Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bloggers beware!

There is a rumor going around the net. Like all rumors, I don't know if it is entirely true, a little bit true, or a whole lot of urban legend - entirely NOT true and designed to either scare or make conversation.

About a week ago, a bunch of blogs were closed down, wiped right off the web without any warning. Supposedly, these blogs were doing naughty things like offering down loads of music, movies, tv shows and more that they didn't have permission to do. Observers thought, hmmm, that is a lot of blogs ......

And then came the ominous words, copyrighted materials. What were these copyrighted materials? Movies, songs, videos. Books? Pictures?

Aw c'mon! You might say. Pictures, on my little blog?

Well, if you look at my blog, and at a lot of other blogs, you'll see a copyright notice that warns you not to use my writing or my pictures without asking my permission first. I'm serious. I put time and effort into my writing, into the pictures I take and how I edit them. I don't do this for my living (yet), but I can really imagine how those who do, feel.

On my blogs about pollution, I used pictures of the Great Pacific Trash Patch because I don't have those pictures myself. I made sure that I credited where I got the pictures, and under the post I added, "If you own these pictures, and you want them removed, please contact me and they will be removed immediately." Good enough? May-be not.

So should bloggers be scared to death and start removing pictures from their blogs if they don't have permission? I don't think so, but I do think that bloggers need to be more careful about their pictures. I know that there are places like Big Stock Photo's where you can get free images if you join their site, and other pictures for $1 or less. If you only use one paid picture per month, that is a measly $12 per year.

Or you could contact me, and ask if you can use mine.

Monday, July 26, 2010

On a good day

One of the biggest problems I have trying to be frugal is the annoying time of day, that most women know as "supper," or if you are trying to be fancy, "dinner." I think you can ask any mother, and the question she most dreads, and is most consistently asked is "What's for supper Mom?"

There is probably only one question that we dread more, which is "Guess what fell out of my mouth today?" Thankfully, that question isn't asked all that often, and not by every kid.

Thank God for small favors!

Back to dinner, or if you rather, supper. Two names, same dilemma. On a good day, I will have gotten a piece of meat out the day before, actually two. When I'm being really conscientious, I get out a piece of beef and chicken out every morning, so that every day there is already a piece of meat thawed and ready to be cooked that night. Now the key word there you'll notice is, "good" day. On a good day. Not "every" day, not even "most" day or "some" days. I said on a good day.

On a sort of good day, the meat will be kind of thawed and can be popped into the microwave to get rid of the last vestiges of crunchiness, also known as ice.

On a bad day, that meat is still frozen so hard, I could use it to drive nails! With a little fore thought, I could have thrown it into the slow cooker that morning. That is, if I had a little fore thought. On a bad day, I have no thought, never mind fore thought.

That is when my determination to stay frugal goes right out the window. Usually, the first resolution to the problem is the most expensive because the result is instant; we go out for fast food. Yes, unlike a great majority of the population, we don't go out to eat. I refuse to ever be that un-frugal. When we go to a restaurant, it is after we have planned the when and the where, never a quick fix. Although getting fast food or take out is never, in my opinion, frugal.

Our family loves Chinese take out. When we get take out, and determine to be frugal, the bill is never below $50.

The tab for McDonalds and Burger King, always just this side of $50.

It doesn't take an economist to realize that not having only a few dinners ready can really shoot a hole into ones financial boat, and sink it!

So, I've thought of some remedies:

1. I have a slow cooker, I need to find some recipes that everyone likes. My pot roast recipe is a thumbs down for my family, so if anyone has a recipe for using in the crock pot, please share!

2. I need to once again remember the law of two, that is, when I cook a meal, make enough for two meals, and freeze one for later use. I have the vacuum sealer, what I need is the magic marker, and find a place that I can put it so no one "borrows" -imagine air quotes there - it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The X-Shot, camera on a stick!

This may be my first paid post, the key word being may-be. May-be ..if I make sure that you understand that if you click on my link and buy an XShot, I will make a commission. If you go to the X Shot site without using my link, I will not make a commission.

If you haven't read my Product Disclaimer link, please read it now. If you don't feel like clicking on it, here is my disclaimer, I will never say that I own or have used a product it I haven't. And I will never say that I like a product or think it's a good idea if I really don't think it's such a good deal.

Which brings us to the X Shot. I'm blogging about it because I went to the products website not knowing the first thing about it, and was impressed.
The site had a ton of written testimonials from users that loved it, and had video testimonials from customers using it to make their testimonials! That was a good first step.

So what is the X Shot? Well, if you've been on FaceBook or any of the other social media sites that are so popular, have you noticed all the Profile Pics of people that have them looking into the camera, and to the side of the picture, you see their arm? They try to hide it, but unless they take the time to crop or edit the pic, the arm is there. The reason is because they are holding the camera at arm's length away from them to take their picture.

