Earth Day: 7 Ways to Reduce and Reuse You Didn’t Know About

earth-dayApril 22nd is Earth Day. We love where we live and we could all do a little bit more to honor Mother Earth. Here are 7 ways to reduce and reuse things around your home you didn’t know about and make your Mother Earth proud.

Gardening

1. Milk jugs are the gardener’s little helper. They have many uses, but for the tomato gardener, it is heaven sent as a DIY trench watering system. Poke a few holes in the bottom and sides, dig a small trench near the plants and bury the jug about half-way. Fill the jug with water and it will slowly release water into the soil to keep it moist.

Pallet-walkway

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2. How many times have you seen a discarded wooden pallet and thought “I know I could do something with that”? Well, a garden walkway is about the easiest thing you can do with a wooden pallet. It requires little more than pulling it apart and arranging them along a dirt path. It’s so easy you’ll be kicking yourself for not having thought of it yourself.

Cooking

3. Cereal or cracker box lining can be used anywhere you might use wax paper or parchment paper. Cutting the ends and along one side you have good sized sheet. In baking, you can use it to roll out ice box cookie dough or to line cake pans. It saves money, time and waste.

Tiered-server

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4. For the mismatched dishes you just can’t seem to get rid of, a clever way to make use of them is by making them into a tiered server. The project does require some tools and materials, but it will be worth it to see your plates in play again.

Crafting

5. Save your cans. They’re the crafter’s dream material. Soup cans, coffee cans, paints cans: save ALL your cans. From lamp shades to biscuit cutters, there isn’t much you can’t do with a can.

6. Got something to stuff? That leftover pill bottle cotton can fill a sock doll. All of that dryer lint you toss in the garbage? You can stuff a pillow with it. No need to fill a landfill when you need to fill a toy.

Every Day

Cell-phone-wall-mount

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7. Just because an old water bottle can’t hold water anymore doesn’t mean it can’t hold something. With clever cutouts it turns into a gadget you didn’t know you need – a wall mount for your cell phone while it charges. It’s a brilliant way to repurpose the used, but not used up bottle.

 

We use stuff every day, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw it away every day. Being a responsible human being is easy, it just takes a little bit of thought on how to be responsible. Happy Earth Day!

recycle-symbol

Stress Awareness Day: 6 Tips to Reduce Stress at Work

woman-screamingWith all of the emails, meetings and spreadsheets to deal with in a day, it’s easy to get wound up.  Here are 6 tips to reduce stress at work so you don’t have to find out what your breaking point is on Stress Awareness Day.

Take a Deep Breath

We need oxygen to live, but it’s also a great stress reliever. Deep breaths can actually slow your heart beat and lower your blood pressure.  Even if you sit quietly for a few minutes, you can lower your heart rate. So when you’re sitting at your desk with a to-do list a page-and-half long, take a deep breath… or no breaths… or five deep breaths, if it’s that bad.

Meditate

Take ten minutes to meditate. Focusing on a word or sound while relaxing each muscle in your body helps to clear the noise in your head created by stress. An adrenaline rush is a natural response to stress — meditation does the opposite of an adrenaline rush. By using this relaxation technique, your pulse slows, blood pressure is lowered and your metabolism slows down.  You don’t need any special tools, just a little bit of time and a comfortable place to sit at the office and you’re on your way to being stress free.

Stop and Smell the Lavender

Lavender is used as a remedy for conditions from hair loss to insomnia, but did you know it could reduce stress? It lowers your heart rate and improves sleep quality. Keeping a sachet at work will keep your work space smelling fresh and calm when the going gets tough

man-stressed-at-officeChew Gum

When you have a presentation you’re feeling stressed about, pop a piece of gum in your mouth. Australian researchers found chewing gum decreased the amount of the stress hormone cortisol by 16 percent. They also found that it reduces anxiety and increased the ability to multi-task. All this and fresh breath to boot. Talk about stress reliever…

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is the anti-dote to many ailments – including stress. A study published in the Journal of Proteome Research shows the amount of the stress hormone cortisol was significantly reduced in people who ate a chocolate. The only down side to the study is they had to eat chocolate every day.  That’s not such a bad trade off.

