Three Things You Should Know This Flu Season

This year, a new vaccine is going to come out & will be targeted at school children as a protection from the dreaded Swine Flu. Here is some information you can use to make the choices you will be faced with in a few months.

  • according to Australian Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, the swine flu is a mild flu similar to regular seasonal flu. "Most people, including children, will experience very mild symptoms and recover without any medical intervention," she told the ABC News on July 2, 2009.
  • The new vaccine has been developed under regulations that allow it to be released without the same testing as other vaccines, because the WHO (World Health Organization) declared a pandemic. There has been and will be no safety testing - this vaccine was developed, manufactured and shipped in a matter of weeks.
  • Although school children will be among the first to be targeted by the vaccination program, you should know that it is not mandatory for your child to get the injection to attend school. It is usually a simple matter to sign the exemption form - in some states, it's just a line on the back of the sheet they use to document each child's vax history.

So why would you want to consider declining a vaccine during a pandemic? The definition of pandemic isn't, "Panic, it's an epidemic!!" although it really does sound like the words "panic" and "epidemic" are mixed in this misunderstood term. All it means is that a new virus is moving across the globe. That basically happens every year when the new year's mutated version of the regular flu arrives. It does not mean that millions of people are going to die. The WHO actually classifies the H1N1 virus as a moderate illness that requires neither hospitalization or even medical care.

Another aspect of this situation is that the new vaccine contains squalene as an adjuvant. Squalene is normally used by the body after ingestion in foods like olive oil. However, when it is injected, the immune system generates antibodies to it as if it were an enemy. Then it attacks all the squalene molecules present in the body even where squalene is supposed to be, in your nervous system. This has in the past resulted in auto-immune reactions with serious consequences.

In a nation where the country's budget is in the red, how does it make sense that over a billion dollars are being spend on ingredients to manufacture a vaccine for a virus with mild symptoms? And now that it is clear that the virus isn't significantly different than the regular flu, why is there an urgent plan to administer the vaccine at schools as if it were polio or smallpox?

Who stands to benefit the most from this plan? It sure isn't you or your kids.

The Case Against Coupons - Sort Of

Lately there have been a few stories on the news and online about women who have figured out how to use coupons so efficiently that they can obtain a cart full of groceries for just a few dollars. There are websites that tell you how to be a master coupon -clipper/sorter/spender. I love a good coupon as much as the next person - don't get me wrong, the feeling of getting a good deal thrills me to no end! However, when it comes to using coupons for food, the definition of "a good deal" is the problem. Here's my list of reasons why.

  • The lady featured on the news for her coupon-fu opened up her pantry to show off her loot... and there were rows and stacks of boxes. What a letdown! I was hoping she'd figured out a way to obtain coupons for something we eat, but... Ninety percent of coupons are for processed, packaged pseudo-foods. Rarely do you find coupons for the foods in the store that are unprocessed, whole and wholesome. Just because you get a box of processed junk for practically free doesn't make it a good or even ok food.
  • The real cost of processed foods has nothing to do with their price. The cost of eating food that doesn't support health is the risk of loss of your quality of life through disease and expensive health care bills later on. Of course, since this may come years down the road, it's easy to discount this as a true cost in favor of the illusion of saving a few dollars today. I'm not saying never indulge or treat yourself to a night off in the kitchen - just be honest with yourself about what it is you are (and aren't) getting for your hard-earned money.
  • The time you spent finding, clipping, printing, organizing and otherwise managing your coupons could have been spent preparing ingredients bought in bulk, to create foods that are far cheaper and infinitely healthier per serving than the foods you would have purchased with the coupons. It's common to believe one does not have time to eat whole foods since they do require some preparation, but here is one instance where a non-productive activity can be replaced by one that saves time, money and health.

On The Other Hand...

Coupons can save considerable money in certain specific areas - household non-food items and organic products.

