Thursday, April 30, 2009

Recycle Satellite Dishes

Gardening in high desert country is a challenge, but using satellite dishes to make planters proved to be a good idea. We drill six holes into the bottom of each for drainage before planting.

This idea and photo was submitted to Backyard Living Magazine by Bonnie Redfearn, Carson City, Nevada. Visit Backyard Living to subscribe to their free newsletter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Library Renaissance

New York City’s public libraries are increasingly serving as makeshift employment centers. At the 58th Street branch in Manhattan, out-of-work professionals crowd the computers in the afternoon, a time that had previously been dominated by elderly patrons, and books on résumé writing are hard to keep on the shelves. The Science, Industry and Business Library on 34th Street drew 700 people to a career preparedness fair in January, and the Bronx Library Center recently doubled the number of computer classes it offers to the elderly because people looking to re-enter the work force had packed the existing classes to overflow levels.

“We’ve been in the job-search business for decades,” said Paul LeClerc, the president of the New York Public Library, noting that President Obama has said that a librarian helped him find his first job as a community organizer. “This is a continuation.”

The new role comes amid a broader surge in demand for libraries’ free goods and services that is typical during economic downturns. In the fourth quarter of 2008, circulation rose 16 percent compared with the previous year at the New York Public Library, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island; 9 percent at the Brooklyn Public Library; and 2 percent in Queens. All three systems also report significant increases in the number of visits. Read the entire article.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Recipe: Exotic Banana Tapioca

Serves 8

An adult version of the childhood favorite, with unusual spices for added flavor.

3 tablespoons small pearl tapioca (not quick-cooking)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon Vietnamese (or regular) cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sweet curry powder
Twist of freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe banana

In a small bowl, soften tapioca in warm water for 1 hour. Drain and discard water; transfer tapioca to saucepan.

Dissolve cornstarch in 1 cup milk, then add to tapioca. Add remaining milk, coconut milk, ginger, honey, cinnamon, curry powder, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, until tapioca pearls are clear, about 20 minutes. Slice banana. Remove coconut mixture from heat and add banana. Pour into individual ramekins and chill.

PER SERVING: 159 cal, 27% fat cal, 5g fat, 3g sat fat, 5mg chol, 2g protein, 27g carb, 1g fiber, 38mg sodium

Get more delicious recipes at Delicious Living Magazine.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Make Your Own Shampoo

Don't waste money and packaging on shampoo. You can make shampoo yourself. Planet Green gives you three (3) shampoo recipes.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

How To Give To Charity When You Don't Have Money To Spare

Given the current economic climate, it goes without saying that many people are having to make very difficult decisions, cutting back on spending and going without anything not strictly essential. For some, that means some hard choices about charitable donations: if you're a regular or occasional contributor to good causes, you might be seriously curtailing your gifts.

This can have a negative effect on you. However, if you value being able to help others and contribute, you may feel upset or even guilty that you're no longer in a position to do so. Or perhaps you've rarely or never given to charity in the past, but you've been moved by the suffering caused by the financial crisis - yet you yourself have little money to give.

The good news is that there are a number of ways you can make a real difference, without much money. Here are three ways that you could put into practice today, whatever your financial circumstances. Why not give one a try?

Even $1 Is Worth Giving
You might not be able to contribute $20/month to a good cause, but how about $5 or $2? Foregoing a Starbucks latte once a month could give you enough for this.

Here in the UK, the recent Comic Relief fundraising (with thousands of events around the country, and a televised all-evening event in March) raised £57 million by the end of the televised event - that's a record-breaking figure, and an enormous amount of money for people in desperate need. However, with a UK population of 60.9 million, it's less than one pound (approx $1.45 at current exchange rates) for every person in the UK.

Remember that next time you think that your $1 or $2 bill won't make any difference. It's like voting; each individual's act may be as insignificant as a single drop of water, but add those drops together and you have a ...

Read the entire article

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How To Write Complaint Messages That Will Get the Results You Want

Believe it or not, most effective complaint letters or e-mails don't sound like complaint messages. They simply state the problem calmly and confidently and anticipate that the company will comply with the request they make. Most companies want your business and will often even absorb a loss to maintain good will.

