Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Brilliant Idea?

So John's been playing M.I.A.'s Paper Planes a lot the last few days. It's one of those songs that really sticks with you for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is that it is so catchy. But the lyrics at first glance are a bit disturbing. After reading through them a few times, I started to grasp that they are heavy with satire and irony as well as double meanings. Listening to a few interviews with her she certainly seems to have a depth and intelligence about her that further support the likelihood of that rather than just some disturbing gangsta rap song.

Anyway - I was just thinking about how different her background is, having grown up in Sri Lanka and experiencing the early years of Tamil fighting. Hearing her speak and then listening to the lyrics of her music takes you out of your comfort zone, shouting hey - there are a lot bigger things going on in the world.

Which got me thinking...
1. We have an over-population problem in our jails. Many of these criminals are repeat offenders. Many come from a small world where they not only lack education but any sense of a world beyond their neighborhood or group of loser "friends".

2. There are many programs out there all over the world that need volunteer help.

Why not give some of the less dangerous offenders the choice of serving some of their time in some sort of relief program in a 3rd world country? Somewhere totally away from the influences that got them in trouble to begin with, somewhere that will broaden their horizons, somewhere where they can accomplish something to be proud of and give them a chance to see what they have to contribute, and a chance to see what else there is to experience in the world beyond their small horizon. I think this could be a very powerful rehabilitiation tool, with benefits for both sides.

Or, how about troubled kids? Same context, but get them out of their element before they get into serious trouble. Everyone I know who has gone to third world countries to help with relief efforts has been changed for life. Why not provide those kind of life altering experiences to sectors of the population most in need of a positive life changing experience?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Speed Racer Marketing - Missed the Boat

Boy did the marketers for Speed Racer miss the boat big time. Jaxon wants a speed racer outfit for Christmas. Not the new version, the 60's version with the blue shirt with the white collar and cuffs and the red ascot. Seems simple right? Make and sell blue polo shirts with white collars and cuffs and the big yellow G. Hell, add in a red ascot and yellow gloves and they'd be selling like hot cakes! All I can find is this sad number.

Now I am just trying to find a plain white non-cuffed polo and blue v-neck t-shirt that I can layer and add the G myself. Do you think I can even find that? Hell no.
At least we found this

which Grandma is getting for him.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

HALLELUJA!!!!!

I can once again feel proud to be an American!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Boost Your Credit Score and Get a Free Vacation

I take great advantage of credit card offers. We do have a couple of cards that we carry a balance on and over the years the balance has gone up and down but never completely away. That said, I have also never paid interest on those balances. On average I open and close about 5-6 credit cards a year, taking advantage of 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases. I try to get only cards with this offer good for at least 12 months to minimize balance transfer fees. The fee to transfer a balance is usually 3% but it is a one time fee and some cards cap it at $75-$99 per transfer. So that is 3% (or less) APR for the year. Can't beat those rates. And it has not seemed to affect my credit rating - if anything it has probably improved it over the years as I have many examples of cards with a relatively high balance being paid off each year. I have done this for more than 10 years and my credit score is very good.

Another way I take advantage of credit cards is with rewards. I have a shell card which I pay off each month and only use for gas. At 5% credit toward shell gas purchases, I can figure $.15 to $.21 a gallon off at 5% - well worth it! My last two statements have had $33 and $26 credits from gas purchases. No yearly fee on this card.

Both my husband and I got American Express gold cards this year and received 100,000 AE points, (50,000 each account) enough for 4 domestic airline tickets (at least for Alaska Airlines flights). And yes I have checked and I can pretty much choose my dates and times for Alaska Airlines flights right now using those points. The first year membership fees are waived. I am coming up on my membership fee being due this spring, so to get the most out of the offer I will have to book a flight by then and cancel the card. But even if I don't, I can transfer the points to my Priority Club account, although 50,000 AE points only gets me 10,000 PC points.

So that brings me to Priority Club. If you don't have a membership and you do ANY traveling, you need to sign up for one. It's free. Use it when booking and checking into hotels and get points. Points can be used for a free night stay at participating hotels (usually starting at around 10,000 points per night) or converted to airline miles for a variety of airlines. Right now, you can also sign up for a Priority Club credit card through Chase with 0% purchases and balance transfers for 6 months and get 30,000 bonus points to your Priority Club account. That is 3 nights of hotel stay. Just make one purchase, (no small print as to the size of the purchase) to get your points. Then you can cancel the card at any time. Yearly fee for the card is waived for the first year.

So - for FREE you can get 2 domestic airline tickets and 3 nights stay in a hotel. If both you and your spouse sign up separately, that would be 4 airline tickets and 6 nights hotel!

Does it work? I haven't tried using priority club points yet but I have taken two vacations in the past year and a half with free airline tickets. Last year we used 25,000 capital one points to purchase one ticket from Portland to Orlando, and 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles to purchase the other two so the three of us flew to Disneyworld for free. No problem at all getting the reservations booked. The previous summer we flew to Disneyland using 25,000 capital one miles to book one ticket, and buying the second ticket so we could use Alaska Airlines kids fly free to get Jaxon's ticket free. So again, 3 airline tickets for the price of one and no problem at all booking the flights we wanted.

If you fly Alaska Air, you can also get 20,000 bonus miles by signing up for a Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit card. We did that last year and again, no problem getting and using our points. This card also gives you one voucher per year for a $50 companion fare ticket. Used that when Jaxon and I flew home to Seattle last fall.

The caveat if you are doing balance transfers - you have to be responsible if you expect to keep your 0%APR. Generally, when you first set up the credit card, you can select your billing date. I get paid on the 15th and 30th of each month. My end of the month check pays the mortgage so I try to keep all other bills after the 15th. I usually pick the 20th of the month for a payment due date. As SOON AS I GET PAID on the 15th I go online and schedule a payment for each credit card. Sometimes, I even set the credit card account to auto pay the minimum balance each month on the 20th. If you are late on your minimum payment by even ONE DAY the APR will default, often to an extremely high rate, 20-29%. I am ABSOLUTELY SURE TO NEVER be late on a credit card payment. EVER.

Another thing to consider, although I always transfer my balances before the 0% APR expires, I make sure that if I were not able to transfer again, the rate would not be horrendous. Most of my cards would be 9.9-12.9% if the 0% ended. When I get the card, I write in permanent marker on the front the month that the 0% will end to remind me to transfer the balance and close the card before the offer ends. With these tips in mind, I have never had a problem doing this.

I recently worried that with the lending crunch I would not get approval on a new 0% card, or that if I did the credit limit would be so low that it wouldn't matter. This is not the case. I have recently applied for a few with no problem.

And anyone thinking I may be a good target for identity theft? Forget it. I religiously watch my accounts and my credit reports.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bailout

Whew - it passed! (Weird isn't it that this article is from Zimbabwe News? It was the first on a google search for "house vote bailout")

I also found this article which I think is extremely informative and hopeful. I am not much into economics or the market so I haven't really formed opinions about the players, but this article put Warren Buffet in a good light in my mind.

Scathing But Right On

I thought this summary of the debate by Robert Shrum was really good....

And They're Already On Top of It!



Huh, as you can tell from my last post this is a BIG issue for me. Looks like Obama already has an add out capturing most of the points I made.

The Debate

Watched the debate last night at a bar right next to the Obama headquarters. They had a room set up upstairs with the debate on a big screen and a packed room. It was like watching a sporting event (which John and I never do) with the cheering, laughing, groaning, and excited commentary. I thought Biden was fantastic. I thought a couple of times that he looked a bit like he wanted to shove a pencil through his eye, but who could blame him? However, he remained calm, cool, poised, and eloquent through the whole thing. Even when he felt the need to retaliate at the implication that he didn't understand what it was like to wonder whether or not a child would "make it" in recovering from a life-threatening medical situation, he held it together and it didn't come off like a grasp for sympathy. It was simply an 'ok, you went there and I am going to make a brief but pointed response and move on'.

I thought AriannaH. comments summed it up well...
"Watching Biden and Palin on the same stage was like watching a tennis champion walk onto Centre Court at Wimbledon only to find himself facing an over-eager amateur from the local high school."

And this quote from Sam Stein was pretty much right on target "...while Sarah Palin exceeded the exceedingly low expectations set for her, Joe Biden won the night." I think I used a bit more forcefull language though.

Did you see her blow a kiss to the crowd as she walked out? Yeah, very vice presidential. And the winking? Good lord woman! That's what we need, charm and flirting! Who needs to sit down and talk and talk through complex issues with world leaders? Just blow 'em a kiss and wink!

And did you yell "what the hell???" along with us when they were talking about foreign policy and the wars and she suddenly switched to talking about energy?