Read a Page or Two

Researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress levels by 68 percent. It’s a quick fix, too. It only takes about six minutes of reading before you start experiencing a lower heart rate and relaxed muscles. The study looked at other methods of relaxation – listening to music was a close second followed by a cup of tea and taking a walk.

woman-relaxing-at-the-officeStress takes so much out of us, but it takes so little effort to get relief. On Stress Awareness Day, there’s no better reason to take time out to relax.

Gearing up for the Breast Cancer Walk: How to Prepare

walking-crowdMillions of people across the country are getting ready to lace up their sneakers to walk in support of breast cancer research and awareness. If you’re one of the millions gearing up for the Breast Cancer Walk, here are some ideas on how to prepare before you set out on your journey.

Before the Walk

Walking isn’t the most strenuous of exercises, but it’s still exercise and when you’re walking for miles, it takes training. The amount of time you spend on training depends on the distance your charity walk is. Generally, you’ll want to walk 30 minutes five days a week, increasing the walk time by five minutes each week. Use a 13-mile training schedule as a guide for your training. Walk rain or shine during your training because you never know what the weather will be on the day of the big walk.

Make sure you have shoes dedicated to walking. When you walk for exercise, you walk differently than you would doing errands or going to work and your shoes adapt to how you walk. This can reduce your risk of injury and blisters.

Stay Motivated

Walk with a training group for some of your walks. This can give you a chance to meet other people walking for your cause. Another way to stay motivated is by keeping a walking log or journal where you can track your progress.

Information

As walk day approaches, start gathering information about what you’ll need on the day of the race. Generally, organizers send you a walk day packet or send you information on where to pick up your packet. The packet can include:

  • Information on how to get to the start and when you should arrive
  • Your number
  • Safety pins for your number

tying-shoeWalk Day

Carry as little as possible. It takes a lot of energy to carry even small items. The longer you carry something, the heavier it feels and it uses energy you need to get across the finish line. Items you should carry:

  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Poncho or light rain jacket
  • Protein bars
  • First aid kit (small)

Wear moisture wicking clothes. Moisture wicking clothes draws moisture away from your body so your body can regulate its temperature based on the elements rather than moisture gathered on your body.

Drink before you get thirsty and eat before you get hungry. Eat about 100 calories each hour you’re walking. Staying hydrated and energized can keep you going and you’ll feel less exhausted toward the end.

Start slow. When the walk begins, the crowd can be big and hard to navigate. When the crowd thins out, start walking at a comfortable pace for you. Be aware and respectful of other walkers and volunteers. Walk only in designated areas.

After the Walk

Now that you’ve completed the big Breast Cancer Walk, you’ve got a great base for an exercise regimen. Keep it up and start thinking about your next charity walk. Do good things for a good cause and do good things for yourself.

walking-foot

Items We Adore: LTD’s Product Picks for the Week

We’re flipping through the catalog to pass the time between now and when the weekend starts. We’ve picked out some items we can’t wait to use now that the weather is finally warm! Here are LTD’s product picks for the week.

hanging-lantern

This Solar Scrolled Hanging Lantern enhances your outdoor space with elegant accent lighting featuring beautiful scrollwork. A ring on the handle makes it easy to hang from any hook. It has a solar panel on top that uses the sun’s energy to automatically power the light at night. 

think-big-sports

Now kids can practice their favorite sports right in their own backyard! Whether your kids are into soccer or basketball, we have the set for them! Each set comes with an oversized inflatable plastic ball and accessories that are safe and fun to use. Kick the soccer ball through the goal cones or shoot the basketball through the hoop. 

 

you-frame-it

Transform your most cherished photos into framed canvas artwork in your own home in a matter of minutes. With the Flipo You Frame It system, you can take any image from a camera or cell phone, print it on specially formulated canvas paper, then frame it. Printing is done on your inkjet printer without the need for special ink or computer software.