You will probably be frustrated and angry when, for example, a product doesn't work the way it should. It's only natural to want to take out your frustration on the manufacturer. But doing so could make matters worse. Would you want to read an emotionally charged letter full of insults? As one of my students said the other day, "I wouldn't want to deal with a person who attacks me in a letter. I'd get defensive and put the letter at the bottom of my to-do list."

Read the following two ...

Read the entire article

Friday, April 24, 2009

Enjoy Life More: Schedule Your Leisure Time

Time management advice often talks about the important of having a schedule. When you're at work, the plethora of meetings, conference calls and to-do lists probably provide a lot of structure. Whether you are actually getting things done is another story.

But have you ever given any thought to scheduling your leisure time? Many of us find it all too easy to let our evenings and weekends fall into a comfortable – and often rather boring or unsatisfactory – routine. To get the most out of both your work and your play, try some of these ways of giving your leisure time a little structure too.

* Scheduling Leisure Time During Your Day If you're a student or freelancer, you probably have a fair degree of flexibility about when you do your work. You may also find that there are times when you try to micro-schedule your work, but you still end up procrastinating, working much more slowly than you know you should, and rushing things at the last minute.

The answer is often, paradoxically, to stop worrying about scheduling your work time and start building in some time for fun instead. For example, if you tend to start work at 8AM, schedule yourself a ...

Read the entire article

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Unemployment Can Cost

In a steadily shrinking economy, unemployment benefits are critical for workers receiving pink slips. But some banks view such benefits as an- other potential revenue stream and are charging thousands of jobless people fees to access their unemployment money.

• Laid-off engineer Arthur Santa-Maria, 57, of Belen, N.M., found that out when he called Bank of America with a question about the debit card that held his more than $300-a-week unemployment benefits. He was charged 50 cents for a query about his balance, and $1.50 for making two withdrawals in one day.

• Bank of America says its fee schedule is consistent with what other banks charge for such cards. But Santa-Maria, who tried unsuccessfully to get direct-deposit payments, says those fees hurt when "I'm scrambling just to make ends meet."

• New Mexico is one of 30 states using banks and credit card companies to disburse unemployment benefits via debit cards, along with direct deposit. Officials say debit cards help reduce costs of postage, paper and processing; the savings for New Mexico are reportedly up to $1.5 million a year.

• "These types of programs are designed to save the states money and provide recipients added convenience without added expense,"says Nina Das, spokeswoman for Citi, which facilitates benefits on prepaid cards in Kansas and Maryland.

• But Santa-Maria is still caught in the middle."Now they're charging me money to get to my unemployment money," he says."That's wrong."

AARP News April 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Finding An Auto Mechanic

Auto mechanics are consistently ranked high on consumer complaint lists, so it can be hard to find out if you're being scammed for repairs when you ask for a quote.

Now there's help online! The Repair Pal website offers free, realistic quotes based on surveys of auto repair prices at thousands of shops across the country. The website lists local mechanics and provides quotes for repairs and maintenance in your zip code and for your specific car model.

There's 23 billion different price estimates in all. Register for a free account and you can store your car's repair records and get email reminders for service, and also safety and recall alerts. Visit Repair Pal.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Knitting and Crocheting For Our Soldiers

Operation Toasty Toes was originaly the making of handmade knitted and crocheted slippers. Now it includes dickeys, headbands, helmets (a.k.a. ski masks), watch caps and wristlets (a.k.a. fingerless mitts).

These items are mailed to our Armed Forces stationed overseas. It is a grass roots way to assist in America's fight against terrorism. Besides warming the service person's feet, they send a message of support. That a stranger would take the time to make something shows that we do care.

If this is one of your many talents, read more and get details.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Americans Re-Discovering Ironing As Way To Cut Household Expenses

The economy may be anemic, but it’s not due to a lack of iron … or actually, ironing.

The National Dry-cleaning Association reports a 20 percent decline in business since last September, likely due to the fact that Americans are breaking out their ironing boards in full force, taking a do-it-yourself attitude toward getting the wrinkles out.

But getting that crisp, dry cleaned look may seem daunting to many of us. While mom made it look easy, whipping out a perfectly pressed shirt with beautiful creases in under a few minutes, the fact is it’s not something that comes as instinctive as we might like. There are rules about temperature settings, tips on techniques and other directions, and knowing all of them could be the difference between looking sharp and having the charred silhouette of an iron on the back of your shirt.

