It’s true that I really didn’t want anything this year …but… the simple pleasures, not to mention, nostalgia, prompt me to post about the ubiquitous, useful and always in demand wall-mounted pencil sharpener. When we moved into this 150-year old farmhouse there it was and still remains- mounted on the back of the door to the basement. It’s got to be 40- years old or even more. It never breaks- there are what, 2 moving parts? But my pencils sharpen just a little off-center. I am wondering if I could splurge for a new one. What about the kind that sit on the desk and you flip a little lever to make them suction on to the table surface? Do those really work, I can’t remember. Maybe it’s best to screw them down somewhere. Little handheld plastic thingies are not fulfilling.Who doesn’t know the sound the smell of grinding down the point of a yellow pencil and emptying the sawdust mixed with graphite, making a mess as you unscrew the well? Ghosts of 7th grade math class flicker ’round me. What are your pencil sharpening memories? Don’t you want a sharpener, too? Check out your local stationary store. Price point around $15. Shop local, now.

via: CTGreenScene.com

Clutter Clearing Part Deux

December 28, 2008


This afternoon the family trooped down to the basement with garbage bags and boxes. It took a much shorter time than I had imagined. We sorted through all the miscellanea (is that a word?) and organized in four ways: toss, give away, use or repack/store. So happy that we gave away Micah’s skates, but we did not give away the mini bike, any of the dozen skateboards, skis or snowboards. But at least the sporty stuff is all in one place and we are all aware of what we have. My music books and lyrics somehow got wet- how did that happen in my waterproofed basement? So I will have to pitch them. Some of the music has notations from my childhood- when I was learning Gershwin and Chopin, etal and some of my earliest songs are in a damp folder. May have to take them to be photocopied, those are keepers. So it is a wonderful feeling to get lighter, send stuff off to the thrift shop for those who can benefit, send that box of glasses from Ikea home to Brooklyn with Jonah and for hopefully a long time not have to think, “oh, what a mess” when I go down to the basement.

Next stop, the attic.

Eco-Christmas Light

December 25, 2008


All this talk about these dark times. And turning off the lights to save money. Well here is a great gadget, especially for the miserly who are afraid of the dark. The After-Lite is a little chargeable disk that attaches to the bottom of your energy-saving lightbulb. When you turn off the lights the disk continues to power your light dimly and gets progressively dinner over a few hours. Great for kids who want the light on when they go to sleep, or for finding your way around in the dark and even emergency lighting in a storm- giving you time to find your flashlight, anyway.

via: http://www.coolest-gadgets.com

Attitude of Gratitude

December 25, 2008


Thinking about all I have to be grateful for is a simple and profound practice. I don’t remember where I learned it but there have been times when I have kept a gratitude journal and at the best and worst of times would list at least 5 things, and sometimes many more, per day that I was thankful for. Now when I wake up in the morning I always think about how lucky I am that I have a comfortable and warm bed, a roof over my head, a wonderful family and a group of friends that I love and who love me.

Today is Christmas and this year my boys have requested no gifts because they have everything they need. We will give to others who have bigger needs. The having all we need versus having all we want is the key to the kingdom for our society in this crazy time of economic shift. I am grateful that my boys are learning that we do not have to always be acquiring things, that we can be be comfortable with what we have, and that being together and spending quality time is more valuable than stuff.

Many people teach about creating an attitude of gratitude and the health benefits. I found a beautiful website describing a nice way of creating a gratitude journal. I know that the world starts looking different, hopeful and shinier when I recognize and appreciate what a great life I have, how wonderful my family and friends are. Of course the ups come along with the negatives and the downs. Let these vintage but spot on lyrics by Johnny Mercer run around your brain while you listen to Bing sing:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum

Bring gloom down to the minimum

Have faith or pandemonium liable to walk upon the scene.

No Hokey Pokey

December 22, 2008

Study’s author Thomas Skalak

Magnetic Products have become very popular and widely accepted among consumers. You can find magnetic wraps at the hardware store and in the drug store, too. The $5 billion dollar a year industry may not have total scientific backing but it surely can’t all be placebo.  

Most doctors have not had a personal experience with magnets and only rely on medical studies in their decision making process about products like magnets, yet lay people who have had life-changing experiences easily share the power of their stories by word of mouth. This alone drives the market. Even without studies it is clear to everyone that eating well, exercising and leading a healthy as preventative lifestyle is the key to good health.

I don’t need my doctor to tell me that. In fact I think medical professionals who are trained to work with disease and sickness are often the last to recognize simple ways of being healthy because they weren’t necessarily taught about common sense, diet and lifestyle in medical school, were they? So when it comes to acupuncture (around for 1000 years or so-think it might work?), or yoga or organic grains and beans (traditional foods), people think and choose for themselves although recently there have been more scientific looks into the alternative arena.

Science is catching up not only with nutrition and meditation; a new study finds that powerful magnets do, in fact, have the ability to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. An article in The Week from January 25, 2008, reports that researchers at the University of Virginia applied powerful magnets to the paw injuries of rats, and measured blood flow to the area. They found that through a mechanism not fully understood, the magnetic field opened tiny blood vessels, thus increasing the oxygen and nutrients supplied to damaged tissue, and reducing swelling by a very significant 50 percent. If the same result occurs in tests on humans, study author Thomas Skalak tells ABCnews.com., doctors will have to embrace magnets as another tool in the arsenal for treating sprains, bruises, and other injuries. “Let’s say it takes you four or five days to recover from a given injury,” Skalak says. “If by preventing swelling you recover after two days, you’ve cut the healing time by a factor of two.” ” 


Cleaning Green and Cheap

December 21, 2008


Lately I have been buying wonderful green cleaning products in the supermarket that are actually mostly edible, and could be easily concocted in my kitchen for pennies instead of dollars. Using lemon juice, white vinegar, baking soda, borax (don’t eat this one), you can create you own brand of glass cleaner, scour powder, disinfectant, wood preservative and more. Check out the Alameda County’s Stopwaste.org site for wonderful alternatives to hazardous household products. They have compiled excellent resources including easy and safe cleaning recipes.

Here’s one for a glass cleaner for pennies:

Glass Cleaner 

1 quart warm water 

1/4 cup white vinegar (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice) 
Mix ingredients and store in a spray bottle.

(Dip a wet sponge in baking soda to clean a glass oven door.)

Use your previous glass cleaner spray bottle!

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Song du Jour

December 21, 2008


Going Home Lullaby

This is a heartfelt, comforting and grounding piece written for the somewhat happy ending of the film, Against the Tide.