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Recommended reading

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

- Malcolm Gladwell 


 Scripture for May

"And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed..."

- James 5: 15-16.

  Saying of the month

"What is so sweet and dear
 As a prosperous morn in May,
The confident prime of the day,
And the dauntless youth of the year..." - William Watson, Ode in May


Some scripture for May


Saying of the month


Reading recommendation


Two-wheel out your door and enjoy the ride.


Grandma's not quite vegetarian grocery shopping list  


Use natural skin care products


"From scratch" recipe of the month -  Colorful Mexican Vegetable Salad


There are a lot of advantages of biking on a regular basis. And, just about anyone at any age, youth or adult, can get a lot of personal benefits from biking. Nearly half of daily trips by American adults cover less than 3 miles.  That’s an easy distance for even moderately healthy people to pedal, so the bike should be able to replace many car trips, depending, of course, on the weather and the traffic conditions.

To mention just a few of the benefits, bike riding is cheap, friendly for the environment, and fun. While cars get into terrible jams, bikes stay mobile and can be ridden to get around the worst traffic. What’s more, bicycling benefits society as well as individuals.  The more people who bike the fewer cars are on the road, and that helps reduce traffic congestion and carbon-based emissions and saves our local governments money for road repair.

Your two-wheeler also offers you some real health perks. A long-term study of over 30,000 people in Amsterdam showed that regular bike commuters had greater health benefits (40% less risk of death) than those who regularly did other types of exercise, including high intensity sports. And that makes sense, because commuting is a moderate, every day activity while sports and going to the gym are usually done only a few days a week.

Those are just some of the reasons that bicycles are the most used form of transportation in the world (that’s about 1.4 billion bicycles to only about 400 million cars). Other eco-friendly pluses from two-wheeling include the possibility of using the bike for transport businesses (package delivery and bike-taxis), bicycle-powered water pumps, and even generating electricity.

Most of all, the automobile is expensive, and cycling is the only real alternative to cars for short commutes and errand trips. According to one expert study, the average American car-owner can expect to pay a lifetime total of about $300,000 for cars and related car expenses. But that estimate is based on past experience and doesn’t take into consideration rising fuel prices and higher costs for future vehicles. And, just think, bikes mean no circling the block looking for parking spaces and no parking tickets or towing fines. Best of all, you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars (not several hundred thousand dollars) for your bike costs over a lifetime!

Get wheeling!
So, if you’ve got a bike in your garage or basement or have been thinking about buying one, this is the right moment.


If your bike’s been sitting somewhere a long time, get it out and examine its condition. Does it obviously need maintenance?  If it does, don’t take it out until you sure it’s running safely and comfortably. If you see something that needs fixing, visit your local bike shop. Get it right at first before you start wheeling around and continue giving your bike periodic tune-ups as needed. It will last a lot longer that way and be a safer means of transport. Hey, with a little study and effort, you can learn to do most of the maintenance yourself.

If you don’t have a bicycle, most new ones cost in the range of $100 to $200. But you’ll save a lot of money and be even eco-friendlier if you buy a used bike. So, stop by your local bicycle shop, cruise thrift shops and yard sales, or take a look at the classifieds in the newspaper. There are also some online sources for used bikes such as "Craigslist" and "Freecycle".

What more do you need to get started?
While biking sounds great for many reasons, still many people are hesitant to start out. And, the main reason most people aren’t riding bikes right now isn't lack of interest or low levels of physical fitness - it’s fear. Most of us are afraid of taking a spill or getting hit by a car. 

So, how can we feel (and be more) safe while two-wheeling?  First, always use the bike helmet and be properly dressed (closed, tie-up shoes, arms and legs covered), so that a minor bike accident stays minor – without any major consequences. Then, study city maps to find out where there are bike paths and protected lanes – and avail yourself of them whenever possible! Also, you probably have the option of biking on the sidewalk. That may be your safest bet in high traffic areas. And, if you’re wheeling on the sidewalk, you should cross streets by getting off your bike and walking with the light (or cautiously waiting at the corner) the same as pedestrians are supposed to do. Don’t forget to use bike lights and reflectors if you’re going to be biking at night or at dusk.

Also, petition your city and county government for more bike paths and protected lanes and show enthusiasm by supporting community bike rallies. Experience in cities around the world show that two-wheeling tends to be safer when more people are biking. The accident rate actually goes down because more car drivers become bike-aware and start driving better around bicyclists


Skin care is a concern of almost everyone. Good, cared-for skin makes us feel and look better. On the other hand, when we have problem skin, it’s uncomfortable and, if left untreated, can become itchy or inflamed. As a result, hundreds of companies offer products that are supposed to solve our skin problems. While commercial products are helpful to some degree, many contain harsh chemical ingredients. The chemicals in these products create difficulties for people with sensitive skin. Natural skin care products are also on the market. Most natural products are useful and don't cause any harm, but they tend to be somewhat expensive.