“Ironing is not difficult, but it does require a bit of practice and some basic know-how,” said Betty Byrne, senior home economist and director of garment care at Proctor Silex one of the nation’s premier authorities on irons. “Our research has found a high degree of frustration with ironing, since most people are self-taught. Let’s face it, when you have your favorite blouse or shirt on the ironing board, you don’t want to run the risk of ruining it.”

Ms. Byrne says one of the biggest mistakes people make is setting the iron to the wrong temperature level. She says if the fabric is a blend, the temperature should be set on the lowest levels, and if need be, you should use the lowest temperature first and test it on an inside seam. When ironing several items, sort them by temperature, ironing the garments that need the lowest setting first. (Irons heat up faster than they cool down, and if you do need to go from a high to low setting, wait five minutes for the iron to reach the lower temperature.)

To make your garments look like they’ve just come from the dry-cleaners, Ms. Byrne offers these ironing tips:

Before you iron. If possible, take clothes out of the dryer slightly damp. Ironing this way is easier on the wrist and provides crisper results

Collar. Start out with the underside of the collar, gently pulling and stretching the fabric, working from each point to the center.

Yoke. (The area of the shirt that rests on your shoulders.) Place one shoulder over the narrow end of the board, ironing from the center out. Repeat on the other shoulder.

Cuffs. Iron the inside of the cuffs first then the outside.

Sleeves. Iron one sleeve at a time, ironing the outside, or the cuff-opening side, of the sleeves first, and then the inside. Repeat on the other side.

Body. Begin by ironing the front panels; be careful and iron around the buttons, not over them. Complete by ironing the back panel. Give the collar another once over, check for any creases and wrinkles you may have missed.

If you’re shopping for your first iron or a new iron, there are many to choose from. Ms. Byrne advises to find one that fits well in your hand. Some new designs feature handles and controls that are actually optimized for better comfort. There are also many new features on the market like larger, easier to read temperature dials, simplified temperature controls, spray triggers and reservoir floats making it easier to see the water level.

“We’re pleased to welcome a whole new generation of ironers who I think will find that ironing yourself is a great way to save money each week,” Ms. Byrne says.

Rural Virginian 4/15/09

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Taffy In The VCR

Q. My son has mangled our VCR by getting taffy in it. I reserved a book from the library on VCR repair but won't have it for a few weeks. I thought I could just clean it out but can you use water? Can you scrub some of those "gadgets" without damaging them? If anyone knows how to repair things like this, please, give me your advise.

A. My husband is an electronic technician and he says first UNPLUG the machine, then use a q-tip and dab rubbing alcohol on the parts that need cleaning and then let the machine thoroughly dry (minimum of 1 hr.) before plugging back in. Do NOT use water!

• In response to the taffy in the VCR ... have her log on to It is a website where you can go to find out how to repair different items from small appliances to refrigerators or air compressors. It helps the average person walk themselves through repairing the product themselves. If all else fails there is ask the expert. Hope that helps. Debbie J.

Get More Cleaning Recipes

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Living Each Moment

by Donna L. Watkins

June marks the entrance to summer in my mind. School is out, children are playing everywhere and flowers are brightly bobbing their heads towards the sun. My favorite part of summer is when the sun is setting and you can open the doors and windows back up for the night.

When I was growing up in the 50's we used to sit outside after dinner and talk to people who walked by, or just talk between ourselves. It was family time. I guess now it would be called "quality time." Our only son is grown and lives half way across the country from us, so it's just Randal and I out on our porch, but we're in a community of many walkers, so the evenings we spend outside usually offer a nice visit with somebody.

If we have important things to discuss, we sit on the back porch and enjoy the woods. I love forests! There is no place that heals my soul quicker than to be in the middle of the woods. Living near the Blue Ridge Mountains, the views tell me that the world isn't as crowded as it seems. Looking at the immenseness of Creation allows me to realize that my troubles are truly small.

Read the entire article.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Recipe: Indian Spicy-Sour Chickpeas with Cauliflower

Serves 8

Used extensively in Indian cooking, anti-inflammatory turmeric and ginger enhance cruciferous cauliflower, vitamin-rich tomatoes, and high-fiber chickpeas, packing this dish with cancer-fighting potential.

