Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cell Phone Update

A while ago, I was pondering whether or not to get a cell phone. Well, I finally bit the bullet and got one. Now, here's my review:

* I like having my own number. Friends can call me and know they will get me.
* It can be nice to have the phone when I'm out and want to call my husband and ask a question (what kind of batteries do we need, for example).

Unrelated to me pro:
* My husband needs a cell phone. He has had to call for rescue a couple of times from long bike rides.

* We have terrible reception in my house, so I usually have to talk outside, regardless of the weather or the huge deer looking at me in the front yard.
* I don't like to talk on the phone when I'm in a store or at another person's house, so I don't answer it at those times (generally). I also turn it off at work. I don't like to talk when I'm driving or when I'm walking somewhere... or ... just about any time that I'm out of the house. So what's the point? 95% of the time that I talk on the cell I am at home. Hmmm...
* I think that texts are sort of anti-social and expensive. I make/receive about 15 texts a month for about 5 dollars. Do the math. Worth it? No.
* I keep losing the darn phone in my house and have to use my husband's phone to call it and find it.
* My 8 year old could use the phone to call 911, but I really doubt that my younger kids could figure out how to unlock the phone and call 911. If they even knew where it was.
* I hate checking the voice mail. I much prefer listening to messages on the answering machine -- OR -- better yet :) -- screening messages on the answering machine.
* I thought that I wouldn't get trash phone calls, but the girl who had my number before me gets strange texts from a guy and many MANY collection calls. Awesome.

For two lines and a minimal minutes plan, we pay about 90 dollars a month. That is more than double our previous land line charge.

I think we made a mistake. We should probably just have a cell phone for my husband and a land line for me and the house. The cell phone really annoys me and is a rip off.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Colloidal Oatmeal -- What's the Deal?

I am a big fan of oatmeal baths. Actually, it may be just an extension of my general philosophy of sickness -- just about anything can be treated with tea and a warm bath. Sore throat? Tea, bath. Tummy ache? Tea (peppermint or ginger) and bath. Cramps? Tea, bath. Feeling terrible, depressed, whatever? Tea with plenty of sugar. Bath. Maybe turn off the lights and have bath by candlelight. Ahhhh....

Eczema? Hives? Bath. Tea would be soothing -- it always is -- but not necessary in this case. Although I guess it could help to be more hydrated in the case of eczema.

Anyway, the point is.... little E (my 4 yo) has terrible eczema. Last night she cried. It was awful. Her legs were covered in raised red blotches and she had scratched her belly and legs to the point of drawing blood. So, I went to the store and bought the whole anti-itch spectrum of products.

One of the products that I always rely on is colloidal oatmeal -- E really enjoys an oatmeal bath and it does seem to be very soothing. Just make sure to use lukewarm, NOT HOT, water because hot water just exacerbates skin problems. Normally I buy Aveeno oatmeal, but my supermarket also offered (for 2 dollars less) a large bag of colloidal oatmeal -- considering the number of baths it would work for, it was at least half the price of Aveeno. I looked at the ingredients -- both were 100% colloidal oatmeal, so I opted for the less expensive option.

When I got home, I started to wonder.... what the heck is colloidal oatmeal? Is it just finely ground oatmeal? What's the deal?

The package says not to eat the oatmeal. Colloidaloatmeal.com (no kidding) says the same thing. But the same website gives instructions on making colloidal oatmeal -- basically, you just grind up oats (not an package of instant oatmeal!) to a very fine consistency. A coffee grinder would probably work fine. That would be a HUGE savings.

So why does the package say not to eat it? Is finely ground oatmeal a danger? Or are they using some sub-human grade of oat? Maybe it's just gross? Who knows....

Another advantage of the oatmeal bath is that it's naturally cleansing because of saponins in the oats that attract dirt and oils (source). Little eczema sufferers should not be using soap because it is very harsh and drying, so any cleansing that comes through oatmeal is a nice bonus :)

So.... note for future:
Aveeno oatmeal baths (8 packets) -- 6.99 on Drugstore.com
Giant bag of colloidal oatmeal -- <4.99 at HEB
grind oats -- <1.00/pound

It's awesome when it's less expensive to be green. No trip to the store. No extra packaging. Just grind the oats you already have. Beautiful

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Make Something New -- Arroz Con Leche

Me encanta el arroz con leche. Es delicioso.