Ok - enough about Palin. I could go on for quite a while.

I loved how despite her sprinting in the opposite direction of half of the questions asked, when the camera turned to Biden, he would promptly and precisely answer the original question (without having to re-ask what the question was) and go on to also address whatever tanget she had gone off on, all well within his allotted 2 minutes.

I thought this post by Leah McElrath Renna was spot on. It's short - take a minute to read it. Joe's Tears: the Political Power of Paternal Love Yeah, he got choked up. But it was real, and he wouldn't have gone there had Palen not dragged him there. I think most of the room teared up with him.

So which issue fired me up? Well, many did, but I think the health care issue is one of the most important to me and I get frustrated that it is never covered in more depth.

I cannot understand how anyone thinks a $5,000 tax credit for health care is any sort of solution.

The average cost for a family health care plan per year is $12,000. Most who can afford that already have coverage through their job. Those that don't have coverage are lucky if they make $30,000 a year. They probably don't. Most of them could not afford to spend $12,000 a year on a house much less adding health care on top of that. And that is if they could even GET coverage in the first place. When you get coverage through an employer, the insurance company HAS to cover you and your family, pre-existing conditions and all. When John and I first moved, there were a few months before we got jobs that we weren't covered. I tried to go and get basic coverage (you know, for major health issues/accidents, etc) and we got DENIED. We were 29 and 31 and VERY healthy at the time. Why did we get denied? Because I had pulled a muscle in my neck while packing for the move and made the mistake of getting some muscle relaxants from my Dr. - therefore, I had a "pre-existing condition" so they wouldn't cover us. Despite the fact that the muscle pull was all better the next week.

Back to the $5,000 credit. Remeber - coverage cost is $12,000/year IF YOU CAN GET IT and this means you have to pay the other $7,000 out of pocket. Oh, and by the way, the premiums would no longer be tax deductable. See, right now, even though my employer covers most of the cost of my insurance, that cost is not factored into my salary, and therefore, I don't pay any taxes on that portion of my "income". If I had to pay taxes on an additional $12,000 a year that would be roughly $3,600 (including medicare and social security and state income taxes)so bottom line I would pay an additional $12,000 out of pocket and net $1,400 less in tax payments. Yup. Biden called it - the McCain/Palin health care plan is a "bridge to nowhere."

Great. So with McCain, my taxable income just went up 20%. I make around $60,000 a year. Not bad, but definitely a mid to lower middle class income. Pretty much the low side of average. So here's some further food for thought currently I "pay" 20% of my "income" in health care. It just doesn't come to me first and I don't have to pay taxes on it. Any yet we balk at the thought of our taxes going up to cover the cost of health care? People, individually, those of us with coverage are ALREADY PAYING MORE THAN WE WOULD if we had national health care coverage for everyone. Let's just do it already ok? It will ultimately cost less and EVERYONE gets covered.

And talk about trying to support the creation of more small businesses? Well let me tell you, a HUGE reason more people don't start their own business is they either can't get, or could not afford health insurance on their own. And even if they could afford their own, they usually cannot offer it for their employees.

Ok - enough about that...

People, if this country elects McCain/Palin not only are we in serious trouble, the rest of the world is going to write us off. Most of the world was already incredulous that we elected GW the first time, and flabergasted (along with the rest of us democrats) that he actually got re-elected. Now we have a ticket with McSame and Cariboo Barbie? (I can't take credit for those names but I have wholeheartedly adopted them) Our reputation with the rest of the world is hanging by a thread - if they get elected I can pretty much guarantee that thread is going to SNAP!!!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Should McCain ditch Palin?

Hell no! (Of course if the election goes the wrong way I may feel differently!) She's the best thing that could have happened for Obama's campaign...

McCain Campain Lies

Ok - just have to spread this around some more....

Jack Cafferty Tells Us How He Really Feels About Sarah Palin

I LOVE his response at the end. I just don't understand why everyone doesn't agree.

On a side note though, Katie? Do YOU understand this issue AT ALL either? Once again, this is NOT about getting money into the economy. This is about getting lending back on track. I think part of the problem was Katie didn't ask the right question. Oh god-that sounded like I just defended Palin... I wholeheartedly agree with Jack on that, "That is one of the most pathetic pieces of tape I have ever seen for someone aspiring to one of the highest offices in this country....There's no excuse for that she's supposed to know a little bit of this. Don't make excuses for her. That's pathetic."

Go Jack!

Do the Math

I am sure you have all received an email about "The Birk Plan" by now, and hopefully have either "done the math" or did a search to counter it and found out the glaring error in the "plan". If not see this post ... then continue - be sure to read the other links in that post to get the background.

Ok, aside from the math, there is one other glaring problem. This "plan" even if the math was right, wouldn't solve anything. This is a major part of the problem. People do NOT understand what the problem really is, how it was caused, or why a "bailout" (which is really NOT what is on the table) is needed. Now I am not claiming that I understand any of this either, but I DO understand that there is a LOT of misunderstanding and misinformation floating around out there.

Here is a link that I think gives a pretty good explaination of where we are and how we got here. How it all happened.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Scared & Stressed

Sorry - just haven't been in the blogging mood lately. Just got news of who got hit with our third round of layoffs this year. I can breath a bit easier for now personally but my heart aches for my friends/collegues who got bad news today. This 11 makes 44 for the year and we aren't THAT big a city.

John's job will probably see layoff soon too. He's in the IT at the local daily paper. He thinks his job is safe *for now* but with no upturn in sight our jobs still hang in the balance. I am of two minds over the bailout. I can see it directly affecting my job. We have developers waiting in the wings with projects ready to go but they can't get financing. We are seeing reputable development firms going out of business because they can't finance new projects. And this isn't just the housing market I am talking about - this is commercial development too. And I am hearing stories about people trying to start up their own businesses (there are NO career oriented jobs here in Central Oregon right now) not able to get loans to buy start up. I have friends trying to sell houses who have had offer after offer fall through because buyers can't get loans. Even well qualified buyers. I am not for bailing out banks but we need something to get fixed because our economy and lives are too dependent on being able to get loans to buy things. I can't imaging having to save up cash to buy a new car. But guess what? That may be where we are heading. I just hope we don't have to sell our house and move which is what we would have to do if we get hit with layoffs.

To further stress us out, Tuckers cancer is back. Last week a huge lump popped up overnight in the same spot the last one was removed back in April. The good news is he is otherwise healthy, and no signs that it has spread to any organs. But now we are faced with the choice of having it debulked again at a cost of around $1000. He is ten, so he is old, but otherwise healthy, and minus the cancer, could easily live another 4 years. I love him dearly but John and Jaxon are going to be devistatingly heartbroken when his time comes. I am not really balking at doing the surgery again this time, but what if it comes back in a few months? We can't keep up those kind of bills forever, especially with the uncertainty of our jobs hanging over our heads. At the same time, I hate to not do it.

Jaxon has been doing well on his dairy free diet. I was never much of a milk drinker but now I am addicted to vanilla soy milk. Luckily Costco has it for about 1/2 the price of regular grocery story sale price. I have found soy "cheese" slices and tofutti ice cream - even ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches. So he is doing ok. I have seen little to no blood in his stool lately. We are still going to consult with a pediatric gastroenterologist to be sure and to get more advice. Unfortunately that means a trip to Portland (160 miles each way!) and his appointment is not until Dec 1. At least none of the Dr.'s seem to think it is anything to be overly concerned about which is somewhat of a relief for now.

So, yeah - not much blogging lately. Just too depressing and stressful! Hope all my blogosphere buds are fairing ok if not well.
-A

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not a Meckel Diverticulum

So the Meckel scan came back clear as did the stool samples and blood work. Having been off dairy for more than 2 weeks now, we have very little to no blood. Which leads our Dr. and us to believe that the blood we have seen is directly related to dairy intake. Apparently this is not an uncommon occurrence. How scary is that? In doing a little searching I came across this post which is enough to make me think twice about even trying to reintroduce any dairy into his diet. I think we could all live without milk except for cooking, but cheese? We LOVE cheese! Anyway, for now we are continuing for a few weeks with no dairy and Jaxon has been very understanding about it for a kid whose diet previously consisted of about 80% dairy! He still sometimes asks for cheese or sour cream but when promted as to "what did the Dr. say?" he responds "No milk, no cheese, and no yogurt!" We have been creative with ice cream replacements though, sorbet at Baskin Robbins, tofutti ice cream sandwiches and bars, popsicles, etc. Tried some soy milk which John and I liked but Jaxon hated. I think when we start to reintroduce small amounts of dairy, we will try some goat cheeses to see how he does on those. We love mizithra on pasta.