Prep tip: Use more or less jalapeño depending on your heat preference.

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups diced onion (1 medium-large onion)
1-2 large jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 15-ounce cans low-sodium chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed and drained
1 pound cauliflower florets (1 medium head, cored and trimmed)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Combine ginger and lemon juice in a small cup. Set aside.

2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil, then onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add jalapeño and continue cooking until onion is brown all over, another 4–5 minutes. Add tomatoes, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, and salt. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add chickpeas and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if mixture becomes dry.

3. Add cauliflower and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring carefully with a rubber spatula every minute or so, until cauliflower is tender, about 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, to boil off any excess liquid. Stir in lemon juice mixture. Stir in cilantro and serve.

PER SERVING: 177 cal, 26% fat cal, 5g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 7g protein, 26g carb, 7g fiber, 453mg sodium

Source: Food Recipes from Delicious Living Magazine.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wasting Money

Dawn, at Frugal For Life has gone over some ways you and I may be wasting our money. You may find an idea that tightens the leaking hole in your finances. There are 13 great ideas.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Paying Credit Card Debt With Extra $5

From Frugal For Life

I never really understand how an extra $5 a month on a credit card would do much damage the huge balance until I came across this debt investment calculator.

By entering my principle balance owed, annual interest rate, amount I pay currently per month and the extra amount I want to pay on the bill; I will then get the amount of interest I saved and the length of time.

As an example I put in an 800 bill that had a 15% interest, paying 30 min. a month and then added an extra $5 a month - this was the result

"If you add $5 to your monthly payment, you will pay off this debt in 28 payments instead of 33, and you will save $31 in interest charges. This savings translates into a guaranteed, tax-free, average annual return of 9%. And that's not even considering the emotional returns you'll get when you pay off this debt 5-months (0 years, 5 months) ahead of schedule!"

It is wonderful to see that a simple $5 extra a month on a bill, instead of eating out at McDonald's, does impact that bill by shaving off 5 months of time plus saving a bit more on interest.

I like this calculator because it is simple but there are other debt reduction calculators that are out there - just Google them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

50 Thrifty Ideas

AARP asked how you pinch pennies these days, and readers responded with a thousand suggestions. The pick of the lot could save you thousands of dollars.

One suggestion was to use Google Product Search which lets you sort the results from low price to high. Read the entire article.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Free Online Courses

About U is a collection of free online courses from Each online course is sent to you via email on a daily or weekly basis and is designed to help you learn a specific skill or solve a particular problem. There are no grades or degrees, only a whole lot of free online learning. Check out the options.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Recipe: Eastern European Vegetable Stew

By The Moosewood Collective


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips
2 cups peeled and diced turnips and/or rutabaga
2 cups peeled and diced beets
6 cups of water or mock chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme and/or dill (1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
5 cups rinsed and chopped Swiss chard or spinach
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream or plain nonfat yogurt (optional)


In a soup pot on medium heat, warm the oil and cook the onions and garlic for seven minutes, stirring frequently. To your water or stock, add the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips or rutabaga, beets, salt, bay leaves, thyme and/or dill. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the vinegar and chopped greens and simmer for ten minutes more. Salt and pepper to taste, then discard the bay leaves. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Soups & Stews Deck by The Moosewood Collective © 2008, Potter Style. For more information check out

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rent-A-Toy For Frugal Parents

Rent-A-Toy is a new company that helps parents cut cost and clutter by renting out toys.

From anywhere in the US, you can hop on Rent-A-Toy's website and pick out what toys you'd most like your kiddo to have for awhile. The toys are sanitized and tested to ensure they aren't broken, so there are relatively few safety concerns beyond what a parent would have when buying a new toy.

When your child has outgrown or is bored with the toy, you send it on back to the company and rent out something else.

The whole program is pretty darn eco-friendly in philosophy, but if you really want to get green about it, you can choose from their selection of environmentally friendly toys.

The pricing is pretty reasonable, with plans starting at $25 a month, delivery is free, and pre-paid return labels are included with the shipment.