And that is where the X Shot comes in. The X-Shot is a sturdy, reinforced metal rod that attaches securely to your camera. It telescopes out to 37 inches (collapses to a compact 9 inches so it's pretty easy to stick in most pockets or purses) so you can hold your camera far enough away to take either a group shot (up to 5 people) or one of you with scenery behind you. And you're not extending your arm out, so there is no arm to try to hide in the picture.

Need more specifics, like will it work with your camera? The answer is most probably, as long as your camera is a digital. Your camera can't weigh more than a pound and a quarter. Most Point and Shoot digitals don't. Now a DSLR, you'd really have to check, especially if you think about the weight of some of the lenses. There has to be a tripod mount on the camera and you have to have a self-timing mode.

Did you check your camera for these specifics? Okay, attach your camera to the XShot using the tripod mount. Set your camera for auto-focus. Set the camera to self-timer. Extend the camera out so you get an idea of what you want to take the picture of. Activate the self timer, extend the camera in front of you and wait for the camera to take the picture. Now review the picture on your camera. You can make adjustments to where you are standing and what background you want in the picture, if needed.

The more I think about the X-Shot, the more I think I like it!! You can take a picture of the rare time the whole family is together, without relying on a stranger to 1 happen by and agree to take your picture and 2 rely on him to be able to take a decent picture with your camera. From experience, I've learned there are a lot of people who do not understand any camera except may-be, their own.

There are a few different models of the X Shot, some even for use with your phone! So if you're interested, make sure you go to their site by clicking on my link, and check them out!


Whenever I get a comment that is from Anonymous, I always wonder. Most times, Anonymous simply means that someone has something nasty to say, but they don't want to take responsibility for it so they don't sign their real name. I guess if I really cared, I could trace back their DNS and find out who they are. But I'd have to care enough, which I don't.
Most the time, their comments are just nasty and undirected toward any of my posts. The person just feels like saying something nasty or profane.
My advice to other blog masters that get these remarks is to just not worry about them. It's the reason why we have our blogs set to moderation, to keep out the riffraff. It truly isn't a response to what you've written. In Internet parlance, these people are known as trolls. Don't feed them.

Then there are the other letters that are signed by Anonymous. They are written by people that have interesting things to say, but don't want to use their names because the subject or comment is too personal. It might hurt someone if names are used. I prefer to have people use their name, but I do understand.

I guess that is the lot of having many readers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How To Write To Me

I don't mind people e-mailing me, as long as they put "Blog" in the message space, so I know where the e-mail is coming from and don't dismiss it as spam. And I don't mind people who write to me using my blog. I have it on moderation, so I have to approve the message before it goes on my blog. That protects my readers from nastiness and spam.

And if someone asks me to please, not publish their post on my blog, I listen.

I really love the complimentary letters I get. :)

I really love the ones that agree with me, up to a point, and then ask me to think further than I might find comfortable. I like looking at things from a new perspective, even if I might still not agree.

I really love the letters that suggest a new topic. Who doesn't hit a dry spell now and then?

I even like the letters that don't agree with me in the least, because 1. the person is still reading my blog, 2. I get to look at something from a totally new perspective that I might never have looked at it from, 3. they bothered to write instead of swearing off my blog forever.

But when you write to me, I expect you to follow a few simple rules:

1. When you don't agree with my opinion or view, no matter how strongly, please don't call me names.

I would find this a totally acceptable letter:

Dear Mary,
I totally disagree with your opinion. I think you are being a stupid socialist. Do you realize .........blah blah.

2. Please do not use profanity, cuss words and more than anything else, blasphemy. "You are so totally stupid about ........" is a lot more acceptable than "You are so f++**ing stupid about..."

3. If you didn't like the subject of my post, a simple "I hated this post." works fine, and then you could suggest a topic you'd like better. Okay?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Blur

At first, I thought it was just the tv set having an interruption in it's reception. Then I thought it was my eyesight. After all, I am over 30, well over. But I am persistent, so I asked those viewing the television with me. They assured me, it wasn't my eyes. It really was there.

The blurrr.

You might not know off hand what the blurr is, but I'm sure you've seen it. Watch your television programing for a group of teens together and try to read the logos on their t-shirts. Most probably you'll be able to read the saying on the t-shirts, but you won't be able to read any of the logos or emblems. They'll be blurred out.

It's a copyright thing.

So even if you paid the money to have the famous Coca Cola script on your clothing, if you are on camera, on television, the script will be blurred out. A bit silly, I think.

Of course, if you happen to be a famous movie director, companies will pay good money for their product to show up unobtrusively in the movie. Reese's Pieces in the movie ET comes to mind for me, but their are others. For example, if the characters are drinking Pepsi, no one else will be drinking Mountain Dew.

