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How to Track Amazon Prices

I recently started glancing at a website called CamelCamelCamel before making certain purchases online. It allows you to search for a product or paste an Amazon URL of the product into the search bar and find the price history of it. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your opinion of the phrase “ignorance is bliss”.

I used this when researching a new running pack with hydration bladder (The Camelback Dart). I noticed the price dropped in the winter and rose again as spring came. I could either buy it now at full price or wait another season.

Dart

Let’s just say I kept myself hydrated on my last jog. ;)

On the other hand you may find a product you want, say, the RIO Glass Water Pitcher which I love and would like another one to take to work, but the price jumped from $22.01 to $29.95 and you’re not sure it’ll ever come back down.

rio

Do I suck it up and buy it, or wait hoping it comes back down? I could be waiting forever…

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Replace Sugary Drinks with a Fruit Infusion Pitcher

A few months back I bought this great 1 liter Water Pitcher and Drink Infuser from Grosche International. I found it on Amazon for $22, but since January 19th it’s gone up to $29.95.

It’s all glass with a stainless steel lid. The lid has a removable silicon bottom which mounts it to the glass bottle. As you tip the bottle (as if to pour) a filter in the lid slides allowing water (and only water) to come out. Right now my favorite new drink is pineapple water, although I haven’t experimented a lot yet. I’ll just toss in pineapple chunks, lemon wedges, strawberries, or other types of fruit. It’s an easy way to have naturally flavored water right at your fingertips. After about thirty minutes in the fridge the pitcher is ready to go. You can keep refilling it with water for days, depending on what kind of fruit it is. My pineapple chunks last about a week. Lemon wedges, about 3-4 days.

Since I’ve gotten this I have been drinking a lot more water. It has really helped me eliminate all of the nasty (yet admittedly tasty) sugary drinks I used to consume.

Home-made Juice

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Pregnant Peppers?

A few days ago I was making my favorite Sausage Gumbo and ran into this when slicing a Bell Pepper:

Inside Pepper1

Inside Pepper2

A baby pepper growing inside a mature one. Creepy but cool. After looking into it on the internet I found this, and this:

“During normal pepper development, seeds develop from fertilized structures known as ovules. Peppers have many ovules, which turn into lots of tiny, obnoxious seeds. Occasionally, a pepper ovule will go rogue and start developing into a so-called “internal proliferation” …that looks much more like a tiny pepper than a seed.”

and lastly:

“Understanding what gives rise to these strange baby peppers could actually help us figure out how to make seedless (parthenocarpic) pepper varieties. You can already thank parthenocarpy for the lack of big, nasty seeds in bananas and several types of oranges. Maybe seedless peppers will be next!”

Who knew bananas used to have big nasty seeds?

For a cool MRI scan of a pregnant bell pepper (and other food) check this out.

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Your Real Tax Rate

This year I filed both federal and state returns through H&R Block on February 17th. By February 26th my federal return was in my bank account. Pretty awesome.

While glancing at the “Overall Savings” section of the PDF I saved to my computer I noticed something:

Marginal bracket : 25%
Effective : 8.6%

I’m supposed to be giving 25% of my income to the federal government to pay for things we as a society need: Social Security, Veteran’s Benefits, Infrastructure Spending, etc… whereas I’m only giving 8.6%. If I’m doing my taxes myself and getting that kind of a discount, imagine what the extremely wealthy are getting with their financial advisors. The same goes for my payments to New York State as well:

Marginal bracket : 5.6%
Effective : 4.4%

Not as bad as the Federal “discount” I’m getting, but still. For all those people complaining about how high our taxes are, just check out your Effective Tax Rate then get back to me.

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Are Mrs. Green’s Fruit, Nut, & Bean Dispensers Worth the Price?

Last weekend my Partner in Crime and I stopped at a Mrs. Green’s supermarket in Connecticut. The store looks brand new, and is huge compared to the smaller ones I live near. This location in Connecticut had installed Organic Fruit, Nut, and Grain dispensers on the right-hand side wall as you walk in. I was intrigued by the prices they had, wondering if they were a good deal compared to the organic kinds in bags or containers sold from other companies. Here are a few of my findings through a random sample:

Chia and Flax

Bags1

 

Mrs. Green’s Dispenser White Chia Seeds : $9.99 / lb
Shiloh Farm’s Bagged White Chia Seeds : $1.25 / oz     ($20 per pound)

Mrs. Green’s Dispenser White Quinoa : $5.99 / lb
Shiloh Farm’s Bagged White Quinoa :  $.50 / oz         ($8 per pound)

Mrs. Green’s Dispenser Brown Flax Seeds : $1.49 / lb
Shiloh Farm’s Bagged Brown Flax Seeds : $.31 / oz     ($4.96 per pound)

Seems like it’s worth it to me!

