Don’t Let Black Friday Ruin Christmas

November 22, 2014

Recent Phishing Email (src: PC Magazine)

This week is the supposed “beginning” of the Christmas shopping season. For decades, the day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday, was the rush to the stores to see the Christmas decorations, pick up your own new decor for the holidays, and get a leg up on your Christmas shopping. Today, when radio stations begin playing Christmas music on November 1, decorations begin seeing the light of day in stores as early as September, and the newest addition to the shopping frenzy, Cyber Monday, it hardly seems worth the hoopla.

But a TV anchor noted two weeks ago that people were already camping out for Black Friday deals. Seriously???

There are many of us, however, who will do our Black Friday shopping in our PJs at home, online. Not to mention curling up in front of that fire for Cyber Monday’s shopping frenzy. But in today’s high-tech world, there are many ways thieves can leave the store, or your home, with more than a little of your Christmas cheer. I wanted to give you five ways to protect yourself this year.

1. When shopping online, use Private Mode in your browser in order to reduce the amount of information data mongers can collect. Better yet, use as your search engine either in Firefox or another browser. It is always in private mode as it collects no data at all on your searches, and is an excellent search engine.

2. Just because you can log on to wifi doesn’t mean you should. Privacy isn’t guaranteed on any open network. Only shop and take care of sensitive (read financial, personal input) work only on a secure network.

3. With the influx of massive data breaches across a wide variety of industries, no company is safe. If a company you shop at has a breach, have a new card issued ASAP. Also, if you’re going shopping at a particular retailer and they’ve recently experienced a data breach, look to do your shopping elsewhere. Maybe you won’t be able to take advantage of that exclusive Black Friday deal, but what good is that brand-new big-screen TV you got for a ‘steal’ if attackers got access to your credit card number?

4. Don’t use mobile devices to shop! First of all, rumor has it that prices are 10% higher on mobile apps than online, because retailers believe you are in a hurry for the goods. But more important than that, store apps are buggy and riddled with malicious apps to steal your information and data. Using apps on a phone, especially without protection, is a great way to let those looking for your data to get it. Even if you do use mobile apps, make sure you LOG OUT every time you finish with it (this particularly applies to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like).

5. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Phishing emails look more legitimate these days than they did in the past. And the fact that the holiday season has many legitimate great deals actually benefits cybercriminals, providing a perfect venue for phishing emails that would normally seem out of place to blend in. So don’t just immediately click a link in that ‘great deal’ email that popped up in your inbox. Verify that the sender is legitimate, check for grammatical errors and inconsistencies. If there’s something odd or out-of-place, don’t pull the purchase trigger and potentially open yourself up for identity theft or money loss.

Remember, there is NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE WEBSITE! Do your due diligence and stay safe this holiday season. Celebrate the real reason for the season, and give more of yourself than your wallet.


Fabulous, I Say

September 13, 2014

On FB today I clicked on a link to Slate magazine and read an article on fingerprint language: words that we take on and make our own, using them frequently and occasionally obsessively. As one who’s always been accused of using words that no one else will understand (not true, I just collect words that are very specific to very specifically define my intention, I promise), I was taken aback with some of the psychology in the article about how we react to the fingerprint words of others, and of our own.

I’ve noticed recently I’ve picked up the word fabulous from somewhere. A tad anachronistic (think British Ab-Fab), it’s fairly unusual in today’s lingo, but takes one’s excitement over whatever it is used to describe up a notch, IMHO. Fingerprint words of the past include: ethos, plethora, ennui, hubris, rats (emotive rather than the noun), hackneyed, juxtapose and oh, so many more.

I am always amused and pleased when I hear others use my signature words. These words are worthy of use by everyone, and any small part I may have in putting them back into play is gratifying. No pressure to differentiate my language, no annoyance that someone’s appropriated “my” words. Words belong to all of us, and the more we own, the more specifically we speak, the better we may be understood. At least that’s my take on it.

When I taught college English, I required my students to “collect” six words a week. These had to be words they read or heard that, if pressed, they couldn’t actually say what they meant. I asked them to look it up (definition, etymology) and write six sentences with the “new” word. Then I asked them to select one word and use it at least six times a day for a week. Research shows that if you do that, the word is “yours” forever. Students who got into the game were always amazed at how many words they just skipped over as they sought to understand daily communication from others. They were always stunned at how often their new words showed up once they themselves put it into use. What seem uncommon words aren’t really uncommon. They are just words we ignore.

Anyway, I enjoy words. Period. I don’t use certain words to impress, to condescend, or to frustrate others. They are simply the best words I know to say what I mean. Perhaps I know more words than you. Big deal. Perhaps I just know different words than you. Again, big deal. They are my words, and I love them.

So listen to the words all around you, and collect some of your own. They will be yours forever.