Any other ideas for substitutions? I think there is a sour cream substitute as well but I need to see if that would work too. He loves burritos with sour cream. Poor kid, his burritos lately have been just beans. The only other stuff he likes on them are cheese and sour cream!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Meckel Scan

So I took Jaxon into St. Charles Redmond today for a Meckel Scan.
He did fantastic. He cried a lot when they injected the dye but held his arm still even though it hurt and otherwise did great. He had to lay pretty still on his side for about an hour. He got a bit wiggly at the end but they got the scans done. The techs were great, so patient with him. I got him a new movie (Spiderman 3) to watch on his DVD player while he was laying there which he was very excited about.

Now to just wait for the results.

Here is a little about what a Meckels Diverticulum is if this is what is causing the blood in his stool....

and about the scan...

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Never Thought I Would...

...be standing at a register at Bed Bath & Beyond holding a wine glass full of my sons poop.

Yeah - you read that right.

We have been seeing some blood in Jaxon's stool for awhile now. I took him in a few months back but we have just been monitoring it. The doctors don't think it is anything serious since there are no other symptoms. No pain, regular, otherwise normal poops, etc. But recently we really started noticing it again so I took him back in on Monday and the doctor ordered some routine type tests. He had to get his blood drawn and he was FANTASTIC for that. Didn't even flinch. He just sat on my lap and watched with interest. Amazing considering what a struggle last years flu shot was and that was just a quick poke.

Anyway, she wanted to get some stool samples too, but he hadn't had any evening poos this week. Until last night. Right in the middle of trying to shop for a wedding gift at Bed Bath & Beyond. And he had to go BAD - like RIGHT NOW MOM!

Great - of all of the moments this week to choose, he couldn't have chosen *better*. So I frantically look around for something I can use to catch it and get it home. The only thing I can find nearby is a rack of clearance wine glasses. I didn't even have time to purchase it first (there was a line at the one register open) so I just grabbed it and took it in the restroom with us and yes - caught his poo in the wine glass. So then I have the quandry of how to tactfully get it out through the store and back to the car, and I still have to buy the thing. So I wrapped the glass in paper towels and grabbed another glass to take to the register.

Much to my consternation, the girl at the register is young and just totally confused. I try to tactfully explain that I need to pay for the glass in my hand but that she really does not want to touch it and here is another identical glass to use to ring it up. She still is not understanding, and winds up ringing up both glasses. She asks if I want them wrapped. ***crickets*** No - I really just want to get this glass of poop I am holding in the middle of your store OUT of the store as quickly as possible. Good Lord! You should have seen me flustered, trying to explain without too much detail and her just blankly staring at me.

Anyway, I run out to put it in the car and still have to go BACK in the store and get the gift which I did as quickly as possible. Then I went back to the car to get the glass. Luckily I had Jaxon's lunch bag in there and put the glass in the bag and went and got ice from the burrito joint across the way (using a cup to get the ice - not directly into the bag of course!) after first having to purchase the beverage and our dinner. So then back to the car, fill bag, and back in to eat our food (after first washing hands in the bathroom again of course!) ALL OF THIS WITH JAXON IN TOW.

I can't remember the last time I was so exhausted, embarrassed, and flustered. I knew I was in for some interesting times being a mom but I never would have imagined I would one day have to stand in line at a register to pay for a glass with poop in it.

And let me tell you, that was a stinky half hour drive back home!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Animals (?) at the Fair

So Jaxon was on the phone the other night telling his grandparents all about the county fair. About the "spinnis wheel" (ferris wheel) and how he and Mommy, and Daddy, and Grammie (other grandma) rode on it but not Ogie (grandpa) because he was eating popcorn and you can't eat popcorn on the spinnis wheel. So then he went on to talk about the animals. "We saw horses, and pigs, and bunnies, and chickens, and ducks, and poop..." at this point I start laughing and am soon doing the silent shaking laugh, barely able to gasp for breath, shoulders aching. Apparently my parents were laughing too and Jaxon was just DELIGHTED that he had made a funny joke. So then he kept repeating it over and over and "laughing" - each laugh becoming more and more fake, making me laugh all the harder.

Ok - it's somewhat funny in the telling but I guess you probably had to be there to get the full effect ;P

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Jaxon Tattoo

So a couple of weeks ago John was working on his laptop in the living room and Jaxon was hanging out with him. Jaxon got hold of a sharpie (permanent marker) and was drawing on paper and John was worried he would get it on the couch. Since he was busy on the computer and too distracted to keep a close eye on the marker he told Jaxon to draw on his back, effectively keeping Jaxon busy where John could feel the marker rather than having to watch where it was going.


And guess what? Shampoo took it right off!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Plugged Toilet?

I was reading this post from Joeprah today which reminded me of the times I have flushed Jaxon's underwear down the toilet. Yup - I did. Twice.

So if anyone out there is as dumb and careless as I am, here is a tip to save some major $$$ and embarassment from having to call a plumber. If you have a toddler or young child, go out and get yourself one of these right away. Best $3 you will invest for your tool kit.

The Nerve

So I am at work and my cell phone rings. This rarely happens since the only people who call my cell are family and they usually call my work # during the day. The only cell calls I get are doctors/dentists confirming appointments.

But no, I look at the caller ID and it is an 800#. I answer and get an automatic message from Target. "Hi - this is Target we've been trying to reach you. Please stay on the line and we'll be right with you."

Say what? Your automated system calls me and puts ME on hold for 3 minutes.

Turns out when I set up a Target debit card last week somehow the charge that went through got returned from my bank. Now I don't know what is going on with my bank but this is the THIRD incident around that time that things have gone screwy. The money was there. In fact, my on-line statement shows that it cleared quite normally on the 18th.

This is really starting to worry me. The bank swears there is nothing going on but the evidence sure says otherwise!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Phone Polls

So I get a call today for a VERY quick poll. As in one question. I can't remember who was doing the poll but I didn't recognize the name and I was at work so I was a bit distracted. At first I said sure since it was just one question.

The question? Are you pro-life or pro-choice. I declined to answer. I felt a bit bad as I am pretty much pro-choice. But I am also personally pro-life. I remain unjudgmental of those who choose an abortion route. That is one of the hardest choices that person will ever make and it is not mine to judge. I am ever thankful I was never put in the position myself. I never had an unwanted pregnancy to be forced into even considering it.

I would never vote or support the right to choose being taken away. EVER.

HOWEVER... I am personally pro-life as well. Not in the sense of working to ban abortion or make it more difficult to attain an abortion, but in the sense of supporting programs that help to reduce the need for abortion or offer alternatives to abortion and better support systems and incentives to choose not to abort.

I support better education, and availability of birth control with a wide range of choices. I think birth control should be free for everyone, regardless of income status or health care coverage. I am certain it would cost far less than what this country spends as a result of unplanned pregnancies. Far less in health care costs, insured or uninsured, far less in welfare and other assistance costs. Far less to kids born to people who are not ready, financially, psychologically, or physically, to be parents.

So I just couldn't answer that question. My answer is far from either or. A vote for either side could be used for one extreme or the other. And while I am both pro-choice and pro-life, I am also neither.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Blurb

I have used Blurb Booksmart a few times now to make photo books. It is easy to use, very reasonably priced, and once I create a book I can order multiple copies for the Grandparents with no extra work. Check it out if you are looking for an easy and relatively inexpensive option to scrapbooking. They make great gifts.

I usually order an 80 page, 8 x 10 book in softcover. The hardcover are really nice but a lot pricier ($35.95 for 80 pages). I find the 80 page to be a great deal. They were $24.95 each ($19.95 for up to 40 pages) and shipping is about the same whether you order 1 book or 10. Shipping for six 80 page books came to $11.27 to Oregon.

You can view the first 15 pages of my two recent books here.
Jaxon's Fourth Year

Jaxon's First Visit to Disneyland

Family Time

As long as John and I have been together he has never had a true Monday through Friday 9-5 type job. There was a 6 month stint just after Jaxon was born where he did but it was contract and didn't last. The last 3 years, he has been working M-F but first he worked late nights Mondays and Tuesdays and some of the rest of the week when he was doing the layout design for the Redmond Spokesman. Then the past 2 years he has worked a 3-midnight shift.

Well the last 3 weeks he has worked days and it looks like the move to days may become permanent (fingers crossed!) and the bonus is that for once we are working near each other and able to carpool. This is important since we live 25 miles out of town and our gas bill has topped $500 a month recently. This will cut that by more than half. But the best part is having John home in the evening. He actually cooks dinner for us and we can finally sit down and have dinner as a family most nights. We are getting more stuff done around the house and when the weekend rolls around, he doesn't spend half of it catching up on sleep. We even went to church on Sunday morning, something we really have been wanting to be more regular doing, but when 9am is the middle of the night for your body clock, most weekends you just don't feel like getting up that early.