While it might be cheaper to head down to the local thrift store or network with other parents to accomplish the same toy recycling, this program is still a neat way to use toys already in the life stream and have an excuse to get rid of old toys - after all, they have to be returned at some point. It also shows us another way in which recessions are good for greening us up.

Via Alternative Consumer

Friday, April 10, 2009

Washing Machine Buyer's Guide

Energy-efficient washers can use up to 50 percent less energy and 60 percent less water than standard machines. If you have a top loader, regardless of how old it is, consider replacing it with an energy-efficient front loader.

Energy Star-rated:
These machines are 37 percent more energy-efficient and use 18 to 25 gallons per load, about half what traditional washers use. The percentages on our Product Comparison chart represent how much more energy-efficient an appliance is than federal standards require.

Water Factor:
Part of the Energy Star rating, the Water Factor is a ratio of how much water is used compared to the size of the drum. For example, a machine with a 4-cubic-foot drum that uses 24 gallons per load has a water factor of 6. The figure is more accurate than gallons per load, since washers vary so much in size. The lower the number, the better. Energy Star-rated machines have water factors ranging from 3.2 to 7.9.

Front-loading machines are, in general, more efficient than their top-loading counterparts, using 40 to 60 percent less water and 30 to 50 percent less energy. They also have the benefit of faster spin times, which means your clothes dry faster. Some local utilities offer rebates for purchasing front loaders.

Get buying tips and best rated models.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Makes You Buy a Product

You've heard of "you break it, you buy it," but what about "you touch it, you buy it?"

A new study suggests that just fingering an item on a store shelf can create an attachment that makes you willing to pay more for it.

Previous studies have shown that many people begin to feel ownership of an item — that it "is theirs" — before they even buy it. But this study, conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, is the first to show "mine, mine, mine" feelings can begin in as little as 30 seconds after first touching an object. Read the entire article.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Naomi's Vegetable Dumplings

Makes 40

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me how to make Chinese dumplings, or gyoza. These are a light, fresh Japanese version. You can find gyoza wrappers in many supermarkets or Asian grocery stores.

1 1/2 cups finely chopped cabbage
5 medium-large shitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps minced
1 cup finely chopped nira (Chinese chives or garlic chives), or regular chives
2 scallions, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
40 round gyoza dumpling wrappers
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
4 cups boiling water, divided
Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper oil

1. To make dipping sauce, combine soy sauce, vinegar, and hot pepper oil in a small bowl or jar. Set aside until serving time.

2. Place cabbage, mushrooms, chives, and scallions in a large bowl. Season with several generous pinches of salt and grinds of pepper. Use your hands to blend ingredients together.

3. Fill a small bowl with cold water. Place 2 teaspoons cabbage mixture in the center of a gyoza wrapper. Lightly wet one finger in the water and trace around the inside of the gyoza wrapper; this makes it sticky enough to seal. Fold wrapper in half; gently press edges from right to left, pinching and folding every 1/4 inch to make a zigzag pattern. Repeat with remaining cabbage mixture and wrappers. Place completed dumplings crimped side up on a foil-lined baking sheet.

4. Heat a large, deep skillet with a lid over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, reduce heat to medium-low and add 10 dumplings, crimped side up. Cook, uncovered, until lightly browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. (Do not turn them over.) Pour 1 cup boiling water into the skillet. Cover and steam-cook dumplings over medium heat for 8–10 minutes, until tops are translucent and water is mostly evaporated. Transfer to a plate and keep hot. Repeat process with remaining dumplings, oil, and water.

5. Serve dumplings immediately, golden sides up. Set out small dishes filled with dipping sauce.

PER SERVING (1): 36 cal, 39% fat cal, 2g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 0g protein, 5g carb, 0g fiber, 81mg sodium

Get more recipes at

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Financial Planning For Your Parents

As the US population ages, more and more of us are caring for elderly parents. How can we make sure that their money is protected and that they'll have enough to pay for care, even if one of them dies? Carmen Wong Ulrich offers some advice for planning for your elderly parents' financial future. View video.

Monday, April 6, 2009

10 Famous Homeschooled People

1. Agatha Christie. Agatha was a painfully shy girl, so her mom homeschooled her even though her two older siblings attended private school.

2. Pearl S. Buck was born in West Virginia, but her family moved to China when she was just three months old. She was homeschooled by a Confucian scholar and learned English as a second language from her mom.