 

can-coolers

MLB Coleman 24-Can Cooler is easy to carry wherever the action takes you. Its adjustable strap has a shoulder pad embroidered with the Coleman logo. Full-color MLB team logo is embroidered on the cooler’s front panel. Made of 600D polyester, the soft-sided cooler is lined with PEVA. Includes a carabiner clip and mesh carry pouches on the sides. 

tickin-tater

The Tick N’ Tater Water Balloon Game takes the traditional game of hot potato and cools it down. Fill up a water balloon, then place it inside the Tick N’ Tater. Set the attached timer and start passing it around. When the timer runs out, the balloon will burst, soaking the person holding it. This easy game is a refreshing and fast-paced way to spend a hot afternoon outdoors.

 

Throw Back Thursday: What would you have given your sibling for Sibling Day 25 years ago?

It’s Sibling Day and in honor of our sisters and brothers, we’re looking at our catalog of yesteryear and thinking about what we might have given our siblings on Sibling Day 25 years ago. Here’s a glimpse at LTD Commodities teen gift offerings from 1989.

sibling-acid-wash-denim

Wouldn’t your brother or sister love a new backpack? These fancy acid wash denim backpacks can catch any teenager’s eye – from Alex P. Keaton to The Karate Kid, everyone wants acid wash. Madras tie, geometric shapes sweater and bandanas sold separately.

Sibling-electric-guitar

If your brother or sister is musically inclined, the Song Maker Electronic Amplified Guitar with Stage Microphone ad Speaker box promises hours of magical fun. This is pretty amazing – the guitar is pre-strung with six real steel guitar strings and the microphone stand is adjustable. There are no messy wires to deal with because it operates on four “C” batteries. The only thing missing is an electric keyboard…

 

sibling-piano-calculator…and here it is — in the form of a calculator! This Mini-Piano Melody Calculator will allow the nerdy brother or sister to choose between musician and mathematician with the flip of a switch. Yes, you can actually play the piano on this calculator! It comes with two pens and batteries are included.

karaoke-machineIf your sibling’s talent is in vocals, loading up a cassette tape will be loads of fun with this Sing-Along Cassette Player/Recorder. You and sis can have “inspired jam sessions” at “the beach, a slumber party or a picnic.” Your parents will be delighted to hear the gift that keeps giving when the auto-stop reminds you to flip the cassette tape.

Sibling-mini-headphone-radio

Not all siblings have musical talent. Some of them choose to listen – for those siblings, perhaps you can add music to their life with an AM- FM Mini Headphone Radio. How cool would it be to exercise to music without getting tangled in a cord? The only thing you have to worry about is keeping the tuner in the right spot on the dial. At the price of $4.95 each, you can buy one for yourself, too, it does, after all, adjust to fit any size head.

sibling-shoe-phone

What teenager doesn’t want a shoe phone? This one comes in the shape of a pump and all the cool girls have one. The Shoe Fashion Phone is designed with impact resistant high gloss plastic so it can stand up to Sally’s wrath when she’s having a bad hair day.  It’s Tone/Pulse Switchable, has last number redial and comes with – get this – Fully Modular Plugs.

 

sibling-ultimate-equalizerFor the jokester … the Ultimate Equalizer is the ultimate Sibling Day gift. This is awesome. Totally awesome.  This little box is a noisemaker in the shape of a radar detector. It relieves tension and hostility the fun way! When someone makes your brother mad, he can just turn on the flashing lights and choose from noises that include “auto machine gun, grenade launcher, death ray, and rifle gun”.  It will freak your brother’s enemies out. It’s the “crowning option for combating frustrations.” It can be mounted on a desk or dashboard.

sibling-vhs-rewinderAnd for the sibling who keeps racking up fees for returning video rentals without rewinding – give your sibling a practical and helpful gift. The Cassette Rewinder allows you to watch the latest episode of Full House that you recorded while rewinding that Mathew Modine movie that you missed when it was in the theaters.  It comes with the choice of VHS or Beta.

Of course, it’s 2014 and not 1989 so those items, to our disappointment, are no longer available at LTD Commodities, and our catalog has been updated with items you would be equally excited to give to your sibling today. Check it out.

 

Tax Day Countdown: Tax Deductions You Didn’t Know About

TAx-form-with-cashThe countdown to tax day is on. If you haven’t already filed your taxes, consider yourself lucky. Here are 7 tax deductions you didn’t know about.

