Thursday, October 16, 2008

Election Fatigue

Thankfully we are now counting down the time to the 2008 election in days rather than months (or years). Phew - I know I'm tired so I can only imagine what Barack Obama and John McCain are feeling. Why do we do this to ourselves? The Canadians just had an election and they managed to campaign and vote within 37 days from calling it.

At this point it seems the candidates are not even covering the issues but rather biding time till election day with name calling and nastiness. I just hope whomever wins can pull this country back together because we are becoming severely divided over the wrong issues. Abortion and gay marriage are important - but if you are losing your home because of a bad mortgage, job loss, or worse - illness leading to huge medical bills then you would agree - something is wrong with this picture.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

More Disaster Preparedness Tips

Not sure if 'preparedness' is a word but hopefully you know what I mean. Can we really be prepared for a disaster? Hopefully you have the basics: canned goods, can opener, water (enough for a 2 - 3 days), cash, first aid kit, extra medications (if you take any), extra pet food (if you have one), a radio, and a flashlight or flashlights.

On the topic of flashlights, I keep several large and small flashlights in various places around the house, all of which I try and remember to replace the batteries from time to time. I purchased a couple of small crank flashlights that also have a built in radio. They worked fairly well for a year but the last time I went to use one I found the battery was dead (I turned the crank several times but there was no juice). And the argument a friend has against the crank flashlight is how would you be able to work crank to get light if you are trapped under rubble and potentially can't use your arms (fill in your own horrific scenario here)?

So how to make sure you have power when you need it most? I found this flashlight / radio combo on Amazon the other day and am going to try. It is not only powered via a crank but it also has a small solar panel and AA battery backup plus a DC power option if you want to use it on non-disaster days when there is power.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Weight Loss Tips

For those of us who've been on a diet forever without results, I recommend a site I've found recently with great tips for losing weight. You know what dieting means, you work hard to lose weight and then once you do, you revert back to old bad habits.

Healthier eating is the best way to take weight off and keep it off forever. This site also had some great exercise routine ebooks. I've been using the 'Ultimate Leg, Butt, Hip and Thigh Makeover!' book for about 2 weeks and already things are feeling much tighter. Remember there is still time to look good for the beach if you start now.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Now We're on Fire

The past few days have been very surreal with all the smoke in the air. The SF sky has been red and orange during the day. I think the last count is that there are more than 1400 wildfires burning in California.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is There Any Good News Out There?

Seems like one of those days when you can't turn the news off fast enough. The Governor of California has declared the state is in a drought (we only get an average of 10 to 20 inches a year so duh) and wants people to cut back on water use. So far the request is minimal and really should be the norm - no washing the sidewalks, no over watering the lawn, fix any plumbing leaks, make sure the laundry machine is full before running, shorten the time you spend in the shower and so on - simple enough.

So what's the rest of the bad news. There seems to be no alternative to oil and all you hear about is outrageously high food prices and I don't mean here - but in places where people are so close to the edge that a few extra dollars means food becomes completely unaffordable. Millions of people are close to starvation.

Big earthquakes, cyclones followed by famine and 'the war' with no end in sight - eternally depressing and sad.

And to top it all off (no comparison to the afore mention disasters and tragedy), we were practically attacked today by the most aggressive SF meter man I've ever encountered. He kept reciting over and over that he had warned us, he knows the law, he follows the law and that there is no way the wheels of the car should touch the sidewalk (even though we were in a driveway).

Ah, but I rant on... so here's the good news - meter maniac relented on the $100 ticket. So maybe I turn the news on tomorrow to hear the war is over, that someone has discovered an alternative to oil and that world famine has come to an end.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

No Seriously - Are you Ready for Black Friday?

You’re already aware of the fact that Amazon has great prices everyday but did you know that they have a special black Friday sale? And Apple, a company that barely ever has anything on sale has black friday specials, too.

So you know the drill – right after Thanksgiving – before we’ve even had a chance to completely digest all of the prior night’s feast, stores open at around 5 am and we all go crazy pursuing bargains that will shortly become our Christmas gifts to others (or maybe ourselves).

And maybe crushing through the doorway of those giant stores is fun when you’re young enough to shove back, but what if you just want to stay at home on black Friday and shop via the internet? How do you keep track of who is selling what and when? There’s a great website called black that let’s you what is happening on the web sites of the major retailers for their black Friday sales.

