Archive for April, 2011

Take Me Away!

After months of dreary winter and now storms that make Dorothy’s tornado look almost cute, I’m putting my mind towards sunshine & some upcoming travel in my future. I’ve always considered myself a savvy shopper when it comes to traveling but I’ve got to admit, Priceline and Hotwire have always intimidated me. I’ve heard all the stories from folks who’ve stayed in fabulous hotels for a fraction of the cost so I’ve decided that it’s time for me to get in on this blind bidding.

Clark Howard, money guru, is one of the biggest proponents of travel bidding and he recommends checking out Bidding for Travel if you are going to work with Priceline and Better Bidding if you are going to try your hand with Hotwire. Both are great forums where travelers help each other and share knowledge — including tips on how to bid multiple times a day.

Now if you want to bypass some of the research but still glean many of the same benefits, check out The Bidding Traveler! Read the rest of this entry

“Hear’s the Thing”

After years or borrowing my family’s headphones, I finally went in search of my very own. I promised myself that good headphones would be the key to  start exercising. Here are ones, plus a few accessories, that made the final cut:

  • Zipbuds earphones – Tangle resistant zipper integrated cabling keeps your cables in line so you spend less time untangling your earbuds and more time listening to your music.
  • Vers earphones –  individually crafted with sustainably sourced hardwoods & Bamboo, and produce that familiar, natural sound quality Vers has become known for. Also, for every tree Vers uses in production, they re-plant 100 through their partnership with the Arbor Day foundation.
  • iFrogz EarPollution Plugz with microphone
  • Skullcandy earphones – IF I was a sports fan OR badas*
  • Modcloth funky headphone splitter
  • fredflare GIANT earbud speakers

April 22 is Earth Day 2011

Sometimes I can overwhelm myself by focusing all my attention on ways that I’m not “green” instead of celebrating the small changes we have made. As Earth Day 2011 approaches, I thought I’d share with you the 11 ways we’ve changed:

  1. Get to know Earth911.com. Great resource for the latest in all things “green” but what we use most is their search feature that lets you type in anything you want to recycle along with your zip code and it directs you to the best place.
  2. We use Nellie’s PVS Free Dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. They help clothes dry faster, aid in wrinkle & lint removal and act as a natural fabric softener.  I know, I know… we should hang clothes outside and be even greener but I’m not there yet.
  3. Educate the kids! Read Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax about a creature that speaks for “the trees”, watch The Story of Stuff or borrow the DVD of Wal Mart: the high cost of low price from your local library.
  4. Support green companies. We’ve loved Bloomin for a while for their fantastic seed cards, gifts & green practices but a few weeks ago they also did their own Earth Day article that carried suggestions for ALL WAYS to reduce, reuse & recycle. Locally, here in St. Louis, check out Home Eco or the fantastic new Verde Kids.
  5. Turn off water while brushing teeth. Leaving the tap running during the recommended two minutes of brushing can waste up to five gallons of water a day.
  6. Buy local food. Join a CSA, grow your own with the help of Backdoor Harvest or frequent any of our (or your) fantastic farmer’s markets. Additionally, here in St. Louis, Local Harvest Grocery has just moved down the street into a fantastic space and is better than ever offering at least 50% of their goods from within 150 miles.
  7. Buy secondhand clothes. Read the rest of this entry

Let’s Get Cookin’

Admittedly I’m not the most comfortable in the kitchen but with the help of two new (to me) cookbooks & some dandy accessories, I’m at least starting to feel mildly competent & have some fun.

Squeaky Gourmet is the first cookbook that I have truly loved. Don’t get me wrong, I can spend hours flipping through beautiful 20lb cookbooks, but never have I found one small cookbook so fitting to my most basic needs & skills. Let me warn you that there are NO pictures and this delighted me to no end – nothing to show how sad my food looked compared to professional photos. What I’ve enjoyed best about this little book is that I have most ingredients on hand for every recipe.  It’s all of 138 pages, contains great nutritional info, and as stated on the cover,  Simple – Clean – Food.

One of my other hesitations in the kitchen comes from the fact that you have to clean up afterwards. Elizabeth Yarnell’s Glorious One-Pot Meals removes all such concerns. Now there’s a lot of chopping involved but then you simply layer proteins, vegetables and sometimes rice /pasta in your Dutch Oven and walk away. Her book does contain lovely photos but when everything is tossed together mine looks just fine too. For a limited time, Elizabeth will personally inscribe a book to the recipient of your choice when purchased on her site.

Also check out these practical & fun kitchen gadgets:

Thanks to Lisa & Vann Knight who recommended these great cookbooks!

Would you like to purchase the Extended Warranty?

Ugh, this question gets me every time no matter where I am & no matter what I am buying. The very nice salesperson does his/her best to make me feel like an idiot if I don’t purchase it but my head tells me that I’m not supposed to – right?

Since I’m admittedly no expert, here’s what I’ve found from others who are more knowledgeable than me in this area. Mark Huffman from ConsumerAffairs.com offers the 5 Reasons NOT to Buy An Extended Warranty:

  1. They Usually Cost More Than They’re Worth.
  2. Warranty Work May Be Unreliable.
  3. The Warranty May Not Cover What You Think It Does.
  4. Warranty Underwriter May Go Out Of Business.
  5. The Extended Warranty May Overlap the Manufacturer’s Warranty.

Gary Altunian from About.com poses the following questions about electronics & their extended warranties.

  1. Does the Product have Moving Parts or is Delicate?
  2. Is the Product Based on New, Unproven Technology?
  3. Is In-Home Service Provided?

Specifically for auto extended warranties, there’s a considerable amount of research online, and Stacy Johnson from WiseBread had pulled together a great article that puts it all in one place. Overall it seems like a gamble and by buying an extended warranty you are essentially betting that your item is going to break & the companies are betting that it won’t. Who’s got more stacked in their favor?

Spring into Reading!

Time for my seasonal reading suggestions and as usual, I’ve tried to cover the gamut.

For no other reason that to eavesdrop on some of the biggest celebrities of the last few decades, pick up Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead by Neil Strauss. Journalist Strauss goes back over former interviews and pulls out (sometimes) shocking and often unexpected narratives from interviews never published. Read how Strauss shoots guns with Ludacris, gets kidnapped by Courtney Love, makes Lady Gaga cry,  shops for Pampers with Snoop Dogg, goes to church with Tom Cruise…and that’s barely cracking the surface. Unbelievable!

One measure of a great book for me is if it sends me out in search of more. In the case of Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland, I checked out 5 books on Tiffany glass, upon completion of this book, to learn more about the incredible works of Clara Driscoll and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Set in New York, near the end of the twentieth century, Vreeland takes fact – Tiffany’s debut at the World’s Fair, his employment of women in a largely dominated male field and Driscol’s idea for the now infamous Tiffany Lamp – and layers fictional scenes to create an engrossing and cultural read. Hear author Vreeland on npr discuss how it all happened.

For all you fantasy readers, run – don’t walk – and pick up a copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. No matter what you thought of previously published vampire books, this one takes it up a notch. Read the rest of this entry