Hug a Polar Bear, Take the Thermostat Challenge

February 9th, 2014

I know. I know! It’s a very yuck winter to be thinking about turning down the trusty thermostat, but will you do it in honor of International Polar Bear Day?

#PolarBearDay is February 27, and Polar Bears International is challenging you to take a not very icy plunge to lower carbon emissions.




All you have to do is lower your thermostat a couple degrees. If you live in a hot climate, adjust your thermostat so that the room temp is just a bit warmer, and if you live in a chilly climate, adjust your thermostat so that the room is a bit colder.




Are you observing International Polar Bear Day?

Valentine’s Day Hints: Help Your Pet and Partner Get Along

February 5th, 2014

What better time to talk about love and pets than around Valentine’s Day?

Have you ever known a couple to break up over a pet? It happens more than you might think.

And sometimes it’s complicated. For example, one partner may be allergic to the other partner’s pet. That can be tough, but when it’s just a case of a pet and partner not getting along, well that’s a completely manageable situation!


If a pet is coming between you and the love of your life, try these helpful tips from the ASPCA, and have a happy Valentine’s Day:

One: Ask your partner to be the bearer of all good things for your pet whenever possible. That means that your significant other should do the feeding and dispense treats. And, if your pet is up for it, your partner should also engage in play sessions with your pet.

Two: Ask your significant other not to force interaction with your pet. Pets tend to see the approach of someone they fear or distrust as a threat, so it’s best for your other to play it cool and let your pet make the first overture of friendship.

Three: Reward your pet with treats for every step it takes to investigate your girlfriend or boyfriend. Reward positive behaviors like sniffing, approaching or rubbing.

How have you solved problems between your pet and partner?

Thanks: Image via Maura Teague’s flickr photostream.

Merry Christmas with Alternative Holiday Trees

December 23rd, 2013

Merry Christmas to you, and happy end to 2013. It’s been a pretty good year.

Here’s a look at my Christmas trees this year. I bought a tree made from wood scraps. It was created by a local artist, so no, I don’t have the DIY for it, but if you’re imaginative enough, I bet you could figure this one out!




I love the colorful wooden ornaments! I see now that my old ceiling tile wasn’t such a great backdrop for the pic, but it will have to do.




And here’s a look at something I experimented with this year. I have a lot of ornaments that have been gifted to me over the years. I keep explaining that I don’t put up a big Christmas tree because it’s just too much hassle with my two cats. I have no idea how my dog would react, and I don’t want to find out.




But I have ornaments anyhow, so I thought it would be nice to display them in a nontraditional way this year. I remembered the trusty old pasta drying rack, which hasn’t seen much action lately. I angled the ornaments to come to a point, and really it was kind of a fun project! The picture isn’t so great though, so forgive the blurry. Ah, maybe Santa should bring me photography talent. Or I should use my digital camera instead of my iPhone…

Once again, Merry Christmas. And, please have a charming 2014.


Are reusable bags dangerous to grocery cashiers?

December 21st, 2013

I’ve heard a new one about reusable bags.

Placing my items and bags on the conveyor belt at one popular chain store I won’t name, I was greeted with “I’m not allowed to touch those. You’ll have to bag them yourself.”

Well, I’ve used my own bags at this store many times, so I was confused. The way that the check-out area was configured, it would have been awkward for me to bag my own groceries. So, I ask, “Is this a new policy?’

“No. I had a reaction and now I’m not allowed to touch the bags,” she said.


Image from when I forgot the garlic in my reusable shopping bag! Found it not so intact in the dryer.

Image from when I forgot the garlic in my reusable shopping bag! Found it not so intact in the dryer.


The cashier couldn’t say exactly what it was about the bags she had handled that made her sick, but there was fear in her eyes. If she had some sort of specific allergy, she wasn’t aware, but there was just something about the bags that had made her sick, she said.

I believe that. It could be that the cashier has some specific food allergy that she’ll soon discover isn’t related to reusable bags. However, I think it’s totally plausible that someone’s bags may have made her have a reaction.

Always Wash Your Bags

Reusable bags, like anything else you use again and again, should be washed to remove contaminants and allergens. Never buy bags for grocery shopping that are surface wash only. That’s not healthy. Think about it for a minute: You bags carry ready-to-eat foods like produce that can easily become contaminated by dirty grocery bags.