I love arroz con leche. My husband and I have an ongoing "discussion" about it. He likes it soupy. I like it more like a pudding consistency. When I was in Spain I had it frequently -- it was cold and it was delicious -- and it was pudding-like, as arroz con leche should be (I think).

Actually, I prefer it warm, but that doesn't matter.

I made arroz con leche for the first time as a treat for my Spanish class. Here's the recipe:
(I googled it, but made some changes.)

4 c. milk (whole milk is optimal, but if it scares you, use the highest fat milk you are comfortable with... the recipe will still work)
1-1/4 c. water
1 c. rice (it's true ... you don't use much rice at all)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teas. salt
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. raisins, soaked in water to plump 'em up
2 teas. vanilla

Bring milk and water to a light boil. Stir in rice, add cinnamon sticks and cover and cook on low for about 30 minutes. Then, remove the sticks and add all other ingredients. Continue cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes.

As the arroz con leche cools, it will become more solid. We had it last night and it was a soupy consistency. By morning, it was solid and I had to add more milk.

It's delicious as a dessert or for breakfast. Raisins are optional but delicious. Some recipes say to add butter or a spoonful of brandy before serving. No need -- it's wonderful as is.

The best thing? Another cheapo magnifico food. I made a double recipe for about 5 dollars. If you don't have cinnamon sticks it doesn't matter -- just put a little cinnamon in. Even nutmeg will work in a pinch - I looked at many different recipes. The classic presentation uses cinnamon sticks, however.

Then, you sing:
"Arroz con leche
me quiero casar
con una viudita de la capital.
Que sepa coser
que sepa bordar
que ponga la mesa en su santo lugar."

And you are glad that we have moved on in priorities :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Daisy Meeting -- Teach Kids to Sew

My 2nd year daisies are working on their firefly patch. It's a kind of strange patch system, but the basic idea is that a firefly lights the way -- so the girls learn how to do something new. Ideally, they help each other learn something new. We are working on that.

I thought that sewing would be a nice way to start working on this patch. The girls in my troop are 6 -- most have very little sewing experience, but they are starting to have the fine motor skills necessary to sew. Plus, sewing is a lifelong skill and it's something that is best learned from another person.

So, for our meeting we made beanbag turkeys. I cut brown felt into two large circles, cut out some feathers out of more felt and a little triangle felt beak. The girls started by sewing on the beak. Then we carefully placed the feathers -- explaining to the girls that you have to put the feathers on the inside so that they will be on the outside when you turn the turkey right-side out. The girls sewed the turkeys together, filled them with beans, placed googly eyes, and the adult helpers stitched them up (this was a little too difficult for a 6 year old).

The girls were SOOOO proud and busy for the whole time. I was happy to see that everyone finished and was able to bring home a complete bean bag turkey.

So -- can you teach a six year old to sew? Yep.

A four year old? It hasn't worked so well in my house, but if your child rocks a lacing card, it could work.

Should you? Definitely. Kids like to know how to do something useful -- and sewing is a skill that everyone should have.

With real needles? Yep! I told the girls "These needles are real. They are sharp. If you poke yourself, you will bleed, so be careful." And they were. If you are going to teach a real skill, the child needs to use the real tools (to a reasonable extent of course -- don't give a 6 yo a chainsaw to go cut firewood!)

And they like it? For sure! It's kept my kids busy all week :) My son has actually had more fun sewing little bean bag creations than playing video games.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How much do 6 stitches cost?

Well, the consensus in Gradgreenland is that unless we are dying, nobody goes to the ER. There is an urgent care place pretty close by and they do stitches, so we'll head there if anybody's bleeding.

I promised to report back on the cost of C's ER visit. Check it out (and remember, he HAS insurance, so this is the negotiated rate):

Physician services: 602.00 (the doctor cleaned his wound, gave him a shot of local anesthetic and gave him 6 stitches. Some areas could not be stitched.)

Hospital services: 2161.75 -- adjusted for insurance to 1405.14. I guess this includes the supplies, sitting in a room for a couple of hours, inadequate financial counseling, and the nurse who bandaged the wound.

Yowza -- $2007.15 total. C has a high deductible HSA, so we are responsible for most of that. I will be calling the hospital to see if this can be reduced at all.

