Archive for September, 2010


Cover of "I.O.U.S.A.: One Nation. Under S...

Cover via Amazon

This past weekend I watched an interesting and scary documentary called I.O.U.S.A.

The film is nonpartisan and follows former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker as he travels across the country explaining America’s unsustainable fiscal situation. It is an in-depth explanation of our growing national debt and what its consequences will be for our country and for those of us who live here. It says America is being burdened by an expanding government and military, an increase in international competition, over extended programs like social security, and debts to foreign countries like China that are becoming impossible for America to honor.

Throughout history, the American government has found it nearly impossible to spend only what has been raised from our taxes. The film warns that America must change its spending habits or we will face a huge economic disaster. Interesting that this movie was released in 2008, right after the economists are saying our last recession began (December 2007).

The scariest part for me was when one of the people being interviewed brought up how when you are a person and you die, your debt goes away. But when you are a country, you pass your debt on to the next generation. It is like we are running up a giant credit card bill and are leaving it for our children to have to take care of.


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Preserved foods.

Image via Wikipedia


Every year a lot of food and money is wasted because food is thrown out when it is actually still good. When you read the expiration, use-by or sell-by date do you know what they really mean? 

  • Best if used by and use-by date – The product should retain maximum freshness, flavor and texture if used by this date.
  • Expiration date – If you have not used the product by this date, throw it out.
  • Sell-by or pull-by date – This date is used by manufacturers to tell grocers when to remove their products from the shelves, but there is still some leeway for usage.
  • Guaranteed fresh – Used for perishable baked goods. Beyond this date, freshness is no longer guaranteed although it may still be edible.
  • Pack date – This is the date the item was packed, most-used on canned and boxed goods.

Dating on packaging is not required by US federal law, except for infant formula and baby foods. Stores are also not legally required to remove outdated products from their shelves. Here are some tips to keep in mind while you are shopping and at home: 

  • When buying foods, always check expiration dates in the store. There is nothing more frustrating than getting home to find the ingredient you need has already expired.
  • Always buy the items on the back of the shelf, because they are fresher.
  • Most canned goods can be stored for up to a year, except citrus fruits, fruit juices, pickles, peppers, sauerkraut, green beans, asparagus, beets, and all tomato products which should be used within 6 months.
  • It may seem obvious, but always trust your eyes and nose. If it looks or smells bad, throw it out!

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Far Beyond the Stars is a blog by Everett Bogue (http://www.farbeyondthestars.com/).

Everett is the author of The Art of Being Minimalist and Minimalist Business. He lives with very little and can work from anywhere in the world.

He used to work at New York magazine, but he quit to pursue a minimalist location-independent life. His blog is about how you can apply minimalism in order to live and work from anywhere. He started his blog less than a year ago and it already has more than 70,000 readers.

While I do not see our family living with less than 100 things any time soon, I do find his posts about consuming less very inspirational.

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Toy Story

Image via Wikipedia

There has been a lot of talk in our house about what is “real” lately.

When we went to a Seadogs game Colby asked a woman I work with, “Is Slugger real or just a costume?” She looked at me like she did not know what to say. It was the Father’s Day game and Slugger’s father was there so I said, “He must be real, because he has a father.”

This morning I dropped Colby off at his new pre-school which is called Sunny Days. He asked, “Isn’t that the name of the daycare in Toy Story 3?” I told him I was not sure (I have since googled it and found out it is actually Sunnyside.) He asked, “If Sunny Days is a real place, does that mean the movie really happened?”

Questions like these always cause a dilemma for me. You do not want to lie to your children, but you also want to keep their innocence and wonder as long as possible.

On the internet there are loads of articles about how to tell your child that Santa is not real, but the question I ask is what good does it do to tell them he is not real in the first place? Everything seems so magical through their little eyes. Personally, I do not want to be the one to take that away from them.

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Hiking with Children

Last night as Jay and I sat outside, he with a beer and me with a glass of wine, I told him I had found a new hike we could do with the boys. He said, “I already beat you to it!” so we now have two new hikes to try. We have gone hiking with just Colby before, but have always gone back to the same two spots. I am looking forward to exploring these two new areas.