You may be thinking that the non-organic variety in the major supermarket chains are less, but that’s not necessarily the case. It really depends on which item you’re talking about. Mrs. Green’s sells organic pinto beans for $1.99 / lb whereas the Goya pinto beans in the A&P are $2.49 / lb!

Either way, my goal here is to eat healthier and remove as many toxic chemicals and pesticides as possible.

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How to Remove Toxic Chemicals from Your Life

After participating in the Real Food Challenge that Kay turned me on to, I decided to see how else I could remove toxic chemicals from my life. The next area where I feel chemicals are most prominent is cleaning supplies. The other day I glanced at a bottle of surface cleaner and saw this:

Cleaning Ingred

I love the part that says “OTHER INGREDIENTS : 99.916%”

That could be water, or that could be incredibly toxic chemicals the company is not mandated to list because they are “inactive”.

JUST HOW TOXIC
After doing some research online I found this great website by the Environmental Working Group. They have a section where you can research different products, and the site will list the ingredients in them and what horrible side effects they have.

Take the typical bottle of Original Tide Detergent. There are concerns over its effects on the respiratory system and skin. More importantly though, chemicals in it have been linked to developmental and reproductive issues as well as cancer, and the amount for this product is high:

EWG Tide

After doing some research on safer and greener household products I came across Seventh Generation. Their products are mostly plant based and much less toxic in the event that its chemicals get into a person’s body.  I started to compare their liquid detergents (which received D ratings) and their powder detergents (which received A ratings). Eventually I settled on one of the safest and easiest kinds of detergent in my opinion, the Detergent Packs. Seventh Generation’s received an A rating whereas Tide’s packs (or pods as they call them) received an F rating and where pretty high in cancer-causing chemicals.

EWG 7th

 

LOWERING THE PRICE


LAUNDRY DETERGENT

As with many products, from food to household cleaners, the healthier it is sometimes the higher the price tag. (Not saying it’s not worth it!) Luckily I’ve found a way to lower its costs. I’m ordering a bulk package of it on Amazon, and signing up for their subscription service (once every 6 months, or however often you chose). By doing that it’s lowering the cost from $29.98 to $28.48. Then, if you subscribe to 5 or more items you’ll get 15% off the total which lowers it even more to $25.48.

When you compare the price of one load with Tide Detergent Pods (with subscription and 15% discount) at .21 cents, and then one with Seventh Generations packs (with subscription and discount) at .25 cents, it’s not that bad, especially considering the healthier and safer aspect of it all. If you do one load of laundry a week that’s like spending just $2.08 more a year (or $4.16 if you do two) to remove unsafe chemicals.

(I also don’t understand why anyone would not want to use packs, and I’m ashamed that I didn’t start using them sooner!)

 

DISH DETERGENT
In looking at the liquid dish detergent prices:

Seventh Generation
Six 25 once bottles for $15.25    (2.54 per bottle)

Dawn
Five 25 once bottles for $15.21    (3.04 per bottle)

It’s 50 cents more per bottle. Usage obviously varies by household but I’d imagine 12 bottles a year is a bit overkill for a single person, and maybe average for someone with a family. But still, I’ll add an extra $6.00 more to my yearly bill to be using a safer detergent. Here, Seventh Generation’s powder received an A rating, but since I do my dishes by hand I’m using their liquid detergent which received a C rating. (Dawn sells detergents ranking from C to F.)

There are two brands listed in EWG’s guide that received an A rating because they are better for the environment, but:

1) They aren’t listed on Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service.
2) The reviews aren’t great.
3) They actually are slightly more harmful in the reproductive and cancerous categories.