So, for the first time we are experiencing what most families take for granted, quality time together on a regular basis - and let me tell you, nothing could be better!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Green Mega City

This has some really cool and innovative technology designs for greener cities. Hopefully many will come to fruition sooner rather than later. Check it out.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wall*E

Took Jaxon to his first movie at a theater this weekend to see Wall*E. He really enjoyed it and did great.

So even Pixar is sending the message that we need to do something about all the waste we are producing. John and I were talking later that night that we need to be more committed to recycling. We are pretty good about 80% of the time but we could do better. Especially with composting. Now that we have our vegetable garden going, we really need to build an actual set of compost bins and work harder to get stuff composting.

I still hope that this becomes more of a front and center issue. Everyone these days is so concerned about carbon footprints. How about trash generation? I would like to see more accountability for corporations to reduce their trash or at least some sort of mandate that all packaging be 100% recyclable. How hard would that be?

And McDonalds and the like...we go to McDonald's ocassionally. We went on Saturday evening. After seeing Wall*E I was accutely aware of the enormouse pile of trash sitting on our table from just the three of us. Most of it was recyclable. But guess what? There are no recycle bins at McDonalds. Why not? If they are going to produce such a disproportionate share of waste, the least they can do is recycle it! They have made a pretty decent effort to improve their image in the last few years, this seems like a simple way to go a step further.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Goodnight Bush

Courtesy of MOMocrats....

Enjoy!

Processing recyclables

Ok - I am being a bit prolific today but I wanted to share this video that will help make your recycling efforts more effective. It is from Australia but my understanding is that my local recycling plant operates much the same, and I imagine the same is true in most places. Worth a watch.

Theres No Such Thing as Away (part 1)

There's No Such Thing as Away (part 2)

And much more good stuff here at SustainaBundy and their YouTube videos too.

The other thing is this particular disposal operation runs a shop where they pull out ANYTHING that looks resellable - HOW COOL IS THAT!!! They keep a free timber pile too! And parts for appliances too! Like the saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure. Seems like every transfer station should maintain an area where people could drop stuff off that is reusable and would be open to anyone to scavenge. Less for them to pay to haul and easy recycling. What a no brainer....hmmm maybe I need to write a letter to our county commissioners and garbage service....

PS - this one on composting is good too - the guy is pretty funny.

Projectors

So with my last post, I have been thinking more about what things I own that are recycled and what I personally do to reduce waste.

Much of our furniture is hand me downs. Our kitchen table was John's parents, and before that belonged to his grandparents. Two of the beds in our house were handed down from his parents as well. Our piano is also third generation and beautiful. So are several other side tables and desks. One of the desks in my office looks to be from the 40's. I refinished it with the help of my Dad after finding it by the dumpster (!) at my college apartment. Jaxons dresser and end table were made for me as a child by my Dad. Our bedroom dresser belonged to John's parents, passed down from his grandparents. We used salvage lumber to construct our raised vegetable bed, planter boxes, and a chicken coop. And the list goes on.

I also buy probably around 50% of our other stuff on ebay and craigslist, much of it used. Most of the furnishings in Jaxon's room and many of his toys came from those sites or second hand stores.

And even though it wasn't the reason we bought it, our projector will ultimately produce far less non-recyclable waste than a big screen LCD or plasma would. It also has a much bigger screen (7.5 feet across!) and takes up almost no room since the screen pulls down from the ceiling, flat against the living room wall.

What do you do to reduce your waste? What kinds of things do you buy that are reused or recycled?

The Story of Stuff

This is depressing but a very important message. A little heavy on propaganda but a lot of truth and boy is it loaded on food for thought and the ultimatel message is exactly the issue that is on top of my list of concerns...

It is 20 minutes but so worth the watch. Pass it along. Maybe if enough people watch it our mindsets will start to collectively change. This really is probably one of the biggest problems our country faces.

At the very end, there is a short up note on work and progress toward solving the problem. And most important, I really couldn't agree with her message more.

And this quote by Victor Lebow?

"Our enormously productive economy ... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption.... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."

According to wikipedia,
"Victor Lebow was a 20th century economist, widely known for his quotation regarding the formulation of American consumer capitalism found in his paper "Price Competition in 1955" (Journal of Retailing, Spring 1955) and more recently publicized in the short film Story of Stuff. In the film it is implied that Lebow's quote was a prescription for the economy to come, but when taken in context, it is contended as to whether his intents were prescription or critique."

But I found an even better post by Steve, with some really in depth contributing comments on Victor Lebow here. Seems Mr. Lebow was quite the prophet of consumerism, predicting the long term problems it would produce. 60 years later his predictions seem pretty much right on target.

From what one of the commenters on the above referenced post says, Victor Lebow was one of the early small retailers to get hit by a "big box" retailer (Woolworths), and went on to write articles and books on subjects related to consumerism. One of the "anonymous" comments on this post (why anonymous? this person did a lot of research and should get credit for it!) has quite a lot of back story on Mr. Lebow.

Anyway, read the post and comments too if you have time!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Optimum Speeds for Fuel Efficiency

I thought this listing of gas saving tips was somewhat interesting and informative, but I was especially surprised to read #27. Everything I have read lately still touts 55 mph as the optimum fuel efficient speed. I have had my doubts. I tend to drive 65-70 on the highway, mostly with cruise control on since I drive most of the way to work on a rural highway.
27. Do you need to slow down to 55 mph to save fuel?
Not really... every vehicle has its most efficient speed in the highest gear. It differs depending on the design of the car, and things like tire pressure, open windows, bike racks, etc. The 55 mph speed limits come from the 1970s, when a nationwide speed limit was established in an attempt to reduce gas consumption at the time of an energy crisis. This attempt failed miserably by the way, but that's another story. Which does not mean speed does not matter... it does. For modern aerodynamically enhanced cars, the most efficient average speed is more in the range of 65 mph or even higher. You don't want to exceed that speed if you are trying to maximize gas mileage. At higher speeds, the main gas eater is aerodynamic drag, which is proportional to the square of your speed. That means your car needs four times more fuel to overcome the drag when you double your speed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Baby Chicks

Did you know you can order baby chicks on-line and have them delivered through the mail? Yes, you can.

We tried for 2 months to get some more chicks here in Central Oregon and finally gave up. They were sold almost the second they arrived at the feed stores and no one would let us order them in advance. They were all first come first serve and since they always arrived midday on weekdays, we kept missing out.

So I started searching on-line. Problem is, most hatcheries have a minimum 25-50 chick order. We only wanted 6 or 8. I finally found Cackle Hatchery who had a 15 chick minimum order. We figured we could handle 15 and quickly found a taker for 8. So I placed an order. A week or so later (as they noted on their website) I got a call saying our chicks were being shipped and to expect a phone call from the Sisters Post Office Friday morning. Sure enough, we got a call at 7:00 am (long before the post office opens) letting us know the chicks were there waiting for us. So John headed over to pick them up.

We actually wound up with an extra chick, 11 rather than 10 buff orpingtons and 5 barred rocks. My friend took all 5 barred rocks (which I ordered for her) and 3 of the orpingtons so we are left with 8 orpingtons which we have decided to keep.

They are so cute and doing great! Last year we had one buff orpington, one rhode island red and one that I can't remember that was black and white - might have been a barred rock. Anyway, their names were Ethel (the buff which we still have), Gertie (the red) and Henrietta (the black). A coyote got Gertie, and Henrietta got sick and died (while we were on vacation - poor neighbors!)

So I asked Jaxon what we should name the new chicks. He promptly responded that the yellow ones (all 11 of them!) were Ethels and the black ones are Henriettas. Well, the Henriettas are gone now so we don't have to worry about them but I suggested the chicks might each want their own names. Jaxon was ok with that as long as at least one is Ethel. So far we have "Little Ethel" "Junior" "Sunny" and "Daisy". We are trying to keep with *yellow* names for the rest. Any ideas?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Your Opinion Does Count

Dave had an insightful response to my post yesterday about excess packaging. His is the first comment on the post. Take a minute to read what he had to say...

I also added to what I had to say as well and here is an excerpt..

It is unfortunate that the size of the package is dictated by the amount of print or advertising needed rather than the size of the product. It seems like a single display box for the shelf with multiple smaller bottles still might suffice. I guess ultimately it comes down to marketing. At least with the Robitussin I bought (in generic form) the bottle was full, and the box was only as big as the bottle.