In preparation for our adventures, I decided to look up some tips on hiking with children:

  • When hiking with kids it is hard to take everything you need while still taking as little as possible. You really have to find a balance between carrying all the stuff your child needs and making sure your backpack is not too heavy.
  • Pick a location that is easy to get to (to avoid hearing “Are we there yet?”) and somewhere that is not too far in just in case you need to make a quick exit.
  • When hiking with kids be prepared to go more slowly than you are used to. Not just because they have little legs, but they also like to check out every little thing along the way. It is kind of a neat experience to be able to see nature through their eyes.
  • Bring a plastic bag because if your child is anything like my four-year old they will want to bring home whatever “treasures” they find – rocks, feathers, leaves, etc.
  • Try to be patient and flexible. Do not have too many expectations about how your trip will go.
  • Be prepared so be sure to bring sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, drinking water, and snacks.
  • Babies tend to be colder than you are because they are riding rather than hiking. Make sure you bundle them up appropriately. Or if it is really hot and you have them in a carrier, make sure they do not get overheated between the high temperatures and your body heat.
  • We have a carrier for Sawyer now and a backpack we will use once he gets a little older.
  • Bring scented plastic bags for diapers if you use disposables and carry them out with you. Most hikes do not have trash cans for you to put them in.
  • Kids are going to get dirty. Do not waste your time trying to keep them clean. Plan on bathing them and putting on some clean clothes as soon as you get home. There have been times this summer when Colby’s knees have been completely black and I have had to scrub and scrub them just to get them clean again.
  • Be prepared to carry kids when they get tired. Make sure you do not make your pack too heavy to carry at the same time as your child or have one of you carry everything. Colby is old enough to carry his own pack now, but we do not usually let him put very much in it.
  • Give the children safety items in their pack – a whistle, water, snack, and an extra layer. Let them know the rules like no running and you must always stay in sight of me.
  • Some fun options are to bring some fishing poles with you, skipping stones, or puddle jumping.
  • The hikes we have gone on are pretty easy so Colby has always worn sneakers. We have not been able to justify the expense of buying him boots when his feet are still growing so quickly.
  • It is a good idea to bring some first aid supplies. Sawyer is teething right now so we will definitely bring infant Tylenol and teething tablets.
  • Hook up with some other families and hike together. The kids will most likely have more fun when they have some friends along.
  • Let them think they are the navigator. Colby loves to bring his compas and read the map for us.

Please let me know if you have any tips on hiking with children that I should add to my list.

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Outliers (book)

Image via Wikipedia

Colby’s birthday is right before the cut off date so we had to make the decision whether to have Colby start kindergarten this year or next year. We decided to wait. 

When we were still making our decision my boss did not say anything, but now that we have she said she thought we made the right one. That all the boys she has known who had started school earlier rather than later have struggled. During this discussion she told me about the book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

In the book, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to a high level of success. His definition of outliers is exceptional people, especially those who are smart, rich, and successful, and those who operate at the extreme outer edge of what is statistically possible.

One example that my boss told me about is how the birthdate of a young hockey player can determine their skill level in the future. 

From the summary of the book on Wikipedia:
There is a disproportionate number of elite Canadian hockey players who are born in the first few months of the calendar year. The answer is that since youth hockey leagues determine eligibility by calendar year, children born on January 1 play in the same league as those born on December 31 in the same year. Because children born earlier in the year are bigger and maturer than their younger competitors, they are often identified as better athletes, leading to extra coaching and a higher likelihood of being selected for elite hockey leagues.

She then told me about his “10,000 Hour Rule” that claims that the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

While writing the book, Gladwell noted that “the biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work.” In Outliers, he hoped to show that there are a lot more variables involved in an individual’s success than society cares to admit, and he wants people to “move away from the notion that everything that happens to a person is up to that person”. As an example Gladwell interviews Bill Gates and focuses on the opportunities given to him throughout his lifetime that have led to his success.

Gladwell has published other books titled Tipping Point and Blink. Outliers debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list and held the position for eleven consecutive weeks.

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The Enneagram is one of the newest personality systems in use and emphasizes psychological motivations.

Some scholars have traced the Enneagram back as far as 10,000 years and it has most recently been used by Sufi mystics.

The Enneagram is mainly a diagnostic tool of your emotional outlook on life. It will not cure your problems, but may help point out their underlying causes. It is also useful as a guide to how other people see the world differently.

It is important to remember that no type is better or worse than any other. Like all of us, they are just different. Each type has “wings” which are the two types next to it. For example, a Seven may have a Six wing or an Eight wing. While they will still have primarily Seven views and behaviors, their personality will be flavored by Six or Eight.

The names of the nine personality types are:

  1. The Reformer
  2. The Helper
  3. The Achiever
  4. The Individualist
  5. The Investigator
  6. The Loyalist
  7. The Enthusiast
  8. The Challenger
  9. The Peacemaker

There are a number of Enneagram tests. I took QUEST (Quick Enneagram Sorting Test). The results of my test said I was a Two, or the Helper. Here is a description for The Helper from the Enneagram Institute:

The caring, interpersonal type. Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

I made Jay take a test and he is a Three, or The Achiever.

What type are you? You can find an online test at http://www.9types.com.

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