How does it work? It’s simple. You sign up by submitting your email and they will send you an email alert to let you know when the black Friday ads have posted. You get time to review what’s going on in advance. Some of the retailers you can find listed on this site are: Amazon, Apple, Macy’s, Circuit City,, Toys-R-Us and BestBuy.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Thoughts on Being Earthquake Ready

I've looked over the lists on and I still have questions and thoughts. I think that there is no way to be ready for an earthquake since you just have no idea of when one will hit. But here are some more thoughts if one hits while you are sleeping. Do you sleep naked? If so, you may want to throw a set of clothes on the end of your bed and as well as a pair of slip on shoes under your bed (to assist in having to potentially navigate through broken window glass or other sharp objects). I also hang a wind up flashlight/radio combo on one of my bed posts and I have a knotted rope that I can throw out the window to reach the ground three stories below.

We recently added a huge first aid kit to the underside of the bed and nearby there is a phone that can be plugged into the phone line that needs no electricity. And I stocked up on canned beans (you should also have a manual can opener in the house if you want to open any cans without power).

Imagine yourself stuck in your apartment for 24 - 26 - 72 or more hours. Do you have some water? First aid stuff? Food? A radio to hear what is going on? Some vodka? Or any other necessary medication? Some cash (in various denominations)? Pet food (if you have a dog)? And so on. And so far this hasn't taken up much space.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Edible Vancouver

A new magazine in the 'Edible' family is launching in Vancouver. Check out Edible Vancouver, premiering this May. All the Edible magazines are free and you can find them in cities such as San Francisco (of course), Seattle, Boston, San Diego, Santa Fe, Toronto and Portland and more...

The magazines are not just about restaurant reviews, they write on where local food is grown and produced.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fungus Feet

If you have to wear work boots or other sweat inducing shoes all day then you know how hard it is to not get a little fungus on or between your toes. So how to discourage, stop or get rid of that disgusting toe nail fungus? There are some nasty medications you can take internally but does that kill the fungus or the host?

I've tried a variety of drugstore anti-fungal liquids that are either painted or sprayed onto your nails. The main ingredients seem to be 'undeclyenic acid' (smells awful) and tea tree oil. Have you ever read the information sheet that comes in the box? Here are a few excerpts: 'fungal nail infections, or onychomycosis are common on toenails', 'caused by fungi, yeast or molds', 'may cause a buildup of keratin under the nail and discoloration', 'fungal nail infections may be difficult to treat and may become a reservoir for fungal organisms, causing them to return'. Well you get the idea - eeeewwwwwww.

Drinking GSE (grapefruit seed extract) every morning for a few weeks seems to help. Plus it's a good idea to use some foot powder every day and, if possible, change your socks once or twice a day.

Another remedy that I heard about recently was listerine. The person who used it (and swears by it) says he soaked his feet morning and night for six months and the fungus cleared right up. I'm giving it a try but it's too early to report on the results. The coloring in the listerine dyes my feet a bit blue but they smell great!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Prepare for an Earthquake.

Actually, any disaster that leaves you without communication, electricity and clean water for more that a day will need some preparedness. If you live in any part of the country that is hit with earthquakes, strong storms, flooding and so on, it is recommended that you be prepared to take care of yourself, loved ones and pets for at least 72 hours or until help arrives. Check out the site. They have plenty of great tips, plus lists of what you should have on hand.

I was wondering how much cash one should keep around and many say $200 - $400 is a good amount. You should also keep the money in a place you can remember (duh) - and if possible - have small denominations such as singles and fives. A stack of $20s is fine, but if no one has change, that's what you'll be paying for a bottle of water.

Another thing that came to mind during a lengthy power outage in January, was that even though we had water, coffee beans, a gas stove and a filter to drip the coffee - we had neglected to grind any additional beans the night before. There was enough for just one cup. Luckily, a neighbor had a hand grinder.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How High is the Price of Gas Going?

Here's a nostalgic image for you circa 1999. Here in the Bay are $3.99 is starting to look like a good price and diesel is closing in on $4.75. I guess the question no one wants to think about is how high it's going to keep going? This is certainly one way to take a bite out of global warming because everyone, including myself, is reducing how much we drive.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rebates on Real Estate Transactions up to $10,000 for Buyers and Sellers

Can you believe that there is any good news these days in the real estate world - but it's true. The North Idaho Rebates team gives buyers and sellers of real estate rebates of up to $10,000. Read through their FAQ page to answer many of your initial questions. The company that licenses the program is Cash Rewards Inc . They've been in business for over 10 years now and having heard about this I wanted to get the word out that the program works.

It would be fantastic if more realtors offered this program to buyers. How does it work? You as the buyer or seller work with Prestige Realty of North Idaho who works with Cash Rewards Inc. who manages the rewards program.