I can understand that if there is a picture of someone in a car crash, auto companies wouldn't want their car logos to show. Unless of course the car shows extra safety in a crash. Or you wouldn't want the picture of a drunk on the street, and the logo of your brewery clearly visible. But for other benign situations? In my opinion, if I've paid for your company logo on my clothing, that should show up in any pictures of me wearing it.

Now that I've told you about the blurr, have you noticed it? I bet you will now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ice Tea and Lemonade

phosphoric acid benzdate potassium sorbate EDTA

It is a hot, hot, hot day, so I made home made iced tea and lemonade. I can hear everyone groan, but really, it is hardly harder than mixing up a pitcher of Crystal Lite, Kool-Aide or any other number of commercial drinks. Above are some of the chemicals that you will avoid.

First - you will need two separate pitchers that hold a half gallon

Ingredients: tea (decaffeinated, caffeinated or both), water, sugar (honey, no artificial unless you are diabetic or hypoglycemic), lemon juice (check the bottle, I was appalled to learn that mine had Benzate in it. I won't be buying it again)

For lemonade, I mix a third of a cup of lemon juice to a scant third of a cup of sugar in the bottom of the pitcher until the sugar is dissolved. Then fill the pitcher with water and mix again. Taste it. You might like yours more tart or sweeter, so you have to adjust your measurements. Refrigerate, serve in a glass with ice, if you like. And feel virtuous thinking of all the chemicals and packaging that you have avoided.

Iced Tea - In a large tea pot, (holds about a quart) put in five tea bags and pour boiling hot water over the bags. Let steep about a half an hour. Later, you can get creative about what you brew, but for now, keep it simple with black tea, caffeinateted or decaffeinated. Pour the tea into the bottom of the pitcher and add a scant third cup of sugar and a scant third cup of lemon juice (if desired) to the tea, and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Then add ice cubes to the tea mixture up to the brim. When tea is cooled, serve.

The fun thing with ice tea is that you can make your own brew. Try green tea. Try replacing one of the black tea bags with a lemon balm tea bag. Add a mint tea bag. Replace all the black tea bags with lemon balm tea and one peppermint tea bag.

Finish by feeling virtuous about all the chemicals you have avoided, the extra packaging that you have avoided and making something from scratch!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Small mercies

If the Iranian government can be believed,Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani will not be stoned. Of course that doesn't mean that she won't be hung from a crane to strangle for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.

Thank-God for small mercies.....

And Sakineh is the lucky one, because she has gotten enough world coverage to have petitions, websites and groups on FaceBook to protest her stoning. What about all the others who don't get this coverage? Whose families feel they deserve the punishment?

And after so much energy expended to save Sakineh, will there be any left to save the next victim of such barbarism?

Yes, you can point out the Inquisition, the persecutions under the Tudors and even the Salem Witch Trials, but these are all atrocities from centuries ago.

This isn't the Twentieth century. It's the Twenty-first century.

It's time for things to change.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My New Car, part 4

Not a really huge van

So we've established that what I want in my next car is a living room on wheels, but that isn't really accurate. Any van with either comfy Captain chairs or back bench seat could be a living room on wheels. I wanted more.

Galley has sink, stove, microwave and fridge!

I wanted the capability to pull off the crowded highway, make a cup of tea or brew a pot of coffee and relax with a book, or watch some tv until the traffic had calmed down, or until we were ready to roll again.

Then I realized, I didn't want a livingroom on wheels; I wanted a cottage on wheels!

Onboard lavatory!

And after all that coffee drinking and snacking during a long drive, I want a lavatory!! I want a nice lavatory, a separate room would be nice.

Would any of this be possible?

So I began my search by typing "RV Van" into the search bar. (Typing Van RV bought me to the site of, well, Vann RV." ) All kinds of information popped up. The type of van that I am looking for is considered a "Class B," so no special license is required to drive it. The vans come in all sorts of lengths, including one that is almost the same length of the mini-van I drive now.

One site even guaranteed me that certain sizes of their vans don't use more gasoline than the SUV that I drive now. Well, if I drove a SUV. And because of the size, many of them could be registered as a normal van, instead of as a RV. Likewise, parking that was denied to RV's would be open to these vans.

All compelling information.

My husband was watching my computer search from the couch. He'd comment on the niceness of some of the layouts and his dislike for others. Additionally, he was still unrepentant for bringing up the subject of my new car in the first place. Even after seeing the price of these gorgeous little cottages on wheels.

Of course, if you read my blog you know that my little mini-van still runs just fine, thanks to my husbands dogged determination and skill. It will be a little while before I have to make my decision, but anytime the interstate looks even mildly congested, I have to admit that I wish we already had "my new car."