1. Generosity If you loaned money to a friend or family member and they didn’t pay you back, don’t sweat it. Unpaid personal loans are tax deductible. Uncle Sam is looking out for you if you were being a little too generous this year. This also includes unpaid child support. You can read more about it in Publication 535, Business Expenses and Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses on the IRS website.

2. Home Office Getting tax relief for your home office is a little bit easier this year. The IRS simplified the option for you this year and they’ll you deduct $5 per square foot of your home office up to 300 square feet.

Tax-file3. Sales Tax If your income tax was low this year, you may want to look into how much sales tax you paid. You can claim your sales tax rather than your income tax. If you spent a lot of money, it may be worth going through your receipts and adding it all up. In addition to sales tax, if you didn’t get a state income refund last year, you can deduct it from your taxes this year.

4. Seasoned Students Even if you finished college 20 years ago, you can still get tax relief for returning to school. You can get up to a $4,000 deduction in your income tax for post-secondary education to improve your skills or add to them.

5. Early Withdrawal Penalties When you have money tied up in a time deposit account (like a certificate of deposit) and you make early an withdrawal, money that you give up in interest is tax deductible. Refer to page 18 in the IRS Publication 550 for more information.

6. Made in the USA Uncle Sam wants to keep business in the family. If you make goods here in the United States, you get up to a 9% deduction of your adjusted gross income. However, if your business involves oil, this amount is significantly reduced. You can learn more about this in the instructions for IRS Form 8903.

Tax-form7. Alimony If you are contributing income to a former spouse in the form of alimony, this money is tax deductible. This money has to be part of the divorce settlement — and other details of the divorce agreement, like child support, are not tax deductible. More can be found on the IRS website on Tax Topic 452.

Tax time is taxing, but if you do your homework, it doesn’t have to be as damaging to your wallet as you expect it to.

 

Taking Care of Your Pet: 6 Questions You Should Ask When You’re looking for a Vet

Vet-with-dogPets are part of the family and we want to take care of them the best we can. So when they get sick, where do we turn? Here are 6 questions you should ask when you’re looking for a vet.

What is the range of services the vet provides? 

Like a primary care doctor, you want your vet to have a wide range of services. Preventive, diagnosis and treatment, dentistry and surgery are all basic services. Your pet’s breed and age may require care outside of a vet’s scope of ability. It’s important to arm yourself with knowledge of your pet’s needs beyond common illnesses so you can match your pet with the right vet.

Are they accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association?

This is different than being a member — while membership means meeting standard veterinary practices, accreditation goes a step further with a rigorous evaluation process to provide high quality pet care. You want to make sure your vet is working to give your pet the best care possible – the AAHA has a system of checks and balances in place to make sure your vet knows what he or she is doing.

girl-with-kittensHow quickly can the vet see pets in emergency situations?

Pets can’t tell us what’s wrong, if there’s no purr or bark, for all we know they could be bleeding internally at worst  — or have a mild belly ache at best. We’re over protective and a good vet will know when it’s appropriate to make room in the schedule for your pet to give it the best possible care.

Does the operation offer after hours care?

We take for granted that emergency rooms for people are available at any time in every corner of our communities — but it’s not the quite same for pets. Emergencies happen at all hours, and when they do you should know if you can take your furry friend to the vet you chose or if you’ll have to drive ten miles to the pet ER at 2am on a Tuesday. It’s good to know what the situation is and if it will work for you.

How are overnight and weekend patients monitored?

It’s alarming to have a sick pet and the stress doubles if you have to leave your pet at the vet’s overnight. It’s important to be comfortable leaving Snowball, so make sure if your pet requires an overnight stay, you’re OK with how the doctors and technicians monitor patients for extended stays. If the office is closed on Sunday with someone coming in to check on the patients once, will you be OK with that? It’s something to consider to give you peace of mind when the time comes.

What is the position on end of life care?boy-with-dog

We want our pets to live as long and happy lives as possible. Pet owners have different views on appropriately prolonging a pet’s life. You should choose a doctor that shares your view. The end of a pet’s life is painful enough, it shouldn’t be aggravated by a dispute with your doctor.

Like any business, there are good vets and bad vets. If you do your research and ask the right questions, your pet will have a happy and healthy trip to the doctor.

