Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Audio CDs for Kids

Last year, I took advantage of Lamplighter's 7 for $7 download sale.  My kids love to listen to cds--stories and music alike.  My 5 year old son has recently been listening to all sorts of things and I wanted to find some new additions for our collection.  

I find that I get frustrated at the local library because many of the audio recordings are contemporary books and the kids and I don't like how the characters talk to each other.  Hotel for Dogs is one such example.  The kids hid a lot from their parents and aunt.  They lied and did get in trouble--sort of.  The consequences were watered down at the end of the story and things still worked out perfectly--for the kids.  My girls just didn't like it very much.  

One recording artist that we've enjoyed in the past is Jim Weiss of GreatHall Productions.  We have four of his cds that have been listened to over and over.  Last year, I purchased three more that I found inexpensively used on Amazon.  This morning I went looking again to see if I could find anymore that would fit in our budget.  

What I discovered is that several of his productions can be downloaded as MP3s.  The cost varies between $3 and $9.  Most of them are $9, but one--Mystery! Mystery! for kids is only $3.  Arabian Nights is $4 on MP3 and the new one about women in the Civil War is only $6.  I just purchased Mystery! Mystery! and look forward to listening to it the next time we get in the car.  I haven't listened to it yet, but we have enjoyed all the rest of his recordings, so I'm sure we'll enjoy this one too!  

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Surprising Foodie Ingredient

A few weeks ago, I received two jars of salt in the mail to try from The San Francisco Salt Company. 

The first jar contained Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt.  When I opened up a jar of this salt, I thought about who this salt would perfect for. It's the perfect gift for someone who loves the smell of a charcoal or wood smoke BBQ, but can't have a BBQ because of where they live. Twenty years ago, I went to Australia for six months. I remember longing for American candies that I couldn't purchase while I was there (even though I hadn't eaten them while in the US). As for the flavor, When I opened up this jar, I was amazed. I felt like my husband was barbequeing over a charcoal campfire or a Weber with wood added to give it a smokey smell. Instead, you can cook on the stove, sprinkle a little of this salt over your food (while it's cooking or afterwards), and taste the smokey flavor that comes with barbequed meat, chicken, or vegetables. The aroma of this salt is delicious. It was amazing! The salt is a fine grain and the shaker sprinkles nicely over a dish of vegetables or meat. If you're looking for a special gift for a foodie, I'd definitely share this salt. 

If it's for you and the presentation isn't your first priority (and the salt is), then I'd purchase the bag. If it is a gift for a friend, I'd opt for the specially packaged jar that is a bit more expensive. 

This is definitely something that I'm going to be recommending to every foodie I know!  It's one of those gifts that you give someone who loves to cook and is tricky to buy for.   

The second salt we tried was the Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. My sister in laws enjoy this salt and  my mother in law actually bought some for one of her granddaughters who loves the color pink.  This salt is very delicate and flavorful.  It is a fine grain, but not as fine as table salt.  I think the flavor of this salt is best when used at the table for your salt shaker rather than mixed into food when cooking. Over eggs, on french fries, over roasted asparagus... 

Neither of these salts contain iodine, which is needed by our bodies so they are best used in combination with iodized salt in your cooking. These salts add wonderful flavor when added on top of food.  Iodized Table or Iodized Sea Salt can be added while cooking.  A century ago, goiter was a very common condition.  Iodizing salt pretty much rid us of this condition.  But, there has been a popular trend to replace iodized table salt with sea salt--which is usually not iodized.  Using a combination of both salts can allow us to enjoy both.  Here is a quick description from the Mayo Clinic's website about the difference between the two.  

The best prices are found directly on their website.  Currently, there's free shipping for purchases over $20.   If you enjoy the flavor of salt on your food and have a delicate palate, I would check into these salts.  They are less expensive per ounce when purchased in bags.  There are small sampler bags or larger bags sold by the pound.  

In comparison to other companies selling the same types of salt on Amazon, the prices on San Francisco Salt Company's website seem appropriate given the packaging and product.   