Here’s an example: a home's list or sale price is $290,000 and you buy through the North Idaho Rebate Team, you only end up buying the home for $280,000 because you can get up to $10,000 Rebate at Closing and 1 Year Home Warranty.

Their web site lists 5 simple steps to enroll in the cash rewards program:

1. Choose from ANY home listed on the market
2. Call The North Idaho Rebate Team to represent you as a buyer's agent in the transaction.
3. Upon completion of your real estate transaction(s), you will receive a cash rewards certificate from the North Idaho Rebate Team and a One Year Home Warranty on your home.
4. Mail your Cash Rewards Certificate as instructed.
5. Receive a check by mail when you redeem your certificate as instructed at the specified redemption date.

The second part of this program allows people who are selling their home to know that they will be paid a $3,000 rebate at closing and $10,000 rebate at closing if we don't sell their home in 65 days – how’s that for a guarantee?

More information on the program visit their site:

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Trader Joe's is Killing Me

Trader Joes is selling pork chops wrapped in bacon from Niman Ranch - how are we to resist? I'm trying to keep consumption down to one a quarter and when the time comes for another of those delicious morsels we enjoy them to the fullest. I am not vegetarian but definitely believe in restraint when it comes to eating meat - and - to only support meat that comes from animals that were humanely treated and raised as close as is possible to their natural diet.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What Crazy Weather!

Isn't it supposed to be spring already? No problem here in SF but I was in Vancouver last week and we woke up to snow. You can see all the blossoms but still the snow came down with a vengeance. And the bigger surprise was Salt Spring island (in the gulf islands) where there was enough snow to make our own (somewhat sad looking) snowman. So here's my snowman of the year photo.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The SF Flower and Garden Show

There's still time to check out the 2008 Flower and Garden show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco (March 12 - 16). Lots of amazing garden design ideas and displays plus plenty of unique garden accessories to take home with you.

For instance, artist Ross Spangler has created a selection of totally original and very beautiful garden path lights.

Or check out the selection of 18th and 19th century olive oil pots

Friday, March 7, 2008

It's Never Too Earlier to Think About Black Friday

Let's face it, in these tough economic times everyone can use a deal. If you are a fan of shopping for Christmas gifts on Black Friday then you should bookmark this site for 2008 thanksgiving specials. Things can get pretty hectic at these stores so you need to know what time they open and who has the best deals. When it gets closer to Black Friday 2008, they will be posting sale information complete with ad scans. If you think it’s too far away to remember to check back with their site, you can sign up and they’ll send you an email announcement when the latest Black Friday ads are posted (and Cyber Monday, too)

BestBuy is a great store to find the latest electronic gadgets and they really slash their prices on certain items for Black Friday. If you love the craziness of actually going to the store at 5 AM, you’ll be one up on the crowd by knowing exactly what TV, computer or camera is the hottest deal. Even better, save yourself the trip and order online.

And then there's Target. My grandmother would take us to the store a couple of days before the post Thanksgiving sale and let us scout out our desired items. She would pour over all of the newspaper flyers for the best deals but keeping track of everything was tough. Imagine if she had had access to a site like this that lists all the deals by store and category.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Divided We Fail

Blue Cross, my health insurance company, sent me a letter in February stating that my monthly payment was increasing by about $65 or nearly $800 for the year - this for major medical with a $2500 deductible. And this isn't the first increase. My premium has gone up about $500 a year for the past couple of years.

My friends in Canada pay about $600 a year for full coverage and they all complained loudly a few years back when massage was no longer covered. Granted it can take a long time to see a specialist or get a date for elective or a non emergency surgical procedure. But at least their health care is affordable. And Canadians don't have to declare bankruptcy because they are sick or have had a terrible accident and can't pay their medical bills.

We really all should be jumping up and down demanding affordable health coverage. This site discusses the issues debated by the current presidential candidates and their stand on health care. Plus they offer some thoughts on access to health care and some ideas as to what you can do regarding these issues.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another Reason Why You Should Only Eat Humanely Raised Meat

I was just reading (or rather trying to read about - it's a horrible story) about the recent beef recall. Really - if you can watch this video: without tearing up and still have an appetite for anything other than grassfed, humanely raised beef (or any other kind of meat) you're one tough cookie. You know what they say, 'garbage in, garbage out.' But besides us, what about these cows. It's shocking that anyone could treat animals that are in such bad shape so cruelly.

Next time you're in the supermarket remember the choice is yours - Niman Ranch, Prather Ranch (etc) - OR mass produced, inhumane, sick, abused but yes, cheap beef.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's Time to Consider Refinancing

We chose an ARM type mortgage when we bought our house a couple of years ago because our mortgage banker kept saying, 'no one keeps these mortgages for 30 years any more, you'll be paying too much for a 30 year fixed.' Maybe that's true in some cases, but we do want to keep our house and we don't want to get stuck paying more than we're paying now for the monthly payments.