For your health, and your cashier’s, wash your reusable bags often. Visit the American Cleaning Institute for tips on how to safely store and clean reusable shopping bags.


How often do you wash your shopping bags?

It’s OK. Gift a Pet This Christmas!

December 15th, 2013

Choco is very soft and vocal. He’s a pink-nosed wonder of a cat who forever changed my husband’s feelings about felines in general. A tuxedo cat, he’s never underdressed.

Choco and Oscar

And he was my Christmas present in 2003.

Choco wasn’t just any Christmas present, but my favorite gift ever. (There he is on the scratchy pad with his partner in crime, Oscar.)

For years, you’ve probably heard the myth that giving a pet as a gift is a bad idea.

Well, the ASPCA is busting that myth. And they say that yes, it really is fine to give a pet as a gift at Christmas, or another time.

Here are the numbers from the ASPCA research:

  • Ninety-six percent of people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet.
  • Eighty-six percent of the pets referred to in the study are still in the home.
  • There was no difference in the recipient’s attachment to the pet based on whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance.

These study findings are encouraging, and should help to ease any feelings of guilt you have for giving a pet as a gift. However, it’s also a good idea to gift pets only to people you know well and trust. After all, you need to know that the recipient’s schedule allows for the care of a pet. And, when gifting a pet to a young child, remember that the parent will be the caregiver. Yeah, you should ask the parent first!

The ASPCA recommends giving pets to those who have shown a sustained interest in having a pet, and who have the ability to care for a pet responsibly.  And, of course, you’re encouraged to adopt the pet from a shelter or rescue group.


Do pets change people?

Yes! As I mentioned, my husband never liked cats before Choco came into our lives. I never considered myself a dog person until we adopted Stella, my 70-pound rescue pup, last year.

Pets help us learn more about ourselves, and when we have the time and patience to put into the relationship with our pets, the rewards are great. Pets are a lot of work, but they add soul and character to a home. And a smile to your face.

Are you giving a pet as a gift this Christmas?

Made in USA Christmas Toys for 2013

November 7th, 2013


Made in USA means your gift didn’t have to travel so far to get to you. Plus, it supports jobs in the United States. So, if you’re starting your holiday shopping, here are some ideas for Made in USA Christmas gifts for 2013.


Stuffed Dog, because if you can’t have the real thing, why not? Or, even if you can have the real thing, these pups are cute. Check out Cuddly Puppy Friend at Taraluna. These pups are made by hand in the United States, and they’re safe for small kids with no small parts to fall off.



Wooden Checkers, because cardboard just doesn’t last! These made in USA Wooden Checkers from Maple Landmark will last for years. And, if you’re looking for stocking stuffers that are made in USA, you can’t go wrong with the wooden dominoes, swords, train whistles, tops, puzzles, silly sticks and yo-yos at Maple Landmark!




Herd Your Horses is perfect entertainment for the horse lover in your family. The recommended minimum age for this made in USA board game is 8 years old. Herd Your Horses is available at Fat Brain Toys.




Tool sets aren’t just for boys! The Pink Tool Set from Green Toys is made in the USA from recycled plastic. Yeah, they also make a blue tool set. And they’re free of BPA and PVC.




And, of course, I leave you with the Vermont Teddy Bear!



Are you shopping for toys and other gifts that are made in the USA?

Blog Action Day 2013: Human Rights at Work

October 16th, 2013

Human rights is a big issue. That’s part of what makes it such a great topic for Blog Action Day 2013. Human rights issues have always existed in the world. We know about many of them, and I have no doubt that they’ll be covered by all of the 2013 Blog Action Day posts. But I’d like to talk about human rights in a different way.


Human rights are often violated in extremely subtle, yet widespread ways. You may not recognize that you’re causing a problem, or that your rights have been violated. And it’s all about us taking a closer look at our lives, our American culture as it exists in 2013. My inspiration for this post is Article 24 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here’s the text of Article 24: “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”


In many countries it’s obvious that human rights violations are taking place when workers are forced to labor for long hours under the threat of termination. In America, those types of situations don’t often happen, or do they?


via flickr Sean MacEntee

via flickr Sean MacEntee


The culture surrounding work in America is sometimes a dangerous thing. Many businesses and corporations expect their salaried workers to work very long hours, often at the expense of their personal lives. It’s also the norm that many workers are expected to check their work emails and even take part in conference calls while on vacation. Workers who want to get ahead in America are expected to work late on a regular basis, and once those workers are promoted to top positions, the expectations for hours devoted to work grows even more.