I know that companies who make an effort to be more environmentally friendly weigh heavily in my decision on which products to choose but ultimately my choice usually boils down to price and value. With drugs, which item is most effective, then secondly which of the most effective choices is cheapest. It certainly doesn't help that company though if upon opening a package, my impression is that they have been wasteful in their packaging. It shadows my opinion of that company as a whole and makes it less likely that I will be a repeat buyer. On the flip side, when I am pleasantly surprised to see a company making efforts to be environmentally conscious in their decisions, I am left with a positive impression and am more likely to seek out that company or brand in the future.

I do see that some of it is dictated by law though.

For the mucinex, it wasn't a blister pack (for travel I like blister packs actually) and the bottle was huge compared to the amount of pills in it. The pills took up maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the space in the bottle, and the bottle only took up about a 1/3 of the box! But guess what? Those boxes took up more shelf space and were highly visible compared to other cough supressants so I think in this case, the answer was pretty clearly marketing driven.

I think this is the reason it is important for consumers to keep harping on companies to change this way of thinking, and to try to use our buying power to encourage more eco-friendly choices in "marketing". Until it is proven to do more harm than good to the bottom line companies will continue to make choices based on monetary rather than environmental impacts.

I try to leave feedback with companies objecting to packaging waste when I can - which I did with the mucinex yesterday. I sent an email to the distributor. Unless it becomes clear to companies that their consumers really do care about stuff like this, they are unlikely to change their practices. Generally though, most companies value consumer feedback, whether it is positive or negative. After all, many spend millions soliciting that type of input through surveys, so it is pretty clear that they do ultimately listen to consumers and it is important (and generally easy) to log onto their websites and use the "contact us" option to voice our opinions!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sick

Sorry - no posts lately. I've been sick for the past week and am still battling the dry unproductive cough that will not let me sleep at night.

I have long been irritated by excessive packaging of goods, especially with the current heightened focus on recycling and reducing waste. Why is it taking so long for companies to embrace a philosophy of aggressively reducing packaging? I am glad to see Walmart stepping up to the plate to make a concerted effort to become a greener corporation. We'll see how well they continue to follow through. Costco often falls short on packaging, despite selling bulk items, things are often double or even triple packaged.

For instance, yesterday I bought a package of maximum strength Mucinex expectorant. The bottle that contained 14 tablets was at least 4 times the size it needed to be, and that bottle was inside a box that was 2-3 times bigger than the bottle. Not only is this excess package waste, but excess shipping space which equals more gas to ship the item. And for what purpose? I just really don't get it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Help Feed Shelter Animals With A Click

Mimi Ausland, an 11 year old girl from Bend, Oregon, wanted to help feed the hungry dogs at her local animal shelter. "There are 10's of thousands of dogs in animal shelters across the country, all needing to be fed a good meal." Say hello to Say hello to freekibble.com!

freekibble.com's primary mission is to provide good, healthy dog food to these shelters who are working so hard to see that no dog goes hungry - they need our help. Our goal is to start with providing free kibble to our local Humane Society, and to expand from there - from one shelter to the next...The generous advertisers on freekibble.com make this possible!

We also want to make it easy and fun for you to help provide free kibble through playing the Bow Wow Trivia game - and we hope you learn a few interesting things about dogs along the way. Thanks and enjoy!


So help Mimi out! Not only can you contribute by visiting each day to answer the trivia question, but you can also post a banner on your blog to help spread the word.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mercury in CFLs

Jennifer left a comment to yesterdays post that brought up a good point. Although CFLs are highly energy efficient, they must be disposed of and handled carefully as they contain mercury.

Here is what energy star has to say about the mercury in CFLs.

Do CFLs contain mercury?
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 5 milligrams – about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury. It would take 100 CFLs to equal that amount. Mercury currently is an essential component of CFLs and is what allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use. Many manufacturers have taken significant steps to reduce mercury used in their fluorescent lighting products. In fact, the average amount of mercury in a CFL is anticipated to drop by the end of 2007thanks to technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

What precautions should I take when using CFLs in my home?
CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it, or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the lamp by its base (not the glass), and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket. If a CFL breaks in your home, follow the clean-up recommendations below. Used CFLs should be disposed of properly (see below).

What should I do with a CFL when it burns out?
EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for compact fluorescent light bulbs. EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major U.S. retailers to expand recycling and disposal options. Consumers can contact their local municipal solid waste agency directly, or go to www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling or www.earth911.org to identify local recycling options.

If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 800,000 cars.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Energy Savings

Still not sure about those flourescent low wattage energy efficient light bulbs? Consider this...

Total savings over the life of one bulb: $83

Read on... and for more energy efficiency and cost savings read the whole article.

One of the easiest ways to slash your electric bill is to change your light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (those funny-looking spiral ones) use 75 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs of similar brightness. As the bulbs grow in popularity, prices are falling dramatically. Wal-Mart now sells 4-packs of their “Great Values” 23-watt CFLs (the equivalent of 100-watt incandescents) for roughly $8, or $2 per bulb.

While that’s double the price you’d pay for comparable incandescent bulbs, the CFLs will last 8 to 10 times longer because they can burn for up to 10,000 hours. That alone makes them worth the extra price, even before considering the significant energy savings.

If you’re put off by the slightly greater up-front cost, start by replacing the bulbs in the light fixtures you use most commonly. Here’s a breakdown of the math:

Action step: Replace one 100-watt incandescent bulb with one 100-watt CFL

Up-front cost: $1 (more per bulb than an incandescent)

Time to pay off: 17 days

Potential annual savings in electricity: $22

Lifetime Savings in Light Bulb Purchases: $6

Lifetime Electrical Savings: $77

Total Lifetime Savings: $83

* Assumptions: Calculations assume CFL bulb cost of $2 vs. $1 for an incandescent; the bulb is on an average of 8 hours per day; an electrical cost of 10 cents/kWh (kilowatt hour); the CFL bulb lasts 8 times as long as an incandescent. Note: To calculate your potential electrical savings, multiply 770 x your local electrical rate per kilowatt hour


Source: http://green.msn.com/galleries/photos/photos.aspx?gid=193>1=45002&page=2

Het Koffiemoment

I've been tagged by Isabella to post 6 random things about me.

So here goes...

1. I rarely wear skirts. Like maybe 2-3 times of year. I like cute clothes but not particularly clothes shopping. My idea of shopping is passing by a store and stopping by for a few minutes to see what I can score off the clearance rack. But I get a lot of compliments on my clothes and people are always surprised at the bargains I find. I NEVER pay full retail price for anything!

2. Along those lines, I do probably 70% or more of my shopping on line. Even a lot of shoes and clothes. Sometimes I will pre-shop online for places like Payless Shoes, Target, JCPeneny, Sears, Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens & Things. I love places that let you buy on-line and get free in store pick up. I just like the convenience of finding exactly what I am looking for without having to search all through the store for it! And search engines like froogle.com even let you find who has the cheapest price for a particular item. No running all over town!

3. My favorite vacations are either to Disneyland or Disney World, or travelling (so far most of my travels have been in Europe). I am not one to camp out in a hotel laying by a pool or on the beach. I have never been to Mexico (other than a day in Tijuana) or Hawaii. I wouldn't mind going but they just are never my first choice for a vacation.

4. I never really had a boyfriend. I dated a bit, but was far too picky until I met John. We were best friends before we ever started going out and we just kind of "decided" one day that we were officially "together". I never really thought of him as a boyfriend. I just always knew he was more than that to me. He did break up with me for almost a year after we had officially been together for more than a year and a half. He played the field a bit. I went off to Europe. It wasn't until I got back that I was finally resigned to start dating again and it took him seeing me with another guy to figure out that he didn't really want to loose me and he wanted to get back to gether. So we did. It was another 5 years before we got married but we knew long before we did that we would. We just weren't in a hurry. Now we have been married for 9 years and together (not counting our "break") for 16 1/2 years!

5. Ya'all are going to curse me on this one and probably hate me from here on out: I have *never* had to diet. I pretty much eat what I want when I want. I suppose it helps that I prefer nachos and diet coke (I can't STAND regular sodas!) to sweets and I am not a huge snacker. But it is rare for me to gain or lose more than 5 pounds. I have weighed between 130 and 135 most of my life, with an average weight of 132 (I am 5' 8") The one exception was after moving to Central Oregon. You really have to drive all over here, especially living out in the country like we do. The change in lifestyle combined with turning 30 slowed my metabolism for the first time in my life and over the next year I gained 10-15 pounds. All of a sudden I couldn't get under 140 and averaged 145. I wrote it off to getting older and didn't worry about it too much. I still wasn't "overweight" by any stretch of the imagination. I was 147 when I got pregnant with Jaxon at 32 and 178 by the end of my pregnancy. The weight dropped slowly but steadily after having him in March, and then I got sick in October and rapidly dropped the rest of my pregnancy weight. To my surprise, I had dropped down to 130 without really trying (other than getting sick which just dropped the last few). I was sure once I was feeling better that I would gain back up around 140 but to my even greater suprise, I held at my old 130-135 range which is where I still am 4 years later. I don't get any *regular* exercise beyond keeping up with a 4 year old, cleaning house, gardening, etc.