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The Bionic Woman

August 28, 2014

Having been forced to watch the $6 million dollar man and Bionic Woman when my children were young I never really thought that some of these bionic parts might make their way into me. I was young, healthy, full of vim and vigor. But that was a while back.

Today, at 64, I can claim to be at least partially bionic, and am glad for the encouragement those shows gave to medical science and their audiences. Half the women in my Sunday School class had knee replacements last year. This year, I joined their ranks.

Last Thursday I had a Stryker knee implant in my right knee, after living in denial for nearly 15 years. No cartilage, a damaged kneecap, and bone spurs galore meant that left leg was pretty much pulling the hefty weight of my movements. And it was beginning to fail.

That first step post-op told me I had made the right decision. I am one week into recovery, and doing exceptionally well by all accounts. Being someone who is somewhat impatient, I want to do far more than I should at this point. But I am pleased that I have reached (pretty much from day one) the zero degree mark (which means my leg goes completely straight) and am approaching the minimum 120 degree mark when bent. There isn’t a lot of pain either walking or resting, and this recycling ice pack/cooler is the berries!

As well as I’m doing, I’m not looking forward to doing the left leg. But perhaps being relieved of all that pressure, it will not need it for many years!

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Apple-Ginger Kombucha

February 12, 2014

For a while I’ve been researching probiotics and gut health. Probiotics are a huge part of that, everyone agrees. And an inexpensive and fun way to get great probiotics is to drink Kefir or Kombucha Tea, both of which are fermented with the beneficial bacteria and yeast found in your digestive tract. I’d been buying Kombucha Tea at the grocery for nearly a year at $3.99 per 16 ounce bottle. That just doesn’t fit my frugal nature or budget!

Last summer we acquired a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to make Kombucha Tea, or fermented tea. It’s got huge probiotic benefits, to create a healthier digestive system. Since 90% of your immune system is in the digestive tract that’s one thing we want to keep healthy! Learn more about Kombucha Tea (KT for those in the know) here.

Sometimes we flavor it, sometimes we drink it “straight”. One of the benefits of flavoring it is that it also carbonates naturally, and as former soda addicts, that’s a real plus.

One of the HUB’s favorite flavors of KT is a simple one to make.


1/4 c. Apple Juice    2 pieces candied ginger    Kombucha Tea

When Kombucha is ready to bottle, add 1/4 c apple juice along with a large piece of candied ginger into a 12-16 oz. bottle, and fill with Kombucha Tea. Screw down the lid (or snap it down if using a Groisch-style bottle) and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days, or until it’s as bubbly as you like it. Put it in the refrigerator and enjoy when you’re ready to relax.

You can see the SCOBY floating on top of the continuous brew spigot jug, and the darker tea brewing below. For months we brewed in the bath method, but over Christmas I found this jar marked down. It’s 2.5 gallons and we “harvest” the fermented tea every 4-5 days or as we need it.

The SCOBY bacteria are the same type that keep your digestive system healthy, and using the SCOBY in the ferment (along with some of the previous brew) overwhelms the “bad” bacteria that may be present in the tea water.

I know that we feel better since we’ve begun drinking it, and it’s sure more affordable than buying it at $4/bottle or bottles of probiotics. Happy brewing!

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Growing Salad in February

February 5, 2014

Did I ever mention I’m a gardener? And after finally being able to complete the Fayette County Master Gardener Program I can even call myself a Master Gardener. So winter is hard for me. Houseplants abound, some blooming, some foliage. You know houseplants ramp up the oxygen, humidity and aesthetics wherever they live, right? But even that’s not enough. I need cotyledons emerging from seeds and reaching for the light. I just need to GROW something.

Rows and rows of seedlings

So about this time of year, I am perusing seed catalogs, creating spreadsheets, layouts and plans for my gardens so that soon…not too long now…I can start seeds for the plants I will tend all summer long. In years past, I’ve also grown sprouts to add to a variety of salads and other meals. But this year I’ve gone all out. I’m growing micro-greens. Am I trendy or what?


As I was going through my stash (read boxes) of seeds, I realized there were multiple packets, and who knew if they would even sprout (tore off dates when I opened them). I took the leap and grabbed a plastic tray, lined it with newspaper, mixed soilless seed starting mix with vermicompost (love those worms!) and planted in rows. Mind you, this is the ONLY time I plant in rows! See Rosalind Creasey’s website to see why.

Snow outside doesn't stop me growing!

I hooked two reflector lights with regular CFL bulbs onto the flats and pointed them at what looked like bare dirt. And I crossed my fingers like any good gardener does.

Two days later, the dirt moved, and my heart leaped. Three days and green emerged. One week out and you can see for yourself they are doing very well.

And I’m a happy gardener. Soon, I’ll post something on eating these nifty little winter wonders.

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