One thing that's definite - mortgage rates are going down. It's the perfect time for California Refinance to lock into historically low rates. I am looking at DollarBlvd because they offer 5 free comparison quotes at no obligation. And right now they have special deals for California residents. It will give us a better idea of what our options are.

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The Slowest Tacos in the West

We were on our way back from Tahoe the other day and ended up stopping at Grass Valley for a something to eat - something fast because we wanted to get home. The first thing we saw on Main street was a tacqueria - perfect!

Things went downhill from there. All my best efforts could not get the attention of the waitress. We ended up grabbing some menus and seating ourselves at one of the dirty tables. While perusing the menu I had time to survey the restaurant and realize how dire things really were. Even though there were only about 12 people in the restaurant, no one seemed to be getting any service - or food. A couple of people who had been waiting for food-to-go, finally left empty handed. The three people at the table across from us looked like they were sharpening their plastic knives in preparation for a revolt.

Finally the waitress arrived to take our order. 'We're in a hurry,' we told her. 'It's going to take awhile,' she advised us, 'some people have been waiting 20 minutes.' The optimist in me took hold and I went ahead and placed an order. I mean really, how long can it take for a couple of tacos?

A couple of bowls of chips and 20 minutes later we received a status report that it might be another 20 minutes. The odd plate of food was arriving at tables here and there - nothing together. One person at the table was eating while the others looked hungrily on. The waitress herself seemed to be advising us to bail and if we did she wouldn't even charge us for the coke.

We did and spent part of the drive back wondering - what was going on in that kitchen? Two cooks in the kitchen, yet no food seemed to ever appear? Mysterious.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Want to Lower Your Auto Insurance?

Looking for a better rate on your auto insurance? If you think you might be paying too much with your current policy and want to drive insurance lower, check out Cost U Less Insurance. Cost U Less is an insurance broker with a focus on cheap rates. They've been around since 1980 and are currently expanding their California presence. They already have 70 locations state wide, with ten locations in Southern California (serving cities in and around Anaheim, Palmdale, Long Beach, Whittier, Pomona, Torrance, Santa Ana, San Bernardino, Victorville, Tarzana and Lancaster).

No time to for an in person visit to their office? You can also reach them via their toll free number: 1-888-884-4443, or visit their web site, where you can email them, request an online insurance quote or chat live with a customer service representative.

There are many factors that can put you in a higher insurance bracket, such as the number of accidents you've had, your age, your zip code, the car you drive and so on, so sometimes it’s helpful to discuss your situation with an insurance professional. And what better company to talk to than one that says their aim is to get you the lowest rate possible on your auto insurance.

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I'll Miss This Crazy Building

According the SF Chronicle, the Hugo Hotel, that 'decrepit landmark on Sixth street' is enjoying its last moments. Redevelopment plans are underway. I know this area of the city can use all the help it can get but I'll miss the inside out look of that building with all its Dr Suess furnishings stuck to the outside.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stylish Prescription Glasses at Bargain Prices

Now you have no excuse for not having that second pair of reading glasses or for updating your current prescription glasses. Zenni Optical: Sell Rx Glasses $8 with case!. Choose from a great selection of stylish frames with single vision lens, sunsensor (photochromic)lens, tinted sunglasses lens, bifocal lens or progressive lens, enter your prescription and any additional features you'd like, place your order and that's it. The site has detailed instructions on how to order online as well as an 800 number if you need to contact them. Shipping is only $4.95 and most orders take only two weeks to arrive.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lobster Anyone?

With no holidays in sight and only dieting to look forward to this month, there's no better time than now to treat yourself a lobster dinner. It won't blow your diet (if you don't overdip in the butter sauce) but it will be a delicious and romantic dinner. will ship everything you need - live Maine lobster, bibs, butter, wetnaps, a cookbook and even a pot to cook up your lobsters. For more information visit:

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Watch Where You Park!

The bay area and all of the west coast kicked off the new year with a series huge winter storms (we're not done yet). The second storm unleashed tons of rain and wind, toppling plenty of trees on power lines - and a few cars. Hyde street in Russian Hill is lined with huge ficus trees with overgrown canopies and the type of storm we just had is the kind that tends to break off their big branches. So even though parking is tough in this neighborhood, it's not advisable to park anywhere near these trees in a storm. Luckily we were parked on a street with no trees. Not so lucky for the person who's car is in this photo.