6. I am not big into music. I like it but rarely turn on music on my own accord. I am still stuck in the 80's for the most part but luckily John keeps me up to date with newer stuff although I am horrible at being able to match an artist with a song. Mostly I listen to Kidd Kraddick on my morning commute from 7 -7:30 am and NPR (OPB in Oregon) on the way home. I get most of my news from NPR and follow up on line for particular stories I am interested in.

So that's it for now.

Here are the rules: Link to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Write six random things about yourself. Tag six people at the end of your post linking to their blog. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

And I hereby tag my husband John who started a blog then left it without further posting, Leslie at My Mommy's Place, Tasha at La Bella Noire, Dave at Random Walks in the Low Countries, Textual Healer, and Jake at Utterly Boring because although I enjoy lurking on his blog daily to get the Bend gossip, I don't think he has ever posted one of these surveys or seen my site.

I chose these particular blogs to tag to give you a wide range of demographic and geographic locations!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Value of Money

A couple of weeks ago, we were shopping at Target and Jaxon saw a baseball bat and decided that he just HAD to have that bat. Black, aluminum, just like the ones he saw the big kids were using at the park earlier that week.

Well, it is certainly not something he needs, he is only 4 after all! But man, I tell you, I have never seen that kid want something so bad. He was actually sobbing when I didn't buy it after he carried it all through the store and to the cash register. So we had a little talk and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to teach him about the value of money. Oh, he knew we had to pay for things, but he didn't yet understand the concept of where the money comes from, or how much things cost.

So I made a deal with him right there in Target. He could help me out doing things around the house, weeding, cleaning, etc. to earn his own money and when he saved up enough money he could buy the bat himself. He was still a bit disappointed at having to wait but perked up when I told him he could buy it. He seemed to grasp what I had told him about earning the money and saving it until he had enough, and sure enough, he has continued to remember the convesation and has shown a surprising understanding of our discussion.

So for the past couple of weeks he has been helping by cleaning his room, getting dressed by himself and a variety of other things, as well as helping with bigger stuff beyond the standard everyday expectations, such as helping to pull weeds at both our house and Grammie's house. While he doesn't get money for the everyday stuff, he does get money for pulling weeds. Each time we have thanked him for helping and presented him with a dollar or two (well, ok Grammie gave him $4!) which he has put in his treasure chest. Each time he added to it, he would count to see how much he had, and I would tell him how many more dollars he needed.

Well, this weekend he reached his goal so today after I pick him up from day care we are going to Target to buy his ball and bat!

On a side note, he had quite a collection of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies in his treasure chest too, and we showed him how to "trade" those for dollar bills. So he also is learning about different coins, and how much they are worth too. It has been quite an effective learning experience all around!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sweetiegate

Ooops. Obama, man this is one bad habit you have GOT to kick immediately!!

*Edited to clarify: I do not consider using words like sweetie or honey to be sexual harassment, or even really sexist.*

I will admit that when men use this term it grates on me more so than when women do it. Older women, not so bad. I do an internal eye roll and move on. Younger women or women of equal age/status with me - it comes across as demeaning and derogatory. It suggests that they don't regard me as an equal or are assuming a greater familiarity or intimacy with me than they are entitled to. When a man does it, especially an older man or one with more status or authority it is definitely derogatory, whether they intend it to be or not, for the same reasons. It is just not respectful. It implies that they do not see me as an equal. It's belittling and gives the impression that I am being written off, disregarded - like I'm 13 or something. (And just try calling a 13 year old sweetie!)

Does it change my opinion of him? No. But he really needs to be more aware of this bad habit and stop doing it immediately.

I am glad that I live in a time and place where the feminist movement accomplished its goals and can stay in retirement - at least in My Neck of the Woods. I have equal status, respect, and pay to that of my male counterparts. I can have a career and be a mom and do not feel judged on either front. I don't feel like I have to fight any battles related to being a woman.

However, two instances stand out in my mind where this was not the case. One was back in 1999. I was 27 at the time and newly married. John and I were in Circuit City in Concord, CA (East Bay SF) looking to spend our wedding money on some electronics. We had $2,000 to spend and were looking to buy a home theater system, DVD player, stereo, speakers, the works. I hovered around the area for a couple of minutes becoming more and more irritated with the two middle aged, male sales associates standing a few feet away, ignoring me while chatting it up. That was bad enough. Sent me a message that they had already written me off as a young (no money) female (obviously not the one to be buying the sound system right?) who wasn't worth wasting their time on. Finally, I got fed up and interrupted them asking if there was anyone who could answer some questions about the features/benefits of the various models. Their response? I'll be with you in a minute sweetie. I promptly turned and walked out. After all, there were 3 other electronics stores within a couple of blocks. I wasn't going to waste my time there, only to get upsold on a piece of junk, which was probably their next move.

The other time? Car shopping of course. I always do the car buying. I bought my first car at 23 (not counting the old Ford Escort my Dad and I bought from the want ads when I was 17). I initially brought my Dad along for back up but after a couple of stops he said I was doing better than he could anyway. So off I went by myself. Sheesh!!! I have to say, most of those salesmen saw me as an easy target when I walked in but were suitably impressed by the time I left, shaking my hand and their heads, telling me I was a tough negotiator, chuckling and wishing me good luck. But I came across at least one that shook his head and said I was being unrealistic, proceeding to end the conversation with me and turning to my Dad. Who of course, shook his head and told him he needed to talk to me as I was the one buying the car. The guy continued to try to go around me through my Dad until we finally got up and walked out.

*Sidetrack*


Have to brag a little on my car buying negotiation skills - here's what they got me:

1995 - 6 month old Eagle Summit (same as a Mitsubishi Mirage - Mitsu engine) with 6,000 miles for $9,995. Sticker price over $14,500 new. I never did a THING to that car in the 10 years I owned it besides routine maintenance. When I sold it it had 168,000 miles on it.

1998 - '97 Jeep Wrangler Sport. I had been watching prices on these and knew that if I was diligent I could find one less than 2 years old for around $17,000. I called all over the Bay Area and spent an average of 30 seconds per call, stating what I was looking for and for how much. Some dealers just said sorry, no dice, some told me I was crazy and counter offered. But on about the 15th call I hit pay dirt. I went in 3 hours later to sign the papers. $16,999.

2005 - '03 Subaru Forester. I had narrowed it down to 2. One at a dealership for $13,500 which was truly a good deal and one from a private owner for $12,500. I tried to get the dealer to match the price or at least drop it a bit. I would have paid cash right then and there but no dice. I still considered it since the dealership would be easier to deal with than a private seller if I had any problems with the car, but ultimately the other car was nicer and I liked the color better on top of the $1,000 savings.

*Back to the main subject*

So, yeah, the use of the word sweetie rubs me the wrong way. If you call me sweetie, I probably won't make a big deal out of it. I certainly won't be offended, but I will write you off as quickly as you just did to me. Don't take me seriously and I will return the favor or find someone else who does.

Bottom line, it's not just the word, but the implication behind it, intended or not. Even if it is not intentional, it has the same effect, and leaves the person on the receiving end wondering not only what was meant by it, but in doubt as to whether or not they are being taken seriously. Obama is NOT in a position right now to give the impression that he is writing off someone's questions or concerns, or not taking them seriously. He still has my vote - I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Google Searches That Bring People Here

Some of the google searches that brought people to my blog made me snort and just about choke laughing.

poop in eyes dutch phrase - someone googled this? And my blog came up as the first result???

My blog comes up second right now when you google oregon presidential primary and sixth on AOL. I am not sure what to think about that. Is there really so little news about the Oregon primaries that my measly little blog posting reminding people to vote comes up second?

And someone actually googled Jaxon's dictionary. I guess I have the official one since my post was again #1.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Why Obama?

Read his Blueprint For Change and find out for yourself. The following is his introduction letter in the BFC.

"Thank you for taking a look at this booklet. I believe it’s critically important that those of us who want to lead this nation be open, candid, and clear with the American people about how we will move forward. So I hope this booklet gives you a good sense about where I stand on the fundamental issues facing our country.