Will there be other bills? Who knows.

It seems excessive, doesn't it?

What makes me extra mad is that the whole point of an HSA is that the patient will be able to have control of medical expenses, but I ASKED about the price of various things and nobody was able to give me even the most vague idea.

Keep in mind -- this was all for a cut on the elbow -- a pretty gross bloody cut -- but a non-life-threatening injury. It probably would have been okay, albeit gory, with no stitches at all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Make Something New -- Onion Tart

A few weeks ago I made an amazing discovery -- onion tart. Wow! It's delicious and it's super cheap to make. A friend of mine brought some over and I liked it so much that I kept trying to save it for a time that I could really appreciate it. Because of all my waiting around for the perfect moment, C got to a good portion of the tart before I could.

This month, my goal is to make something new at least once a week. Something I've NEVER made before. I want to 1) get out of my food rut and 2) try to expand my horizons.

Although I am a major proponent of scratch baking, I don't make pie crust. I buy pie crust. It comes in a package, wrapped in plastic and it's pretty darn convenient.

But, what exactly is IN that packaged pie crust? And it's kind of expensive considering what I discoverd when I decided to make my own.

Tonight I made pie crust for my onion tart. All by myself. And I found out something amazing.

Pie crust has 3 ingredients:
-some spoonfuls of water

How can that be?

I whipped up the crust very easily. I'm not saying it was the best crust in the world, but I made it myself, and I am proud :)

I filled it with 3 large carmelized onions cooked in a few tablespoons of butter -- all of that mixed with 2 beaten eggs. The recipe I found did not call for cheese, but I had some fancy cheese and sprinkled it over the top.


So, if you want to make onion tart, you only need a few ingredients that you probably already have. That is what is so genius about this recipe. All you need is:
cheese (optional)
bacon (optional)
salt -- the recipe did not call for salt, but I put a little in.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stitches and Wound Care

C had a bike accident last week and was taken to the ER for stitches. This brought up lots of questions:

Q:Why did he have to wait 2 hours with an open bleeding wound before he was given any local anesthetic for the pain?
A: Because they were collecting his insurance information. Duh. By the time I met him at the hospital he was shaky and pale. Pobrecito.

Q: How much does it cost to get stitches at the ER?
A: Nobody knows. But they will be happy to collect your insurance information. If you decide that you would like to leave before the stitching takes place, you will still be charged for triage. How much? No one there can/will tell you.

Q: Should the stitched wound be bandaged or allowed to air dry?
A: At the hospital, we were told to keep it covered for 1-2 days and then let it air. It was too disgusting to look at, so I encouraged C to cover it up. I also consulted a wound care specialist and she told me that it should be covered and to keep antibiotic ointment on it. Nobody at the hospital said anything about antibiotic ointment.

Q: So, who's right?
A: Well, this blog has a lovely visual that explains why it should be covered. However, there is a reference to band-aid at the end, so perhaps that's not non-biased. Familydoctor.org says that it is not necessary to cover the wound unless it will get dirty or unless it covers "a large area of the body". Ick. Dr. Sears says to cover it for the first 48 hours and not to let a scab build up (this is also what we were told at the hospital). Seattle Childrens has similar advice.

Q: Should a wound be covered if it is grossing out other people?
A: Yes. It should also get antibiotic ointment and a dressing change once a day.

Q: Is removal of stitches covered in the mysterious amount charged in the initial ER bill?
A: Call the hospital. They won't tell you.

Q: Can a complete amateur remove stitches at home in less than 5 minutes?
A: Yep. You need alcohol, tweezers and scissors. Make sure everything is SUPER disinfected and clean (obviously). There are instructions all over the internet, and even videos on youtube (blech). All these sources (and I too, of course) say that it is not recommended to remove stitches at home.

Q: Did it hurt?
A: C said it pinched a little on the first stitch but then didn't hurt at all. :)

I think it's really messed up that nobody at the hospital could/would tell us 1) how much the visit would cost, 2) how much just triage would cost, 3) how much the medicines prescribed would cost or 4) whether or not stitch removal was included in the original ER visit. Thanks a lot Seton!

*I will be sure to update on how much stitches do cost. We really would have liked to know. Our health system is ridiculous.