 

CLEANING WIPES
And lastly, regarding the cleaning wipes:

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes
320 wipes = $26.47         (.08 cents a wipe)

Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
225 wipes = $12.27        (.05 cents a wipe)

Lysol Power & Free Multi-Purpose Cleaning Wipes
105 wipes = $20.20        (.19 cents a wipe)

I’m not sure how many wipes I’ll be using. I currently use a spray with a paper towel, but based on my current subscription of two bulk deliveries a year, we’re talking about an extra $19.20 to $121.60 a year here if I were to receive the same amount of wipes amongst three brands. A pretty high cost. EWG’s results are surprising to me:

- Clorox received a D rating and the only concern was asthma/respiratory related. Problem here is there is no data on developmental and reproductive toxicity, as well as cancer. That’s a big risk. I’m surprised at this rating.
- Lysol received a B rating on a specific kind of wipe, the “Power & Free Multi-Purpose” version, where concerns are asthma/respiratory and skin related.
- Seventh Generation received a D rating due too all of the above plus some minor concerns over a few cancerous chemicals in the product. Not cool. Seventh Generation explains EWG’s not-so-great ratings of certain products on their blog.

I looked at products that received an A rating and they aren’t sold on Amazon in bulk, such as Whole Foods “Mission” organic spray cleaner. The Lysol ones are too expensive in this case. Sucks. I’m going with Seventh Generation on this one unless the Lysol ones come down in price.

WRAP UP

So I’ve discovered that by spending an extra $27.28 a year I’ll be using safer laundry detergent, dish washing liquid, and disinfecting wipes. (Only $8.08 if you drop the wipes.) I’d also like to note that you can change Amazon Subscriptions at any time. Amazon allows you to change the date, skip a shipment, or even cancel after one order. I’m sure I’ll end up with too much of one of these products and end up pushing a shipment back by a little. Not a big deal.

Hopefully over the next few months I will be weeding out as much harmful chemicals as possible in my food and cleaning products. By signing up for bulk shipments of dish soap, cleaning wipes, laundry detergent, garbage bags, and pet supplies twice a year through Amazon, I’ll be using safer cleaning supplies and increasing my annual spending by a mere 27 bucks. Totally worth it!

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Updated Portfolio

Recently I submitted some of my photography to a stock footage website to see if I could get published. (Of course the extra cash couldn’t hurt…)

You can find a link to that album here.

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Google Maps – Public Transit Mode

The other day I tested out Google Maps’ Public Transit mode. It told me it was going to take 9 minutes to get to Grand Central and that there was a train at 9:31, 9:37, 9:43 and 9:49. Sure enough one showed up at 9:31.

Google Train Time 1

 

And it took exactly :

 

Google Train Time 2

How flippin’ spot-on is that?!

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An Inspirational Letter

West CoastAbout ten years ago (my God), one of the most influential Guidance Counselors I’ve ever had handed me an envelope with a note and $100 in it. On the face of the envelope were doodles of a road lined with Redwood Trees, the Oregon shoreline, the Seattle Space Needle, and other prominent features of the West Coast. (The $100 was a loan which she never allowed me to pay back.) She told me to take time during our three week break and travel, because she knew that’s what I needed.

It was a phenomenal trip. I drove from Los Angeles to Whistler, Canada which is a town right above Vancouver. On the way I also stopped by San Francisco and Sacramento, drove through the Redwood Forest, visited Portland and Seattle, and even drove up Mount Saint Helens.

My pictures don’t do it justice because at the time I was experimenting with just taking video, and using still frames from it as pictures, so the quality is not that good. But recently I discovered a roll of film, tucked away in my draw for over 10 years, that I never had developed. The film contains some pretty bad pictures. Some are just horribly taken, and others may have just degraded over time, but one stood out to me though:

Drive Thru Tree

This is the Chandelier Tree, named for its distinctive limbs at the top that bear resemblance to a chandelier. Found in the town of Leggett, Northern California, it’s a 315 foot tall Redwood tree so large that you can drive a car through it. The base measures 21ft in diameter and has a 6 foot wide by 6 foot 9 inch hole at the base that allows cars to drive through it.

The trip was my second major solo adventure of significant length, but the one that spurred many more to come, and I have to thank my former guidance counselor for that.

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Real Food Pledge – Day 10 of 10

Well, this is it! Day 10! I made it. Kay was awesome enough to make a strip steak for dinner, with a simple but good marinade. I’m pretty beat so I’ll write a more elaborate overview of my 10 day experience later. Goodnight.

DAY 10

Breakfast:
Smoothie : 330 calories

Morning Snack:
Almonds : 139 calories

Lunch:
Ham and Cheese Sandwhich : 450 calories

Afternoon Snack :
Larabar : 220 calories

Dinner:
Strip Steak : 400 calories
Quinoa Side : 340 calories

Calories Eaten :  1879
Calories Burned: 2195

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