But I also hope that this booklet sparks a dialogue and that after you’ve finished reading it, you get in touch with our campaign and give us your thoughts on the policies you find here. It’s time to put government back in your hands, where it belongs. If we want to have policies that are good for the American people, then we need the American people to help shape those policies.

We all know what’s at stake. This is a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war. The planet is in peril. The dream that so many generations fought for feels as if it’s slowly slipping away. We’ve never paid more for health care or for college. It’s harder to save and retire. And most of all, we’ve lost faith that our leaders can or will do anything about it.

But it is because of their failures that this moment of challenge is also a moment of opportunity. We have a chance to bring the country together in a new majority - to finally tackle problems that Washington has ignored for too long. And that is why the same old Washington textbook campaigns just won’t do in this election.

The Democratic Party has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people when we’ve led not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction; when we summoned the entire nation to a common purpose - a higher purpose. And I run for the presidency because that’s the party America needs us to be right now. I run to offer this country change that we can believe in.

I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I’m in this race because I want to stop talking about the outrage of 47 million Americans without health care and start actually doing something about it. I’m in this race to end our dependence on Middle East oil and save our planet from the crisis of climate change so we can give our children a planet that’s cleaner and safer than we found it.

As president, I will end the war in Iraq, a war that I opposed from the beginning and that should never have been authorized. I will finish the fight against Al Qaeda. And I will lead the world to combat the common threats of the 21st century - nuclear weapons and terrorism; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

America, our moment is now. I don’t want to spend the next year or the next four years re-fighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s. I don’t want to pit Red America against Blue America, I want to be the President of the United States of America.

That’s why I’m asking you to stand with me, that’s why I’m asking you to caucus for me, that’s why I’m asking you to stop settling for what the cynics say we have to accept. In this election - in this moment - let us reach for what we know is possible. A nation healed. A world repaired. An America that believes again.

So thank you for taking the time to read this booklet, which lays out very clearly how I will achieve these goals for the people of Iowa. And if you have any questions or want to get involved or want to offer your ideas about how we can make our policies stronger, I hope you’ll visit http://iowa.barackobama.com, call 515-883-2008 or drop into one of our more than 37 offices across the state.

Sincerely,
Barack Obama"

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Never Put an Egg in Your Pocket

So you are probably reading the title of this post and thinking "Duh!"

But I learned this lesson the hard way today.

I put on my coat to head out for lunch and reached into my coat pocket to grab my keys, but found my pocket full of liquid. Full. At first I thought to myself, how did I spill this much liquid without realizing it, where did it come from, and *wow* my coat pocket is pretty water proof. Still confused, I opened the pocket and looked down into it, mistified to see broken egg shell in the pocket amidst the mysterious liquid. I was caught so off guard my brain spun for about 3 seconds before it all fell into place and I started laughing maniacally in the office corridor.

See, each morning, I get up and get dressed and ready for work, then head outside to feed the chicken (we only have one left of the 3 we started with last year) and gather her egg and bring it in the house before getting Jaxon up to get him ready to go. The gate latch requires two hands to latch, so I put the (rather large) egg in my pocket for a *moment*. Unfortunately, this morning Jaxon woke up while I was outside so while I was in the process of latching the gate I heard my husband yell sleepily out the door that Jaxon was crying and calling for me. This made all other thoughts promptly flee my brain, as 6:30 am for John is like 2:00 am for a normal sleep schedule since he doesn't get home from work until after midnight so he was a bit cranky at having to get up to come get me.

So I ran back in the house and got Jaxon ready to go and off we went - egg in pocket long forgotten. Until I reached into my pocket this afternoon on my way to lunch!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Type Racer

This is fun typing game that you can play online - you can race against other people online and it tracks your wpm. Try it out!

Monday, May 05, 2008

My Time in the Netherlands

A Touch of Dutch recently returned a comment I made on one of her posts and asked if I visit The Netherlands often. I can't say that I do, but I have probably spent more time there than the average traveler, and more time there than in any other foreign country.

Fy first visit to a foreign country (not counting day trips to Tijuana and Vancouver B.C.) was to the NL in 1994 as a college student on exchange. I spent 3 months living in Groningen (although I didn't do much in the way of school while I was there) in an international "dorm" (Albertine Agnesplein) which was about a mile from the Zernike complex where the spatial sciences classes were held and about a mile from the center of town. I developed a love for the Dutch in those few months and returned for a visit to both Amsterdam and Groningen in 2001.

Actually, we arrived in Amsterdam on September 10, 2001 and spent the day September 11, 2001 in Groningen, returning to Centraal Station in Amsterdam around midnight that night. I remember seeing a crowd of people at the cafe/bar in the station gathered around the television watching the news. Unfortunately it was in Dutch and we were tired and just wanting to get back to our room to sleep and didn't pay it much attention beyond wondering what was going on. The next morning, no one said anything to us on our way out, or as we boarded a train to head on to Germany. It wasn't until later that day on a boat on the Rhine that we realized something big was happening, but again, the bartenders on the boat were watching a German news broadcast and at first we thought it was just a plane crash. They tried to explain what was happening in limited English and we got the jist of it, but it wasn't until that night when we logged onto CNN in an internet cafe that we learned the full extent of what had happened back home. It was surreal to be abroad while it was all happening. We visited several countries that visit, and everyone was shook up by it, astounded that something like that could happen in America. There was a lot of fear as to what the events would mean for not just America, but the rest of the world.

On a side note, I was also in the NL when I heard the news of Kurt Cobain death in 1994. Being that home was Seattle, this was really big news - lots of stuff going on back home that I completely missed.

So then my third trip to the NL was in 2003 when we had friends living in Leiden who we stayed with for a week. I have to say, I am so glad to have had the perspective of living in the NL as opposed to just the typical tourist experience for two of my three visits. This is a country that just has such a uniqueness to daily life. At first I was irritated and confounded by the closure of stores from 6:00 pm on Saturday until 9:00 or 10:00 am Monday mornings (1:00 pm Mondays for some shops!) but afterwhile came to appreciate it. As a tourist you don't really get the feel of what Dutch life is all about. I am sure there are many experiences I did not get to, but I felt lucky to really get to taste Dutch life.

So what are some of my likes and dislikes?

It is the perfect balance of unique and comfortable, old and modern. You get to experience a change of culture while still feeling comfortable without too much adjustment or culture shock. Lots of fun. And the Dutch are for the most part so easy going and welcoming. And where else can you be in a foreign country with a different language but not have a problem with language barriers? (Well, maybe Ireland but you still hear English spoken in the streets for the most part.) Anyone under 60 is pretty much fluent in English and doesn't think twice about switching to English. And I love the Dutch accent. Crystal clear perfect English but I like the Dutch accent even better than British or Irish or Australian.

And I found the Dutch people on the whole to be extremely well educated and worldly, in the sense that not only are they almost universally multi-ligual (beyond Dutch and English many speak fluent French, and often German, Italian and or Spanish as well!!!) but they tend to be very knowledgeable on world politics, events, and pop-culture. It is very easy to strike up an engaging coversation on a myriad of topics at a cafe or pub or on the train with the person next to you.

Rail travel. I loved walking to the station and traveling by rail, to the next town, or the next country, sometimes spur of the moment. And being able to stop by the local market or the central open air markets in town on the way home.

Biking everywhere! So fast and cheap and no parking worries.

I love going to "the local" pub in the evenings. Since they are usually only patronized by locals from that particular neighborhood, everyone in the pub knows each other and being a visitor you get a lot of attention and great conversation over cheap beer with a cozy atmosphere. And you can walk to and from so you don't have to worry about how much you have to drink!

I love going to the store and trying to find stuff in another language, thinking you have found what you are looking for but finding something new and slightly different, sometimes better, sometimes frustratingly not at all what you were hoping for (like laundry detergent!!!) My favorites, Cassis (black currant)soda and those snack chips that are like a cheeto covered peanut with spicy coating, yogurt (I love the liquidy kind, the stuff you get here is just not the same) and lunch at HEMA! They have the best broodjes (the wheat bread with seeds filled with that herbed cream cheese I can only find in the NL) and their cream of mushroom soup is the best I've ever had. Plus I love the view, (at least at the ones in Groningen and Leiden which are the only two I have been to.)Koffie served the Dutch way, strong, in a little cup and saucer with a biscuit, at a table outside at the edge of the market. I love the little individually wrapped sugar cubes (or should I say sugar rectangles?) even though I don't drink my koffie with sugar.

Crystal clean windows, with minimal drapes right up against the sidewalk, inviting you to peek in the windows. Trying to peek in windows without looking too obvious. And all the plants in the windows!

