I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Living Within Your Means

It is one of the things that makes the world go round. For many people it is all that makes their world go round. Earlier in my life with idea of how to handle money there was little doubt or concern about how much spending built up on my credit cards. At one point in college I was forced to rely on my credit cards to pay for groceries as my income as a student barely covered my rent let alone extended to food.

My early thirties brought with it the recognition that my credit was shot and the realization something had to be done - and fast. Out I went to purchase every book on money saving that could be found. (Anyone else see the irony in this?) Books like: Die Broke by Steven Pollan, Live Well on Less Than You Think by Fred Brock, The Best of the Cheapskate Monthly by Mary Hunt, Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin and The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczn. Everybook was read and in some cases re-read. They are still on the bookshelf in the back room and get referred to fairly often.

The spending came to a grinding halt. Payment plans were set up for all debt and a rapid repayment schedule was implemented. In the beginning the process was agonizingly painful. No Starbucks Lattes, no expensive treats at Whole Foods, no trendy new clothing, no hour long calls to friends out of state, no extras period.

Sure, I slipped. Then the guilt would set in and I would refocus and move ahead with renewed vigor. Cable TV did not exist in my apartment, no cell phone (they were just getting trendy), no haircuts (I actually cut my own for a while- that is not recommended), the library was my friend and my only splurge was a gym membership. It was the one time in my life I religiously used the gym. The "no cable" might have had something to do with it. I was broke but my body was smokin' hot.

Having tried a variety of things to save money, cooking from scratch, using coupons, making my own laundry soap, freezing my credit cards in ice (that will slow you down!) as well as building up to a full pantry, I can say it all helps. Every penny saved helps to move away from debilitating debt.

Living within your income can be challenging but it is much easier than sleepless nights over the amount of debt that as been accumulated. It involves sacrifice and a great deal of perseverance.

After the holidays is a great time to sit down and reassess where we stand financially. This weekend will bring a review of credit cards, a reorganization and inventory of the pantry as well as an assessment of financial goals for the upcoming year.

How do you live within your means?    


Monday, December 17, 2012

Where do we go from here?


The news has been simply overwhelming the last several days. Photo's of Sandy Hook and its poor victims are plastered on every newspaper and t.v. station in the world. There is no real respite from the chaos and sadness.

My eyes have filled with tears countless times- when the innocent faces appeared or the names were mentioned I cried. Many others across this nation have cried as well. We are crying in sympathy to those who have truly lost what is most precious and innocent. We are crying at the loss of not only those children but the loss of a bit of innocence of our own children and grandchildren. After all we will have to explain about "bad men" and being safe when you are away from mommy and daddy.

Is it guns? Is it mental illness? Or as some have so ignorantly stated to be expected as we have taken God out of schools? Posts on facebook scream personal views on the subject. Guns will be taken away! Bring God Back! Get rid of all guns! More money for mental health! Just focus on high powered weapons! and on and on.

Simply stop! Take a deep breath. It is a sad tragedy. Focus first on getting through this terrible time. Focus your thoughts and prayers on the families of those so tragically affected by the actions of a very disturbed individual. Send your prayers to the family of the shooter as well. They too are mourning the loss of a mother as well as suffering guilt from the actions of the shooter.

The discussion needs to happen to, if nothing else, clear the air and give those affected a chance to speak.  But now is not the time. When the information from the investigation is complete and there is are answers to why then solutions can be found. Until then we are guessing. My feeling is there are several causes but until the information has been gathered my thoughts are simply more noise in the chaos of the week.

Yet, I do know. Saying God was not in Sandy Hook shows a gross lack of respect to the families touched by this despicable tragedy.  Are you simply trying to keep your name in the headlines? Students are allowed to pray in school. School sanctioned prayer is what is not allowed. Prayer can happen anytime, anywhere- it does not have to be sanctioned to exist. It matters not the religion of these children only that we recognize that they were innocent and full of a promise not to be realized.
It matters that we who are left behind, honor what they represented and when the time is right work to ensure this tragedy is never duplicated.

So until the facts are in pray to your version of God, the universe or simply send loving thoughts to those affected.        

Friday, December 7, 2012

Eating Local and Food Safety - Part 1

Eating local is an awesome statement of a persons beliefs translated into a positive action.

Eating local helps artisan craftspeople, small farmers and boosts the local economy. Shopping local requires less energy for the food to arrive to your table and it is normally fresher than anything that can be purchased from a major retailer. However, many food items available locally do not fall under any kind of regulatory authority.

That means that these food items are produced in facilities that are not inspected for sanitation and safety. No one is checking to ensure that these foods are wholesome and not contaminated or that they do not contain allergens that could adversely impact consumers.

There is a push right now to limit regulation of foods produced in private homes and allow them to be sold in small amounts to the general public. These laws called "cottage foods laws" have been passed in many states including the State of Florida.

Some states allow baked good with non potentially hazardous fillings and frostings to be produced and sold due to the low water activity of these items. That does not mean they can not be contaminated in other ways. How are consumers to know if the person producing the item washed their hands prior to packaging or that their corgi did no lick the bag as it sat on the unclean floor? Did they wash the pans and bowls properly? Or were the leaking shells from the raw eggs sitting on the counter as the muffins were turned out of the pans?  

This scenario may seem extreme, however, after several years of doing food inspections I can state with complete honesty that poor food handling occurs in permitted firms. When we are not on site for extended periods of time safe handling practices slip and when we do inspect the results can be disturbing. Permitted facilities that I have been in have had dogs in processing areas, small children playing in kitchens, no hot water, foods out of temperature, rodents, roaches and a plethora of other critical issues.

If those issues are present when we inspect who is to say that issues will not be in an facility that does not undergo inspection?

For the record I am not against cottage foods, I am against them not having to meet safety guidelines. In Florida people producing under the cottage foods law do not even have to take a food safety class. Additionally, producers make assumptions on what is acceptable to make and sell. Just because someone thinks their product is safe does not automatically make it so.  

So until the next post if you are at a Farmers Market, Green Market or Flea Market ask where the product is made and what ingredients it contains. Do not be afraid to ask after all your health is just as important as eating locally.

Coming Soon: Local Food Raw Dairy and Canned Goods