For non-food items, especially in cases where you prefer one product over another, i.e. a brand name over a store brand, coupons can make a big difference. If you have the opportunity, combine coupons with store offers and save twice on the same item! CVS has a program that offers rewards as well, so while purchasing an item with a coupon and a store discount, you might also get "bucks" back that you can use to make a future purchase. If you use the same method for the future purchase - coupon + store offer+ bucks back + pay with previously earned bucks - you might even end up with a negative balance! If you have a CVS in your area and aren't already taking advantage of this system, check out this thread about How to Be a CVS'er.

The other situation where coupons can be helpful is in buying certain organic products. Of course there is as much junk food in the organic aisle as the rest of the store so don't be fooled, stick with the whole foods rule so as not to waste your money on even higher-priced organic junk! One category I like to stay organic in is fats - since the fat of animals especially can accumulate toxins - so when I can, I use coupons to help with the cost. Organic Valley is one company that is very good about providing coupons to customers. I've gotten their coupons three ways - from the website, from our store having an OV rep come and be part of a "food fair", and from coupon booklets given out at the local natural foods store. If you sign up for the OV newsletter, each time you get one from them you should be able to go to the site and print out coupons.

If you have a certain brand you like, go to their site and see if they offer coupons or an opportunity to sign up for a newsletter that will notify you of sales and special offers.

The other place I do use coupons for non-food items is at Costco. I have never seen them offer a coupon for a food that is actually healthy, so I don't bother with their food coupons. Costco will not accept any manufacturer's coupons, only their own. However, for bigger ticket items, there are definitely deals to be had. To make Costco even more worthwhile, you might want to think about upgrading your membership to the Executive level. That means you would earn 2% back on purchases yearly, so if you spend as much as we do there, the rebate you earn will be enough to pay for the membership fee and possibly more.

So when considering coupons, be critical and consider the real price - a good deal on something that is going to cost you later another way isn't a good deal at all. Real foods rarely ever have coupons, so don't spend time finding, collecting and organizing them when you could spend that time buying real food and preparing it instead.

Make a Mini Notebook

I just made a batch of mini notebooks for party favors - it's really easy and they can be used as sketch books, journals, to-do lists, sticker books for kids, etc. Sorry the photos are so dark, will have to check my camera settings.

To avoid having to cut out my own blank sheets, I used a notepad we already had. I simply took out 5 sheets and folded each one in half. Use a bone folder if you have one, I just grabbed a tiny butter spreader.

Next, stack the folded pages, open them up and put in two staples directly on the fold line. Refold the stack and recrease the folded edge to keep it nice and sharp.
To make the cover, use the notepad you took the papers from as a template. Trace around it onto the back of a sheet of decorative paper, adding a quarter inch to the length so that when you fold it over the blank sheets, the cover will extend just slightly over the pages. Your cover can be made out of a variety of materials. You could use old magazine pages, make holiday theme notebooks by using old holiday cards, unused wallpaper, old gift bags, anything made of paper that can be glued.

Using the notepad again, cut another piece of paper the width of the notebook but only about 1.5 - 2.0" long. This piece will cover the "spine" of your notebook like the binding on a book. The larger your notebook, the wider you will want this to be.

Fold the binding piece in half lengthwise, brush on a thin layer of glue and apply it to the spine of the cover. Next, open the cover and brush a stripe of glue in right along the fold. Place the blank pages inside and press. I put mine under a heavy book for a while as the glue dried.

That's all there is to it. I found my quilter's ruler to be helpful in lining up the pieces to make sure all my lines and cuts would be straight. I would rather have used a paper cutter or rotary cutter but I don't have either yet!
I'd love to take the time to make some embellished a bit more - perhaps with stamps, fabric, ribbon, etc.

This post is linked up at Blue Cricket Design's Show & Tell Wednesday Linking Party!!

This project is also shared at Skip To My Lou's Made By You Monday.

Chocolate on the Cheap

In budget discussions with my husband, we often talk about the small things that add up. We agree that Every Ten Dollars Counts.