Natural skin care preparations, made at home, can often achieve the same results as commercial products and almost never cause skin irritations. The ingredients used in these preparations are available everywhere and are inexpensive because they are sold as foods. And, they're not just any kind of foods, they're miracle foods - excellent for your nutritional needs and for your skin.

Here, I explain how three common food items can meet some of your skin care needs. Experts in natural remedies mention these items as among the most important ingredients for skin care. I use all three items for natural skin care, and I’ll tell you how they've helped me.

Olive oil is the first skin care ingredient that I want to talk about. People have used olive oil as a skin care product for thousands of years. The Bible refers to the use of oil to clean and soothe the skin, and historical sources comment, that at that time (and today, as well), olive oil was a principal product throughout the Middle East.

Because olive oil is a pure product, without any sort of additive, you can use it on your skin as an oil, moisturizer, or massage product. In fact, many sources assert that olive oil is one of the finest remedies for dry skin and can even serve as a treatment for acne and eczema.

If you suffer from dry or itchy skin, you would do well to look for extra virgin olive oil. The extra virgin oil is made from the first press of the olive. It has the most anti-oxidants. It is, therefore, nutritionally best and most beneficial for the skin. After you wash your face with mild soap, apply olive oil to your face. You can also keep a little jar by the kitchen sink to moisturize your hands after you wash dishes. And a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice applied to your skin before bedtime can serve as both a wrinkle-reducer and a moisturizer.

For the past several months, I’ve used olive oil on my hands and face everyday, applied straight from the bottle. I’ve found it to be as good or better than any commercial moisturizer that I bought in the past.

Oatmeal is another food that makes a great skin care preparation. Oatmeal is a main ingredient in some expensive face soaps because it soothes dry skin, and at the same time, removes dead cells from the surface of the skin. To get the same kind of results, you can make your own oatmeal face scrub.

To get these results, you have to do a little work. Oatmeal is the “active” ingredient in the scrub. It works by absorbing excess oil on the skin and tightening the pores. One or more other foods must be added to the oatmeal so that it forms a pasty consistency that will stick to the skin. Small amounts of egg yolk, honey, and yogurt are often mentioned as excellent ingredients for an oatmeal scrub. There are also reports that lemon juice, banana, and other fruits can be added to the scrub for people who have oily skin. Fruits give your oatmeal scrub an extra antioxidant boost.

Just mix whatever ingredient or ingredients you want to oat flour (purchased or made by blending old-fashioned oatmeal in a kitchen blender). Apply the scrub to your face and neck, and use your fingers to massage the paste gently on your skin. Be careful when applying this scrub, because it can cause irritation if it gets in your eyes. Allow the paste to dry for ten minutes, or until you feel tightness. Then, rinse your face with cold water to stimulate your skin and close the pores. I use this kind of preparation at least once a week, and I always notice that after the scrub, my skin feels cleaner and toned.

Honey is the third food that makes a great remedy for dry skin. Honey has been used for centuries to help heal wounds and as a way to soften the skin. It contains natural antioxidants and has antibacterial qualities. Honey makes a great facial mask. Apart from removing dead cells from the skin surface, it stimulates the growth of new skin tissue.

There are several variations for honey masks, and, here are two of them. One mixture contains a spoon of honey with a spoon of plain yogurt. It is used to help prevent wrinkles and keep the skin glowing. Another natural remedy is a mixture of half a teaspoon of honey with an egg white and one teaspoon lemon juice. The second mixture is the one I like most because it is astringent and helps control the oily patches on my skin.

Massage whatever honey mixture you like onto your face and neck. Leave the mask on for ten minutes before rinsing it off with warm water.

Note: When using any of these natural moisturizers, masks or scrubs, always first apply the mixture to a small test area to see if you have any skin sensitivity. If any irritation occurs, rinse the skin with warm water and pat dry. Do not use the preparation if your skin becomes itchy or inflamed.


Recently, my husband complained that each week our grocery shopping trips led to different purchases and varying costs. He wasn't too happy with a growing tendency to pay more for food at the grocery store. Like so many families, we would like to have a little money to save at the end of the month, so being aware of what we buy and trimming back where we can is certainly a good idea.

Yet we weren't sure if the reason for the increasing food costs was because we weren't careful to buy only what we need and use or if there we were feeling the effects of food-cost inflation.       