Things I dislike

Dutch customer service (oxymoron cause for the most part there is no such thing except in small sole-proprietor shops) - especially when the answer is "its impossible" when what is really meant is "no, what you are asking is too much trouble and I don't want to be bothered." No bending the rules in the Netherlands! The Dutch bring new meaning to the phrase "by the book." And yet, on the opposite end of that spectrum, there is an extreme tolerance of breaking the law or bending the rules(squatters, prostitution, drugs - drugs are still not "legal" and yet you can buy a myriad of pot and hash at any number of coffeshops.) It's funny because it seems like the Dutch sweat the small stuff and turn a blind eye to the "big" stuff.

Dog poop. Nothing worse than a nice walk along the canals or in the shopping district only to have you foot slip in the tell-tale mush of a fresh pile of dog doo.

Too much rain and wind!!

Trying to ask about something in Dutch (like a recommendation for rijstafel) that is a name brand or non-translatable and not being understood no matter how sure you are that you have said it correctly. We Americans can understand most English words spoken in even the heaviest of accents but the Dutch cannot seem to understand Dutch spoken with an accent! (Although I am sure my accent is worse than most!)

Overall though, I love the NL and would not at all mind living there!

Friday, May 02, 2008

How Cool is This?



Have you seen the Kindle yet? A bit pricey but I know what my husband is going to want for his birthday (if he can wait that long!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

MOMocrats EXCLUSIVE: Obama Answers Readers' Questions

What sets Obama apart, making him one of the best presidential candidates we've had in a long time, if not ever? He has plans. REAL PLANS. Other candidates confuse goals with plans. Goals are all well and good, but without a PLAN to implement them, they are just a bunch of hot air. Like what we have heard for the past 8 years from out current administration.

Yes we can? Well, Obama has plans that say we can.

So click on the title of this post to see the questions Obama answered on MOMocrats. Definitely worth the read.

Cool Dude

Tuesdays at Munckin Manor are show and tell day. Jaxon LOVES show and tell and always has to have SOMETHING to bring. Days that are not show and tell days we often have to go through a long dialogue of why he can't bring something in with him.

Today as we were getting out of the car he noticed that one of the girls in his class had her doll with her and he immediately began demanding that he be allowed to bring something in too, despite the fact that it was not show and tell day, and we had NOTHING in the car for him to bring in (he had already brought his Bear Tunes CD on Tuesday.) No ammount of reasoning was going to deter him though as he scrambled back into the car and began tearing it apart in search of something, ANYTHING that he might be able to bring in with him, deaf ears to Mommy's protestations.

And find something he did. His sunglasses. So in we came with sunglasses in hand which he immediately had to show each and every kid in the room, with offers to let them try them on, which of course they each wanted to do - even the older kids. I had to intervene after he almost poked someones eye out in his exuberance to share, reminding him to let the kids put them on themselves.

Score 1 for Jaxon, Mommy -1. So far, I seem to be on the losing side of most battles with the Negotiator.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Republicans for Obama



See? Gunfighter saw this on his way to work. Read about it here.

Words Defined by Jaxon

Dictionary: squish (skwĭsh)
v., squished, squish·ing, squish·es.
v.tr.
To squeeze or crush together or into a flat mass; squash.

Dictionary: squishy (skwĭsh'ē)
adj., squish·i·er, squish·i·est.
Soft and wet; spongy.
Sloppily sentimental.

Jaxon's dictionary: squishy
adj.
Something hard which can be used to squish something.

Conversation in car this morning:

Jaxon: "My shoe is squishy. Right Mommy?" (every comment these days ends in "right Mommy?" Which will be repeated until Mommy responds in the following expected manner)

Mommy:"Right".

Jaxon: "Bones are squishy, right Mommy?"
(Mommy's brain pauses momentarily to process how he came to this conclusion)

Mommy:"Noooooo. Bones are hard."

Jaxon:"My bones can squish bugs."
(Lightbulb goes off over Mommy's head)

Mommy:"Yes they can!"

So apparently in Jaxon's dictionary, squishy means an object which can be used to squish something rather than an object which can be squished.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oregon Presidential Primary

Just a reminder...

The deadline to register to vote in the Oregon primaries is Tuesday April 29 to vote in the Oregon primary on May 20.

You must be registered AS A DEMOCRAT to vote in the democratic primary.

For more information go here.

You can even fill out the registration papers on-line and print them.

And here is a list of the Oregon Obama campaign headquarters nearest you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Funny Things Kids Say

So on the way into work today Jaxon wanted to listen to his new Bear Tunes CD from Grandma and Bapa. For the last year and a half, the Moose Tunes CD from Grammie and Ogie has been his favorite so he is excited to have a new one just like it.

We have listened to it a couple of times so I started singing along with one of the catchier tunes but Jaxon would have none of it. He screeched at me to stop singing. So I stopped...for a minute and then started in again. This time he said in a very stern voice "Why don't you just keep your eyes on the road!" which resulted in me busting up laughing. He of course thought that it was very funny that he had made me laugh so for the next few minutes he delighted in saying it over and over until I finally had to tell him that was enough.

He still wouldn't let me sing though. He just wanted to listen. Guess I am not the worlds best singer.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Catching Up

So Tucker is a trooper and recovering well from his surgery. The bad news is that it is an agressive cancer and they were not able to get it all. We have switched him to a homemade diet of hamburger, spinach and carrots with a hard boiled egg which he seems to like. I am on the fence as to whether or not to add rice and or potato as cancer diets are recommended to have low to no carbs. I am playing phone tag with the alternative care vet to get the details of the diet worked out. We are just hoping to slow its growth. For now, Tucker is ready to go out and play!

And for some cute entertainment, here is a short video of my niece and nephew. Too cute! Can't wait to see them again although we won't be going to visit until Memorial Day weekend.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Our Poor Tucker

I can't really go into detail without tearing up (ok breaking down in sobs) so I will just post this link to my husbands post about our dear Tucker.

For now Tuck is doing well and I will maybe post a picture of the horror that is the incision (if you can call the ragged stitched up split down his side an "incision".) He is quite the trooper but it breaks the heart to see him so cut up. He NEVER lets on that he is in pain. Not even a wimper.

Just awaiting the biopsy results to tell us what kind of tumor it was that she removed (an no, she was not able to get all of it.) Hopefully it is slow growing and not agressive.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lurkers

I had no idea I had so many people visiting my blog. And you guys are from all over the world! Sometimes I can tell how you got here (from another blog I commented on) but other times I have no clue!

So, come out and tell me who you are and how you got here! Please? I would love to know who you are! I would love to check out your blogs too.

Kids and Alcohol

I was perusing my blog favs today and followed a link from this post to this one, finding the following excerpt that just rang so true with me.

"Dr. Vaillant compared 136 men who were alcoholics with men who were not. Those who grew up in families where alcohol was forbidden at the table, but was consumed away from the home, apart from food, were seven times more likely to be alcoholics that those who came from families where wine was served with meals but drunkenness was not tolerated.

He concluded that teenagers should be taught to enjoy wine with family meals, and 25 years later Dr. Vaillant stands by his recommendation. “The theoretical position is: driving a car, shooting a rifle, using alcohol are all dangerous activities,” he told me, “and the way you teach responsibility is to let parents teach appropriate use.”

“If you are taught to drink in a ceremonial way with food, then the purpose of alcohol is taste and celebration, not inebriation,” he added. “If you are forbidden to use it until college then you drink to get drunk.”

I am pretty sure that when the time comes we will follow this approach. My parents never drank any alcoholic beverages when I was growing up other than the very rare coctail at a restaurant if we had a long wait for a table or a glass of wine or hot buttered rum at a holiday gathering. I was allowed a *sip* but never more. I remember the first Christmas after turning 21. I brought a bottle of peppermint schnapps to my Aunt's house to make peppermint cocoa or coffee and my mom was less than thrilled. It took her a few years before being comfortable with seeing me drink a beer or two or glass of wine.

But worse, I was a college (and a bit in high school too) partier. It was new, it was fun. I think I would have been less interested if I had been allowed to do some drinking (a small glass of wine, beer, hot buttered rum, etc) at times at home when I was a teenager. It would have demistified it a bit. Made it less a big deal.

Or maybe it wouldn't have. But I don't think it would have made me drink more. Less maybe, but not more. I am quite certain of that. I had more of a message of "don't drink at all" growing up than "drink responsibly and enjoy it" growing up. But I really don't fault my parents for it. My Mom grew up with alcoholic parents and as one of the oldest kids had to deal with being a pseudo parent to younger siblings. And neither of my parents really like alcoholic beverages. John and I do though, as do his parents, so I think when the time comes (maybe 16?) we will let our kids have the occassion glass of wine or microbrew at family dinners.

What are your thoughts?