3. Alexander Graham Bell was homeschooled by his mother until he was about 10. It was at this point that she started to go deaf and didn’t feel she could properly educate him any more. Her deafness inspired Bell to study acoustics and sound later in life.

4. If Thomas Edison was around today, he would probably be diagnosed with ADD – he left public school after only three months because his mind wouldn’t stop wandering. His mom homeschooled him after that, and he credited her with the success of his education: “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”

5. Ansel Adams was homeschooled at the age of 12 after his “wild laughter and undisguised contempt for the inept ramblings of his teachers” disrupted the classroom. His father took on his education from that point forward.

6. Robert Frost hated school so much he would get physically ill at the thought of going. He was homeschooled until his high school years.

7. Woodrow Wilson studied under his dad, one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). He didn’t learn to read until he was about 12. He took a few classes at a school in Augusta, Georgia, to supplement his father’s teachings, and ended up spending a year at Davidson College before transferring to Princeton.

8. Mozart was educated by his dad as the Mozart family toured Europe from 1763-1766.

9. Laura Ingalls Wilder was homeschooled until her parents finally settled in De Smet in what was then Dakota Territory. She started teaching school herself when she was only 15 years old.

10. Louisa May Alcott studied mostly with her dad, but had a few lessons from family friends Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Can you imagine?


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Handmade Toys and Clothing At Risk

In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public's trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small part, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China.

The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and update their molds to include batch labels.

For small toymakers and manufacturers of children's products, however, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.

* A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $300 - $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
* A work at home mom in Minnesota who makes cloth diapers to sell online must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
* A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
* And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children's goods that have earned and kept the public's trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made by small businesses where the owners are personally involved in the creation of their goods. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the US.

If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered.

Source: Handmade Toy

Read about What You Can Do to stop this.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Refrigerator Buying Guide


Your refrigerator is probably the most power-hungry appliance in your house, and you'll save money and energy by replacing any model made before 2001. Even post-2001 models may not be as efficient as a new model; use Energy Star’s refrigerator calculator to compare how much energy your fridge uses with the energy used by Green Guide's Product Picks.

Energy Star: The most efficient machines are Energy Star rated and use at least 20 percent less energy than federal standards.

Top-freezer models: These are the most energy-efficient and repair-free of the configurations offered, followed by bottom-freezer models. Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers are often more convenient, but they're more likely to need repair and can use roughly 7 to 13 percent more energy than top-freezer models. Automatic icemakers increase energy use by 14 to 20 percent.

Buy a refrigerator that will accommodate everything, rather than buying a new one while keeping your old fridge to store overflow. A typical 1990 model refrigerator costs about $75 per year to run, and releases over 1,200 pounds of CO2 each year; it's much more economical and eco-minded to store all your food in a single refrigerator.

Read entire article for more tips.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Green Tax Credits for 2009

Congress was contemplating how to include the continuation of energy efficiency tax credits in the “economic bailout.” Well, they did it, and even managed to increase some of the incentives. Businesses can even get in on the deal. Get a brief run-down of the credits available in 2009.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Need An Egg Substitute?

From Erin Huffstetler Frugal Living -

Baking and find yourself an egg short? Grab that jug of vinegar from the pantry!


White vinegar


Replace one egg with a tablespoon of white vinegar.

Note: This substitute will work as long as there's another leavening agent (baking powder, self-rising flour or yeast) in the recipe.

Get more Egg Substitutes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Don't Cut The Grass

Feel guilty about not cutting your lawn? You shouldn't! What would happen if you let the lawn go? One couple did that 26 years ago and they've got an incredible habitat that developed over the years. This year due to illness they weren't even able to mow right around the little farmhouse. View a photo essay about what showed up at Hilton Pond while the mower was parked.

Get more information on converting your lawn over to a natural habitat with these articles:

Tired of Pursuing The Perfect Lawn
Native Plant Gardening
Lawns, God and St. Francis
"Simplicity of living, if deliberately chosen, implies a compassionate approach to life. It means that we are choosing to live our daily lives with some degree of conscious appreciation of the condition of the rest of the world." Duane Elgin

"Do what is good with your own hands, so that you might earn something to give to the needy." Ephesians 4:28