 

 

Walk to Work Day: 5 Benefits of Walking

Man-walking

Image credit: yesbuts.wordpress.com

It’s National Walk to Work Day. We know that even a little bit of exercise can benefit your health but it does a body good in ways you’ve never heard – even if walking doesn’t make you sweat or make you feel like you got a great workout in. Here are 5 benefits from adding a few extra steps to your day that you didn’t know about.

Long Life

In a study published in the Public Library of Science the faster you walk, the better your chances are at having a long life. Researchers followed the walking and lifestyle habits of more than 38,000 people over nine years. By increasing your pace one minute per mile, they found it gives you a better chance at longer life and overall health. In short, pick up the pace.

Brain Power

A study done at the University of Pittsburgh shows men and women over sixty can slow down brain shrinkage by talking regular walks. Scientists suggest the mental decline we often think of as inevitable can be reduced with starting an exercise routine – even late in life.

Walking

Image credit: thebestyoumagazine.co

Weight Loss Walking

It doesn’t seem like much, but according to Iowa State University, by walking just 20 minutes a day, you can burn up to seven pounds of fat per year. That doesn’t mean you can eat what you want, walk 20 minutes and get rid of that spare tire, but if you watch what you eat and incorporate that walk, you can lose those unwanted inches.

Energy in, Energy Out

The more you walk, the more energy you have. In a study out of the University of Georgia, researchers found people who aren’t very active improved their energy by 20% and decreased fatigue by 65% by walking. Walking also increases circulation so that all of your organs get the blood and oxygen it needs for normal function. You might not want to walk now, but if you take that walk, you might feel like taking another one.

Merry March

Walking can actually make you happy. The Harvard Medical School did a review of studies showing regular exercise can ease depression in people with moderate symptoms. They also believe walking could be effective in treating people with severe depression. The only catch is that you have to walk more than 35 minutes five days a week for good results. 35 minutes isn’t such a big commitment if it means being happy.

Walking-group

Image credit: mindbodyandsoul.ca

With the weather warming up, you can make every day Walk to Work Day. Be happy, live longer. Walk to work.

Edible Gardens: 5 Plots to go from the Garden to the Table

vegetable-garden

Image credit: irrigationdirect.com

Winter is finally starting to wane and it’s time to think about what we want in your garden. A fun way to do that is to plan your garden around what you want to eat. It’s a simple idea and you’ll know exactly what to do with your vegetables once they’re harvested. Here are five edible gardens with vegetables that grow well together and taste great together, too.

American Garden:

What goes better with your barbecued chicken and ribs than creamy cole slaw? Not only is that grill in the backyard but so are the main ingredients for your slaw. All you need from the garden are cabbage, carrots and onions. The rest you can pick up from the store.

FYI:

  • Carrots and Cabbage are both biennial plants and fall crops can be easily stored during colder months.
  • Onions are harvested in late summer and can also be stored during winter months.
Pico-de-gallo

Image credit: yankeemagazine.com

Mexican Garden:

Chips and salsa are a great no-cook snack that you can eat throughout the summer. Salsa is best when it’s made fresh, but imagine if the ingredients — tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and cilantro — were picked from out your back door – it can’t get more delicious or easier than that. The recipe for salsa or pico de gallo is straightforward and if you add a mashed avocado and a couple of squeezes of lemon to the mix, you’ve got guacamole.

FYI:

  • Harvest cilantro weekly to keep the leaves growing and fresh.
  • Both tomatoes and jalapenos should be staked.
  • Tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro all work well as potted plants.

Italian Garden:

One of the best possible ways to taste fresh basil is in a caprese salad. It’s simple and tomatoes and basil love to grow together; they’re also the base for a margherita pizza. The recipe is easy (there’s no shame in using a store-bought crust!)  and if you have the other ingredients (onion, garlic, parsley and oregano) on hand or in the garden, you’ll be serving up Italian food all summer long.

FYI:

  • Basil is an annual and grows best in warm weather and should be harvested if temperatures are expected to dip below 40°F.
  • Tomato plants can handle temperatures as low as 30°F, but a frost could kill a tomato plant, so keep an eye on the forecast.