Here's one of my favorite ways to save ten dollars - this month, when you crave chocolate, instead of spending five bucks on a package of cookies a couple of times, make these!

If you have fifteen minutes, you have time to make these treats. It's super easy.

Chocolate Fudge Drops
2c. sugar mixed with 1/2 c. cocoa powder til blended
1 cube of butter
1/2 c. milk

mix in a saucepan over med. high heat till well blended, keep slowly stirring. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring continuously, til a few drops dripped in to a cup of cold water make a nice miniature cookie shaped mound when they hit the bottom of the cup. (technically, soft ball stage, but whenever I use my candy thermometer it gets way overcooked, so I give you Nana's cold water method instead.)

Mix in a half cup of peanut or almond butter, a teaspoon of vanilla, then three cups of oatmeal. Most recipes use quick, but I like the chewy factor of the old fashioned kind. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment or foil and allow to cool completely. It will seem like they are too gooey at first but in a couple of hours they should come off the parchment without squishing between your fingers. ( I eat some anyway, lol).

Variation: To make Caramel Drops, omit the cocoa powder and use evaporated milk instead of regular. (if you don't have any or don't want to use canned, you can just boil 2 c. milk in a skillet til it measures about 3/4c. and that will work fine.) Use half regular sugar and half rapadura (dried unrefined cane sugar - really caramelly tasting stuff, mmm!)

This Month's Most Useful Tutes

My little ones think I can do anything, (my two year old proudly proclaims to anyone who will listen, "Mommy did it!!") but I often rely on the creativity of others to inspire and instruct me. I am constantly finding tutorials online that help me get the job done. Most used lately:

Make toddler pants out of t-shirts
These "t-pants" are so easy - you can literally make a pair in fifteen minutes or less - and the result is so soft and comfy it makes me want a pair of my own.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

With all the grilling summer brings, this is a simple way to make cooking a whole chicken more reliable and more impressive without really trying!

Easy Trick to making a Pillowcase
Ok, this one is kind of a cheat because I actually learned this from my great-aunt while we were on our vacation (an expert quilter, she let me sew on her $2K machine - whoo!) but it's such a good tip with such professional looking results, I found a good photo tutorial so you can do it too. Save a ton of money on Christmas presents this year with this one!

Park the RV & Start a Blog

Having just returned from a two week vacation, this seems as good a time as any to start the blog that's been rattling around in my head for a couple of years. Taking the family through eight states in an RV was a lot of fun, some hassle and a lot of warm fuzzy memories. Here are a couple of lists that might save you some trouble on your next trip!

Best choices we made:

*Brought the dog's crate - became absolutely necessary when we unexpectedly ended up staying in a hotel - we brought it as an afterthought, never thinking we'd really use it.

*Planned to end each day's travel in the late afternoon - this gave us time to get out, let the kids decompress, and we were able to relax and make a decent meal for dinner.

*Upgraded our AAA to a premium membership which included trip insurance - A forty dollar investment that saved us almost $1300.00 after our trip was interrupted by mechanical trouble.

Worst choices we made:

*I completely overestimated our ability to provide activities for the kids while we were on the highway. It turned out that long stretches of the road were as rough as cobblestone, with a few areas of high winds. The RV was jostled about and swayed with each semi truck that blew past. In retrospect, having lots of different things the kids can do while remaining seat belted would be a much better plan.

*Take the dog out before you do anything else. LOL I Learned that the hard way at the end of one tiring day when I made the dog wait while exhausted mama and baby sat and nursed. I spent a half hour scrubbing carpet while my husband was out getting pizza. To my credit, I cleaned up so thoroughly that to this day he has no idea there was a poo problem.

*Brought my kombucha brewing jar - I wanted to be able to have kombucha, but the temp got way too high and the tea didn't ferment properly. I had to throw away the scoby when we got home. Luckily, I had separated it from the main jar so I still have a healthy scoby to brew with.
A mostly successful trip, and we learned so much that the next one will be even better.