Pictures in this blog were not taken by, or copyrighted to Mary Bennett

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Value of a Little Zippered Bag

Although many people are not a great fan of WalMart, I am. Well, not a fan exactly, but I do admit liking it and a great deal of our budget money goes there. Now, if you don't like WalMart, I'm sure you can go to a few other stores like Target, Staples and may-be even CVS to follow my advice. In fact, at the end, I'm going to give you a very simplistic way to follow my advice by doing it by hand.

Sheesh! What could this be leading up to? Why the new necessary, the little zippered bag!! My experience is mostly with WalMart, but I started noticing these little zippered bags in two different departments of WalMart: Health/Beauty and then in Stationary (the place where pencils,pens,erasers, sticky notes are stocked). In Health/Beauty, the bag stocked is the one I have to the left of my writing. It is clear (that blue card with the plane comes right out) and it has a black zipper. From what I hear from travelers, this is ideal. I bought it for my latest stint in the hospital (because I finally decided my little zippered baggies were not a very green decision and I didn't have a piece of Tupperware or Rubbermaid the right size) and it easily held all my necessities and it was very easy to clean.

The zippered bags in the Stationary Department were made of a synthetic material, I think nylon, were longer and came in bright neon colors. I didn't buy one because I hadn't had time to mull about them yet, but they did seem to be very sturdy and because they are synthetic fiber, I imagine they wash and dry very quickly.

So what is the big deal about these bags you ask? They are little more than cosmetic or pencil bags and we've all seen those before. How did this ever deserve a blog entry?

Think outside the box! Don't think of them as pencil cases or toiletry bags; think of them as purse (pocketbook if you'd rather) bags! Okay, stop yawning or your face will freeze that way.

Picture this, your period (Aunt Flo is due, menstruation or the curse, whatever your preferred name for it) is due to start. What do you do? Stuff a tampon or napkin into your purse and be embarrassed every time you open it in mixed company? Or do you buy one of the neon bags that I've mentioned, pre-pack it with a napkin or tampon (or two), a travel pack of WetOnes, and a little bottle of Midol (Pamprin, whatever your pleasure.) Then every time you're near that time, put the bag in your purse, and you're ready to go. When that time is over, take it out and store it until it's needed.

How about coupons? Clip the coupons you need, store them in the bag. May-be even include a small notebook to write your shopping list on. When you go shopping, bring the bag with you. When you're done, store it in a kitchen drawer. Probably the junk drawer, everyone seems to have one.

Is someone in your family in a "health circle?" I was in one last year; it seemed like I was always being admitted to the hospital. Why not pack one of these little zippered bags with necessities like a new toothbrush and cover (the toothbrushes I got at the hospital fell apart in my mouth), deodorant, mouth wash, body wash and some powder. Then just store it in a knapsack, and it's ready when needed.

Are you going to a destination that will take a few hours to get to? Or may-be you'll have to stay a few hours. Pack one of these zippered bags with aspirin/acetaminophen, wet wipes, antacid, something to settle the stomach (pepto), tissues, a protein bar or snack bar, hard candy (lifesavers), lip balm. Then you are ready for just about any eventuality that can make you miserable, and it just about impossible to take care of while traveling (or in a doctor or lawyers office).

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head and I'm sure you can think of plenty of others for your lifestyle. The basic idea though is to have these little bags pre-packed so that they are ready to grab and go. If you have to scout around for items that should be in them, pack it and then go, the magic (convenience) is gone.

I've made these little bags before. This is my simple way of doing it. First decide how long and wide you want the bag. I usually want it as long as the zipper I have for it is. I take these measurements and add about an inch. I iron out the fabric, which is usually Daddy's old jeans that I've already cut the back pockets out of. I then take this (usually a square) fabric and iron the raw ends over,(and I do it hard, sometimes I even use starch, I don't want the raw edges working their way out) then inside out, I saw the wide edges closed, leaving a little at the top unsewn. I sew the now neat edges of the top,to the inside out, zippered close, zipper. I was inordinately afraid of zippers for the longest time until I just did it. There, simple, just about free, zippered bag; the size you want it!

So, why not just buy a box of Great Value, plastic zip bags? Good question, considering each of these zippered bags costs about the same as a box containing 30 plastic bags (roughly, under $3). First, I'm trying, and I really encourage you also, to try to stop buying and using plastic bags. (I have a blog about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that you must read) Second, these bags will last much longer than your box of baggies will, so in the long run, you save money and the environment; It's a win/win situation. Third, these bags, for the most part, are not clear, so you do get a bit more privacy to the things that you pack in them.

Pictures used on this blog belong to WalMart and Modella. They are not my copyright. The link below goes to the pictured clear bag above so you can read about it if you wish. I could not find the bags I found in the Stationary section of my area WalMart on their website, so I couldn't show them to you. Sorry!



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