Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Books, New Seeds, New Website

I got a notice in my inbox the other day that my neighborhood Borders is going out of business. Kind of sad, because I love the atmosphere of a bookstore, how it smells from the coffee upstairs to that distinctive paper and ink scent. But it is just plain difficult to compete with online book retailers like Amazon, the competitive landscape is changing to that of a virtual world.

So I went in and bought some books I had on my wishlist because everything was 20% off and I have to say that I just checked on Amazon and their price is still lower than what I paid for at Borders with the discount. I mean, this is exactly why bookstores like Borders cannot compete. Plus I had to pay tax, but that may be changing soon for online retailers as well with states being so broke.

The first book I bought was (notice the irony with the link!) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond. I had his book Guns, Germs and Steel on my wishlist but since it was not in stock and Collapse was, plus it was the follow-up to GG&S, I got it instead.

In Collapse, Diamond explores the demise of once-productive societies such as the Maya, Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse. He also sounds the alarm on environmental practices undermining modern societies, including China, Russia, Australia and the United States.

It got rave reviews and so I'm going to learn a little something.

While I was there I bought Victoria Boutenko's Green for Life, on how greens and incorporating green smoothies improves your diet and overall health. It's a more detailed look into the nutrition of raw fruits and vegetables in the diet.

As a matter of fact, yesterday I made a green smoothie with two apples, half a Meyer lemon from Mom and Dad's tree, a leaf of collard greens, and about 3 large handfuls of baby spinach. Granted all that made just over a liter and I only drink half that per day. Green Smoothie Girl and Victoria Boutenko both recommend drinking a liter, but I'm not there yet.

One pint of that smoothie and a small serving of leftover brown rice and tofu for breakfast held me over til noon. Normally I have to eat a more substantial breakfast AND have a mid-morning snack because my body just gets HUNGRY during the morning and mid-day. But I didn't one pang at all, which is simply amazing.

So as I was reading Green for Life, Boutenko mentions using chia seeds as a way of getting more fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet. It also helps control your appetite when you soak the seeds and they turn into a gel because the seeds bulk up and produce a thick film around the seed. By adding 1/3 cup of seeds to a cup of water will bulk it up nicely and so you add that to your green smoothie to add lots of good fiber.

Those were all the magic words I needed to see on the page. Golf's Amazon Prime membership ends on Monday so I rushed over to see if any merchants offered Prime shipping on chia seeds. Sure enough, I found a great deal on a 3-pound bag of chia seeds and I ordered them yesterday. I plan to make chia gel and incorporate them into my smoothies, so I will tell you how it goes. Chia is supposed to not taste like anything, just act as a bulking agent to make you feel full. They do have calories though, so I cannot use too much, unlike konnyaku or shirataki, the yam noodle.

OK, lastly I want to promote my friend Benjawan Becker's new book called The Interpreter's Journal. Benjawan has taught foreigners to learn Thai and Lao over the last 15 years and in the meantime she has also been an interpreter in the northern California court system.

Follow my very personal journey starting in Thailand, the Land of Smiles. See how the influence of my family, Thai culture, Buddhism, meeting foreigners in Thailand, traveling abroad and living in the United States formed the catalyst for me to master several languages, become a professional interpreter and write numerous books on learning the Thai and Lao languages.
Her story is fascinating and inspiring. If you're interested in languages, the law, or in success stories, then The Interpreter's Journal is a good book for you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Love Those Divas!

I got so distracted with work yesterday because I watched Lady Gaga's Grammy performance. Sure Born This Way sounds a lot like Express Yourself. But that's my FAVORITE Madonna song, and so something similar ain't bad.

Again I am in awe of Lady Gaga's performing talent; she's extremely over-hyped like her whole meat dress stunt, but you must admit, she's quite talented and creative in marketing herself.

What is it about these pop divas I love so much?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My How Food Prices have Risen!

This is something I think that all of you who shop for groceries have noticed - your money isn't buying you what you could get for the same amount a year ago. Whether it's rising prices or shrinking sizes, the cost is going up rather sharply!

One of the first things I noticed is sugar. I used to buy 5 pound bags every few months and the next time I needed to get some, I saw that the bags are now smaller - an entire pound smaller! Now a 4-pound bag of sugar costs me the same as what I paid for 5 pounds less than a year ago.

Next is produce. Now you'd think that by my living in California makes fruits and vegetables cheap. Not so!

Side note: I keep meaning to get to the farmer's market more often, but it's out of the way and frankly, I've been a bit LAZY about it. I promise I'll make a better effort though!

Onions, for example, are at about $1.49/lb. Potatoes, regular russet are the same price. Heavens, I used to get red potatoes, usually costing more, for 99 cents/lb! And these aren't vegetables that are necessarily out of season right now.

Then there are my greens that I have been using for my green smoothies. I usually like to get them at a different supermarket where organic costs $1.79/bunch and they are big, beautiful bunches with huge leaves. At Safeway, however, a CONVENTIONALLY grown bunch of chard cost $2.49 EACH! I just spent five bucks on two bunches of so-so greens!

For rice I've been paying about $1.79/lb in BULK for regular long grain brown rice. Couldn't you used to get this for less than half that a year ago?

So the most dramatic increase in prices that I've noticed have been in staples. Sugar, grains and fruits and vegetables. It is insane. And we're supposed to be telling people to eat healthier? How can many families afford this?

Personally, I'm going to try braving the crowds on Sundays in Berkeley when Aidan is in Thai school and go to this natural foods store that's ENORMOUS called Berkeley Bowl West. They have the largest selection of produce in northern California. And for being an expensive shi-shi grocery store, their produce actually has excellent value. Their bulk foods are also not bad.

So I shall try and plan meals better and stock up on veggies n fruit there.

What have you noticed about food prices in your area? I'd be especially interested to know how you fare in non-agricultural states.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Promoting a few articles

I've been on a mission to get out there and get social and take advantage of all the opportunities there are to connect with others online.

On Lisa's 2 Create a Website blog, she writes about reasons she won't accept a guest blog post. She then mentions a guest post author named Ann Smarty who gives tips on being a great guest blogger. It's through Lisa's site and Ann's post that I found I cant' tell you how great that site is for bringing together bloggers and those who want to write for them. I've been an active member since and have learned a lot.

It's been serendipitous with how information comes to me lately. I won't get into to it too much, but how we all come across one another is sometimes an amazing story in itself.

On that note...

Here are a couple of articles I've written for other blogs in the recent weeks. I'd like to promote them here, not only to draw attention to my article, but to get you to browse around the rest of each site. They are very well done!

Recession Friendly Cheap Strollers

Stroller Accessories Moms Swear By

Whats to Love about the Chicco Cortina Travel System?

Where to go from here...

The first month of the new year was very productive on my two websites and it has gotten me thinking about my third site, my Thailand website.

It was a labor of love I worked on 3 years ago and wrote my first e-book for women who are moving to Thailand, Bangkok especially. I created the blog to sell the e-book, but it never sold the way I wanted nor expected it to. But it's not making me hardly any money, maybe one sale every 3 months.

It's the type of e-book that has to be updated at least twice annually, with all the online information I include in it. To go through and check each link takes me about a week to do! Now do I want to spend a week of my time updating a book that makes me less than $15 once every 3 months, or spend that time working on websites that are going to bring me umpteen times as much in earnings? I think the answer is clear.

Have you had to give up a project you were emotionally connected to? What happened?