In order to track just what we buy at the grocery store and the resulting costs, my husband challenged me to make a data spreadsheet that would help us figure out just what was our situation. I made the spreadsheet and we've decided to follow our shopping experience for at least a couple of months to see if we can, in fact, cut back on our food costs. Our goal is to spend no more than $45 a week for the two of us - something that we've done in the past - and we hope to do as well or even better as we gain more knowledge of our situation. (By the way, our non-food items purchased at the grocery store can add another $10 - $15 to the shopping cart - depending on the needs of the week. I haven't included  our non-food items in this list.)

So, here's my "almost vegetarian" grocery list. I call it almost vegetarian because we like to include a lot of vegetarian meals in our weekly menu. On the other hand, we aren't very strict with our diet, and most weeks we also have some poultry, fish, eggs, and a bit of pork in the canned pork'n'beans that we like. All in all, we consider our diet to be healthy, nutritious, and economical. We eat all our meals at home, and my husband takes homemade sandwiches to work. We eat out at restaurants, including fast food places, not more than twice a month. Part of our economy comes from buying many things in bulk, refusing to buy highly processed foods, and baking our own bread.

While the list is almost complete as far as individual items, I need to stress that we don't buy every single thing, every week - the cost would be much more! In particular, things like other staples and spices are purchased only as needed, and months may pass by without running out of those things. 

Strange as it may (or may not) seem to you, the list that you see below is as close as I can come to our real food buying habits.   I won't bore you with the details of the quantities and exact costs of foods (which are probably variable, anyway), but I've included here the food list and the main columns of my spreadsheet. You may be interested in doing something similar for your home with the hope that you can track and control your food shopping costs.

The columns of the spreadsheet are:
Food groups  
# Items needed
Unit cost
Total item cost

The food groups and items are the following:
Animal protein
Veggie burgers
Ground turkey meat
Chicken (for grilling)
Cheese - sliced, cottage, shredded
Sour cream
Turkey lunchmeat
Canned tuna, salmon, and sardines
Fresh or frozen fish filets

Cereals and starches
Wheat flour whole grain or unbleached
Corn meal
Bread (We often make our own and save here.)
Packaged breakfast cereal (not a big item because we like whole grain oatmeal cereal better)
Chips or popcorn
Tortillas – plain, whole grain or corn (We often make our own and save here.)
Pasta, noodles or spaghetti
Whole grains (oats, quinoa, barley, etc.),
Crackers – unsalted tops
Cookies and cakes (We often make our own and save here.)

Nuts and beans
Canned beans (refried, chili, pork’n’beans)
Toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, or cashews)
Dried beans (pintos, lentils, black, etc.)
Peanut butter or other nut butter
Natural soy milk
Textured soy protein


seasonal fruit -berries, grapes, mangos, etc.
dried fruit – raisins, coconut, apricots

Greens and salad makings
Green pepper

Veggie products
Canned tomatoes
Canned spaghetti sauce
Frozen green beans
Frozen green peas
Frozen broccoli

Other staples
Butter or margarine
Cooking oil – olive, vegetable
Soy sauce
Vinegar – wine, apple cider
Salad dressing/mustard/catsup (We make our own salad dressing some of the time.)
Brown sugar, honey or molasses
Jelly (We often make our own and save here.)
Hot sauce, canned chilis
Sea salt
Baking powder, baking soda, yeast
Flavorings- cocoa, vanilla, maple
Canned milk or powdered butter milk (for baking)
Bottled lemon juice
Coffee, tea
Bouillon cubes


Colorful Mexican Vegetable Salad

About 5 cups (total) of all the following:
Carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally 1/8 inch thick
Small to medium boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
Beets, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
About 3 cups (total) of  the following:
Green beans, ends snipped off and sliced diagonally in thirds
Cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
8-10 deviled eggs
Lettuce leaves
Optional: Thick rings of red onion; 1/4 lb. of crumbled Mexican queso fresco (or feta cheese); canned smoked sardines

Boil the carrots, potatoes, and beans in a large saucepan until the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Boil the beets separately.

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon of cumin or mild chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
6 tablespoons olive oil

Place the vinegar, lime juice, and oil in the blender on a medium speed and allow it to emulsify. Then add the seasonings and cilantro with the motor still running on a slower speed for about 30 seconds. 

Divide the different vegetables in groups. Line a large serving platter with lettuce leaves. Place the deviled eggs in the middle. Arrange the different vegetables in concentric circles to make a pretty platter – the cucumber slices look nice on the outside. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables.  Serve accompanied by small bowls filled with sliced red onions, canned smoked sardines, and crumbled cheese.

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