French Garden:

ratatouille

Image credit: makebetterfood.com

If you’re feeling a little French, you don’t have to go to Paris to get fresh ratatouille. Though there is debate on how to make authentic ratatouille, it can certainly be made on the stove top so you don’t heat up the entire kitchen during hot summer months.

FYI:

  • Zucchini (or squash), eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers all grow very well in hot weather.
  • Stagger your seedling start dates – start eggplant seedlings six weeks before your last frost date and give zucchini just a two week head start – will help you synchronize your harvest times and you can get your first summer dinner planned.

Spanish Garden:

For a cool soup in the summer, a cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, onions will deliver a good gazpacho. It requires little more than fresh vegetables and a good blender. And, if you’re feeling dangerous, you can steal a jalapeno from your pico de gallo garden to spice up your soup.

vegetable-gardens

Image credit: sharpercut.com

FYI:

  • Cucumbers should be picked every other day or so. Cucumbers left on the vine too long will make it harder for the plant to produce more cucumbers.
  • Both cucumbers and peppers love the sun and are thirsty  – as are onions – but water moderately and cover the soil around the plants with mulch to keep the moisture in.

Quick tip: Remember that most plants will probably need to be started indoors if you’re starting with a seed  and they shouldn’t be planted in the ground until after the last frost.

I have more ideas to share at LTD Commodities. Click here to find out more about me and the garden products I can’t do without.

April Fool’s Day: 5 of Recent History’s Great Pranks

People all over the world go all out to trick people on April Fool’s Day every year. One of the best and most elaborate pranks of all time was a British news segment about the Spaghetti Harvest in Switzerland that was broadcast in 1957. It takes a lot to fool anyone, but to really trick someone on April Fool’s Day like that takes some intelligence. Here are 5 of recent history’s great pranks:

eiffel-tower

Image credit: aparisguide.com

1986 Moving the Eiffel Tower

Parisians were up in arms over an announcement that the Eiffel Tower would be moved to Euro Disney. French newspaper Le Parisien said it was part of the 1992 Summer Olympic bid plan – the site of the Eiffel Tower would become part of the world stage. To the relief of Parisians, moving the Eiffel Tower was a joke, but, to their disappointment, the erection of Euro Disney was not a joke and the Olympic bid went to Barcelona.

1997 The Great Comics Switcheroonie

The funny papers got even funnier when readers opened the newspapers to find the comics jumbled – the characters had out-comic-strip experiences. Garfield and Jon were staying at the Bumsteads’s house (Blondie), Luann was babysitting Trixie from Hi and Lois, and Elizabeth and Michael in For Better or For Worse were speaking suspiciously like Mother Goose and Grimm. It was all part of a very elaborate hoax from the comic strip authors – they all got together and traded comics to write. It’s now referred to as the Great Comics Switcheroonie.

bass-fish

Image credit: cplandandlakes.com

2000 Snoozing Fish

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) threatened to subvert a fishing tournament in Texas by putting the fish to sleep. PETA announced they would fill the lake with tranquilizers before the tournament so the fish would nap rather than bite. Tournament organizers took the threat seriously and assigned officers to the lake to keep PETA members from carrying out the plan. Shockingly, PETA organizers admitted the idea was a hoax.

2010 Pet Sounds

The geeks at Google appealed to the furry side of British search engine users. Google.co.uk unveiled an application that would allow pet owners to understand meowing, barking, squeaks and what have you. The Google Translate for Animals claimed to convert animal noises to English. Brits figured out the application was too good to be true and now settle on guessing what Snowball is meowing about and what’s behind Rover’s woof.

2013 Virgin’s Glass Bottom Plane

virgin-airplane

Image credit: elitechoice.org

Richard Branson has been dazzling people with his innovative ideas through his Virgin brand for more than 40 years. From record stores to orbital launch vehicles, nothing seems to be too outrageous for Virgin to try – except for, maybe, the glass-bottomed plane. The fake announcement was made on April Fool’s Day 2013. They called it “Little Red” offering flights over Britain and hopes for flights abroad. Flights through Virgin Air are still possible, but expect to look down and see neutral colored carpet rather than vibrant greens of the British Isles when you fly.