Sunday, November 9, 2008

Giveaway: Magazine subscription


As promised, I am hosting my first giveaway and I even have one prize for each of my 3 blogs (Homeschool Unit Studies, The Happy Wife, and Things I Love). The prize is the same for all 3 blogs: a one-year subscription to the magazine of your choice from Ladies Home Journal, Fitness, Siempre Mujer (written in Spanish) and Parents magazine. The contest will run from now until November 8th. I will use to choose a winner and the winner will be posted here. If contact information is provided or I can reach you through your blog/profile, I will also e-mail the winner. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me with their shipping information or a new winner will be chosen at that time.
How to enter:
1)Leave me a comment with a piece of constructive criticism, positive or negative (I can take it, I promise) about this blog.
After doing #1, you may also enter by doing the following:
2)Blog about the giveaway and leave a new comment, separate from #1, that includes the URL to the blog posting. If you are not a blogger, tell your friends and when they enter, have them put your name down as the person who referred them here.
3)Subscribe to my feed and leave another separate comment telling me you did so.
4)TUESDAY BONUS ENTRY-go vote and come back and post that you did so. I will only accept entries on Tuesday for this bonus entry and it is being awarded on the honor code. If you say you voted, I will trust that you did. Please do not post who/how you voted, just that you did.

Good luck to all!!!

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you all for your feedback. Over the next few weeks I will be updating my blog and continue trying to catch myself up. Now onto the winner.....Congratulations angel!! I will be contacting you within the next 24 hours and you will have 48 hours from then to get back to me. Congratulations again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Bone Health

According to the US Surgeon Genereal, by the year 2020, 1 out of 2 Americans will be at risk of bone fractures from osteoporosis or low bone mass. Women are generally at a higher risk of osteoporosis, but it can, and does affect men as well, especially elderly men. While low bone mass and osteoporosis do not typically cause death, they do put the individual at a much greater risk of bone fracture, which can lead to a rapid deterioration of physical and emotional health, not to mention they are quite painful.

What can we do to decrease our risk of osteoporosis and/or bone fracture?

- Eating a healthy diet, high (between 1000 and 2500mg/day) in calcium-rich food and vitamin D (200-2000IU/day). This is something that should be done throughout one's life, but starting late is better than never. Both of these can be obtained from vitamins and pills, but are better absorbed by the body when obtained through the diet and by getting outside (more on that later). Calcium is an essential nutrient in the creation, growth, and repair of bones and vitamin D helps our bodies absorb the calcium. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, tofu and more. There is a list of non-dairy foods high in calcium on the Baylor College of Medicine website. Good sources of vitamin D are fortified milk, fish and fish oils, but the best source is the sun. Just getting some sun exposure every day causes our bodies to create vitamin D on its own.

- Participating in high-impact and/or weight bearing activity on a regular basis helps to build/preserve bone mass. Regular activity also helps keep muscles tone and to improve balance, therefore reducing the risk of falls.

- Maintaining a healthy body weight is also important, but in this case, it is more important to avoid being underweight. Body weight helps to provide stronger bones, larger muscle mass, and more fat pads to cushion bones. This is not to say being overweight is good, just that for bone health it is important to avoid losing too much weight.

- Take steps to avoid falls. 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls. The easiest ways to prevent falls is to eliminate hazards by ensuring there are no lose rugs or wires, areas are well lit, floors are not slippery, etc. If medications, mental health, other health issues, or anything else increases the risk of falling or dizziness, items, such as shower bars, walkers, etc, should be in place to prevent falls.

- Smoking and/or heavy alcohol use are linked to decreased bone mass and increased fracture risk. This is most likely due to the way they inhibit absorption by the body of vitamin D and calcium.

There is no way to guarantee you will never have a bone fracture or to definitely prevent bone loss, but we can reduce our risks significantly. Like many health problems, the best way to reduce our risk is to eat a healthy diet and get a moderate amount of exercise.

Try It Tuesday (on Wednesday): Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power

I admit, I never tried the original Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, even though I heard TONS of people raving about it. However, I recently had the opportunity to sample the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power and now understand the love for these things.

We are preparing to move in a few weeks and our children have recently decided that walls make for better writing/coloring surfaces than paper. I was not sure how I was going to get the ink/crayon/marker off the walls without destroying the paint, but thought I would give the Magic Eraser a try. I was thrilled when it easily wiped away pencil, crayon and pen ink and with a little bit of elbow grease removed much of the marker as well. The only places I am not having luck is painted wood, like the doors and the permanent marker on the painted wall. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

I was so excited to see how easy this was working that I decided to see what else it would "erase". I went into the kitchen and easily wiped away some recent stains on the counter (not sure what caused them as they magically appeared when my husband was making breakfast), but did not have any luck with the "rust rings" on the sink or the counter. It did wipe away stubborn grease off teh paint near the stove though. It also easily cleaned away the fingerprints from the wall around the lightswitch.

I did not use it in the bathroom, except where there was writing on the wall, but according to the product's website, it will clean through soap scum even on textured showers and tubs.

If there are any of you out there hesitant to use the Magic Eraser due to things you have heard about them, such as containing formaldhyde or causing chemical burns, I have looked into that as well. debunks the formaldehyde rumor and the issue of chemical burns is addressed by urban legends.