 Please note that I received complimentary samples of these two salts from the San Francisco Salt Company.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Extra Expense with High Efficiency Furnaces

Last week, our chimney was cleaned and given its annual inspection.  I was so relieved when the man gave me the bill when he was done and no extra repairs were needed!  Yippee!  Just about everything in our house ends up requiring additional repairs when it's done.  I'm hoping that we're getting to that point when we'll get to do more maintenance than repairs soon!

Before he cleaned the chimney, I was a little concerned about what he would find.  This past spring we had a stainless steel liner put inside the furnace side of our chimney to protect the inside of the chimney from crumbling any further.  Crumbles had fallen and blocked the outflow from our furnace.  The furnace has a safety shut off that prevented it from running until the blockage was removed.  Because one side had to be fixed, I was concerned something similar would be required for the other side.

Thankfully, it didn't.  And I learned why...

The next question from the chimney sweep when I told him of the repair was whether I had a high efficiency furnace.


How long has it been in?

Three or four years.

"I thought so."  The man said and then went on to explain that the high efficiency furnaces create a lot of moisture inside chimneys--due to their efficiency.  And such repairs are often required in the first few years of installing a high efficiency furnace.

Hmmm.... Interesting information.  It actually made me feel a little better and not so worried about our house crumbling!

So, I thought I would post this just in case you're thinking about installing a high efficiency furnace --so you can be prepared for the coming expense ($1000-$2000 or more depending on the size of your chimney).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Facebook stuff to be aware of...


Facebook just isn't that private.  It's ironic that Facebook's founder seeks such privacy (purchasing the homes around his home so that they won't be bought up by developers) and yet heads up a company that takes away people's privacy little by little.  

I'd almost liken the way facebook is decreasing users' privacy to the way a frog dies in boiling water.  The water heats up little by little so that the frog doesn't know that he's in danger.  

One of my brother-in-laws made a good point last week at family dinner about facebook.  The people who use facebook often cry out about not receiving good customer service.  But, the catch is that the people who use facebook are not the customers of facebook--they are its product.  I thought this statement was very insightful, true, and important to keep in mind.  

Every once in a while, I miss facebook.  But, I still wouldn't go back.  I don't really have that much free time anyways...

Sunday, October 6, 2013


My husband just announced to me that he was going to buy some bookmarks.  I'm sure you can guess my response.

No!  I have a laminator!  Don't buy any!  We'll make some!

He said, okay, but we need to have a big stack...

So, my search begins.  I found this great list of bookmarks here:

I love these and can't wait to make them with the kids:

Fun monster bookmarks to color:
You can download the document from scribd or you can copy and paste the image into Word and fit it to the page.

Great bookmarks to color (and perfect for laminating!)

More coloring ones:

for adults and kids... owl bookmarks

Bookmarks with reading quotes:

I'm actually glad he said something because I realized I've been spending too much time on writing projects when I have a few spare minutes.

As of October 4, 2013 all of these links work.  I get very frustrated when I go to sites with lists of links and none of them work!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Iodized Salt vs. Sea Salt

I remember reading in books as a kid about older people struggling to live with goiter.  I never thought to find out what exactly it was.  Almost a century ago, there was a huge amount of iodine deficiency.  Then, salt was iodized to remedy that problem.  This solution helped a lot of people and goiter/iodine deficiency.  

But, over the past few years, iodized salt has been replaced on many tables by non-iodized sea salt.  So, does it matter?  

This link explains the basics about iodine in an easy to read way.  
This article talks about the iodine controversy:

Just something to think about.  In our house, we use sea salt for seasoning grilled vegetables and occasions when I want the salt to stand out in a food.  But, the rest of the time I use iodized table salt.  A few years ago, I used sea salt--mostly because it was the "new thing" and I have always chose less processed foods and ingredients over ones that were more processed.  I suppose it's a silly line of reasoning.  But, then somewhere along the line we switched back because sea salt was more expensive where we moved to.  I'm glad now that we ended up switching back.  It's important for the kids to have iodine in their diet!