I’m not promoting the idea of a lazy, too leisurely America. But what I am promoting is the idea that rest is a vital thing. We can only take care of ourselves properly when we’re allowed to rest. And not feel guilty resting. Rest and leisure can mean many things, but mostly it’s about not working. And that includes not stressing over work while not working. Americans shouldn’t be afraid to go on vacation, and we certainly shouldn’t be working on vacation. Is it a stretch to say that our American work culture violates human rights? I don’t think so. Do you agree?


While we’re discussing The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I believe that it’s important to note that right now our elected members in Congress are violating Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Who out there thinks that our members of Congress are acting with “a spirit of brotherhood?”


They are, I believe, acting very selfishly at the expense of the American people, and their actions may have a worldwide impact. The government shutdown of 2013 will be studied by economists for a long time, but it takes no amount of research to see that our members of Congress aren’t acting brotherly toward anyone.


Can you think of subtle ways that human rights are violated each day? Share your human rights thoughts on Twitter with #BAD13. And participate in Blog Action Day 2013.

Mark Your Calendar for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

September 5th, 2013


Unwanted or expired prescription drugs don’t just take up space in your medicine cabinet, they’re also a danger to have around. After all, you, or someone else, might accidentally take the wrong drug. Or someone may abuse your drugs.




You may have heard that it’s a bad idea to flush drugs, so what are you to do?

Participate in the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 26, 2013.

If you can’t participate in the take-back day, there are other options, such as safe trash disposal. Learn more about that, and other ways to protect yourself and the environment: Visit the FDA’s guide for how to safely dispose of drugs.

How do you dispose of unwanted drugs?

Back to School Recycled Style with Treesmart Supplies

July 31st, 2013

I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking in this case. Treesmart makes some awesome recycled pencils, colored pencils and rulers. Do check them out for your back to school shopping.

Second life for newspapers

The ruler is made from recycled newspaper and recycled plastic, while the pencils and colored pencils are made from recycled newspaper.


Have you tried pencils made from recycled newspaper? They have some character to them, though that may be difficult to see in my photos. You do see letters, and the eraser works really well.

Note the super cute packaging for the colored pencils! And, uh, the cat foot…


These are hard, just like wood. (No jokes, people.) So, don’t worry about a flimsy product. They feel just like colored pencils that are made from wood. However, do note that these are mini colored pencils.


Look at the pretty colors.


What else from Treesmart

Treesmart also makes mechanical pencils, pencil cases and supply boxes from recycled candy wrappers and potato chip bags!

Are you shopping for recycled school supplies?

Disclosure: I received these pictured items at no cost from Treesmart.

Don’t Go Back to Twinkies. Make Healthy Desserts Instead.

July 14th, 2013

So, Twinkies are back. Starting today at Wal-Mart and Monday at other stores. Well, some Kroger stores have them today. Not that I want you to buy them.

I find it a bit odd that the Hostess website doesn’t contain the nutrition information. Sure, you can get that on the box, but this is the age of the Internet. Hostess does, however, offer on their contact page a hotline and an email address for obtaining nutrition information. I’d suggest you read the box or call the hotline before resuming your love affair with Twinkies, or other Hostess treats like fried pies and cupcakes, which are all rising from their graves.


Healthy Fudge Brownies photo by chocolate-covered KATIE

Healthy Fudge Brownies photo by chocolate-covered KATIE


I love snacks and sweets, but if I’m going to consume sugar and carbs, I like to make it count. And I want healthful ingredients too. Here’s an example. I recently baked my own from-scratch whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, and it was easier than going to the store to buy Twinkies! By the way, whole wheat cookies are much better than they sound. I used the recipe on the back of my bag of whole wheat flour, but there are tons of recipes out there. Just hit Google. It’s difficult to go wrong.

I’m also looking forward to trying other healthier alternatives to packaged or traditionally prepared baked goods, such as chocolate-covered KATIE’s Healthy Fudge Brownies. Katie also offers her recipe for homemade Twinkies!

Do you bake your own desserts?


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