As for me, I will be buying more of these as we continue to prepare to move. My husband was equally thrilled with the product and is actually looking forward to helping me clean up the apartment with them in those last few days. All in all, I do recommend this product, at least for those stains/marks that are more difficult to get out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Money Monday (on Tuesday): Just Ask

With the economy the way it is, many of us are looking for ways to trim our budgets. Actually, many of us are ALWAYS lookin for ways to trim our budgets, just now even more people are trying to be more frugal. One place people assume cannot be trimmed is their utility bills (phone, cable, internet, etc). Did you know that many of these companies will give you the "new" customer rate if you simply ask for it? I have found it best to simply say something like, "I am looking for ways to reduce our costs and was wondering if it was possible to get the special I saw on tv/billboard/etc?" When I did this with my cable internet, I was told I could get the new special ($29.99 per month vs. $39.99 per month for one year) or I could get their "lite" version of internet for $24.99 per month as long as we had it. For us, we do not download a whole lot so the lite version was going to work great. A year later, I got a letter from the company stating they are doing away with the lite version, but will upgrade us for free and keep our rates the same. We are moving in a few weeks and since we are transferring our service, the deal stays the same (I called to verify this). This is the same service others are paying $40 a month for (plus an additional $5 if they do not also get digital cable, which we do not, but we do not pay the extra $5 with our plan either) and it is even lower than what new customers pay.

Another place this helped us in the past was with our cell phone service. Most services will allow you to change your plan, increase or decrease, as necessary, though you may need to sign a new contract to do so. When we started our plan, we could change it every month as needed without a new contract, but they have since changed that. None the less we saved ourselves a ton of money on overages a few times by increasing our plan when we realized we were going to be over and then decreaing it again the following month.

Another, tricker way to lower some of these "optional" bills is to simply tell the company you are considering stopping your service all together or switching to a competitor. Often, they will sweeten your current deal either by increasing your services or lowering your bill. It all comes down to simply calling them and asking.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Free Starbucks coffee on Election Day!

I just wanted to let you know that Starbucks is offering a free tall cup of brewed coffee to everyone who votes tomorrow. You just have to show up with your "I voted" sticker to get your coffee. You can find the closest Starbucks here. I have an e-mail in to them asking if it is only for coffee as I know there are many non-coffee drinkers out there (myself included). I will let you know if I hear back from before it is too late tomorrow. With or without the free drink, go vote!

Simply Sunday (on Monday): Family Time

I apologize for yet another late posting. I am still fighting an antibiotic-resistant double ear infection and still trying to catch up both on my blogs and around the house. We are also preparing to move in 3 weeks so things may continue to fall behind over the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

I am a SAHM to four wonderful, but very active young children. My dear husband works 2 jobs, 1 full-time and 1 part-time, in order to allow me this opportunity. His part-time job is in a retail store so as the holidays approach, he gets so many hours it is almost as though he is working 2 full-time jobs and he often works 7 days a week. This is why family time is so precious to us. Even during the non-busy times of the year, he usually has to request time off from his part-time job if we want to do something as a whole family. This past week, he took off several evenings so that we could do Halloween activities as a family. I really enjoy having my husband around and I know how much he misses spending time with the children. He will be taking the police officer exam next week for the city and we are hoping and praying that it all works out so that we can go back to being a "normal" family again. I love watching the kids interact with their daddy and I love seeing the joy he gets from it as well. I have plenty of time with the kids and I even have a decent amount of time with my husband when he gets home at night, but the kids and him only see each other for a few minutes in the morning and on the occasional night he has off. Well, this seems to have turned into a poor us post, not what I intended. It is supposed to be a gratitiude post for the family time we do have, but when I think about that time, it makes me want more of it. For those of you who do have the opportunity to have regular family time, cherish it and make the most of it. Prioritize outside activities so that family time is not sacrificed in vain.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Save It Saturday: Winterize Your Home

In order to stop energy from being wasted during the cold winter months, it is important to ensure that your home is well sealed and that there are no energy leaks to be found. This is not only good for the environment (since you are using energy efficiently), but it helps ease the pain in the wallet as well. Here are the steps to winterizing your home:

- Ensure that your gutters and downspouts are free of debris. You want to be sure that there is not anything that is clogging them so that the snow has a place to drain as it melts, preventing ice dams. You may also consider putting grating over them in the future so you do not have to worry about this again.

- Check windows and doors for caulk that is pulling away from the surface or missing. Remove any old, peeling caulk and clean the surface. Re-caulk these areas with a weather-resisitant caulk.

- Replace any cracked or broken glass.

- Switch out screens for glass and install storm doors and windows.

- Check for leaks inside the house. Use a lighted incense stick or a candle (please be careful and do not burn yourself) and move it around window and door frames, electrical outlets, and recessed lighting. If the flame moves and flickers, you have an air leak. Caulk the leaky windows. For the outlets, you can buy special outlet gaskets at any home improvement store. Leaky doors can be fitted with door sweeps. You may also consider covering your windows with plastic. This is an easy process and the kits run about $10 for 2 average-size windows.

- Be sure you have enough insulation. You should have at least 12" of insulation in your attic.

- Look into getting a hot water heater blanket. This helps the water heater conserve energy by not letting the heat escape from the surface of the heater itself, allowing the water to stay hotter and not needing to be re-heated as often.

- Contact an HVAC professional to inspect and clean your furnace and heating ducts. Be sure to check the filter monthly and throw away or wash the filter when dirty. Close off vents that are in unused or rarely used rooms.

- Switch the direction of your ceiing fan blades to that they turn clockwise, pushing the hot air back down.

- Have your chimney checked, and swept if needed. Be sure to keep the damper closed when not in use. With woodstoves, be sure to keep the doors closed when not in use.

- Make sure exposed pipes are insulated.

These are just the steps for saving energy, but there are, of course, other steps you should take to prepare for the winter cold. Checking smoke and CO2 alarms, putting together an emergency kit, cleaning up outdoor equipment, and trimming landscaping are just a few of the other things you should do at this time as well. Some of the steps will cost a little bit up front, but most, if not all, will "re-pay" you pretty quickly and there is no price on being comfortable in the cold weather.