Chinese Herbs Fighting Bladder Cancer

I’m reblogging this from Mednology. While it *is* mind blowing, it’s important to remember that 1) there are cancer precursors in our bodies almost all the time; 2) Chinese medicine and herbs are tailored to specific patients with specific conditions. That is, Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan (which means, roughly, a mixture of Cinnamon branch and Poria, a fungus) shouldn’t be taken as a cure-all preventative by any and everybody; it should be administered as appropriate by somebody trained in Chinese herbalism. Treat the whole person, not the symptom!


Midterms & Found Money

Hey! I’m in a studying induced black hole. I just finished my second of 5 midterms but won’t be done until a week from today.

In the meantime, I’ve been distracting myself (read: procrastinating) by saving us a shit-ton of money by switching our car insurance! Ha. No, actually, we really do use GEICO, but we saved a shit-ton of money by finally getting our car paid off and then switching off our comprehensive and collision coverage, which we really don’t need. $500 bucks a year, GONE!

Then I was going over some other bills (PROCRASTINATING… Biochemistry wasn’t about to study itself, but I had to pay the cable bill, so…) and realized that we’ve been paying for phone service (we don’t even have a landline home phone!) since March, when Mr. Frugalacupunc reinstated our service and they told him it would be a free element of a combo package. Liars! We called, got a credit for the unused service, and turned off our cable. Again. (Yes, I’ll need to watch the Mad Men finale on iTunes now, but that’s $3.) Score! We still have to pay $55 a month for internet, which seems like highway robbery when you consider that it’s $29 when offered as a piece of one of those aforementioned combo deals, but that’s a solution for another day.

So: we’re making the transition to a simpler, cheaper, calmer home, with plenty of Netflix and iTunes entertainment options, and I finally got that studying done (got 100 on that exam, YES).

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but we’re also saving tons of money on the front brakes of our car, of all things. My husband had ceramic brake pads installed 2 years ago (yes, you read that right). They were a lot more expensive than ordinary brake pads, but our mechanic assured him that they would be worth it because they were far more durable. Well, it’s 2 years later, and guess what’s still on our car? The ceramic pads. We’ve dutifully taken it in every 6 months or so to be sure their not wearing out – Mr. Frugalacupunc was convinced we needed new ones just a few weeks ago, but the mechanic said they were still fine – for a total of, what? $600 saved? That’s crazy. Crazy good.

More automotive shenanigans: did you know motorcycles regularly get as much as 77 miles per gallon? WHAT? I just learned this. Now I want to get a motorcycle license at the same time that we move upstate. If you have to commute 90 minutes one way, it may as well be fun.

Sorry I’m so random… I think I’m in a biochemistry haze. I need to recover quickly since I’ve got 2 more big exams on Monday, and the biggest, baddest of all – Anatomy 2 – next Friday. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend! I’ll be thinking of you as I cram the 67 points of the Urinary Bladder channel into my cranium.

The Popcorn Files

OK, so how did I manage to make it weeks without posting? And I just started? WHO KNOWS?

The truth is I’ve been kind of lazy. I’m not preoccupied by school (I’m fortunate enough to have a light schedule this term and only have to go in 3 days a week – 2 after this week) or exercise or cleaning (ha!) but I’ve been making some good progress on a few small goals.

1) We received a supplemental financial aid check due to me dropping a course the first week of the term. This is gone already on our final car payment + associated fees (YES!!!) a new rear bike tire for me, some school related purchases (one textbook that you have to bring with you to a national exam, so there’s no avoiding the purchase, a lab coat for clinic, and some dressmaker’s pins for a facial points project involving a styrofoam head) and — wait for it– a $20 air popper from Amazon! I feel like this is the score of the century! Especially because those offered online from the big box stores were upwards of $30 and I got this with free 2-day shipping, so good for me. Next stop: Union Square greenmarket for some organic popcorn, straight from the farm.

I’ve managed to spend only about $250 on groceries so far this month, which (if the trend continues) means we’ll hit about $500 for the month. I’m not quite sure how I achieved this, but several bags of dried beans have been cooked in the past two weeks, and I’m sure this is somehow related to the overall grocery savings. In other news, my son told me yesterday that he thinks he has iron-deficiency anemia due to lack of meat. LOL. I told him to eat more greens — their iron is just as accessible and easily processed as long as he’s receiving adequate vitamin C (more fruits and vegetables!). He was obviously thrilled with my advice.

The grocery savings was somewhat (not entirely) offset by a ginormous electric bill, which made no sense at first since we’ve had a really mild May and June and have turned on the air conditioners maybe twice, during a mini heatwave.

However, we had a refrigerator crap-out (it was running all the time and frozen things started to melt) that I think might account for the high bill. It turns out that mice (eeeeew but yes, that’s NYC apartment dwelling – there are nasty uninvited critters all over the place, no matter how much people deny it**) had been taking the insulation out of the back of the unit and using it for nesting. Gross. But the landlord sent over the refrigerator fix-it guy and things seem to be functioning normally; now we just need competent exterminators who come more often than once a month. *SIGH*

Sidenote: I researched natural mouse repellants after this incident. Did you know that mice hate peppermint oil and vinegar? Who knew? So I soaked several cotton balls in apple cider vinegar and strong peppermint tea (I didn’t have any peppermint essential oil but I’ll pick some up this week) and tossed them in back of the refrigerator, in back of the stove, and in the vicinity of the known mouse holes, which are filled in with steel wool. We’re in a large apartment building and it seems that the mice have made a network from apartment to apartment. Anyway, I haven’t seen any since placing those cotton balls, but the sources I read say that the effect wears off unless you refresh it. Just thought I’d share in case anyone else has rodent issues and wants to avoid traps and nasty chemicals.

So, humans 1, mice 1.

In the meantime, I’m psyched about the bike tire purchase. This means I can implement my long-pondered plan to become a half bike commuter.

I say half because I live about 15 miles from my school, which would be fine if I lived on pretty, winding, smooth country roads, but I don’t. I live on pothole riddled Bronx streets which are treacherous not only for the poor road conditions, but also for the crazy a-hole drivers all over the city. I am fortunate enough to live within close proximity to the NYC Greenway system, which is both safely car-free and freshly paved, but taking it means I have to go a few miles out of my way and the trip could verge on 20 miles one-way. Since I’m not a fast rider anyway, and city traffic means lots of lights and delays, that means it might take as much as 2 hours to commute (plus, I haven’t ridden in a while and 30 to 40 miles a day seems like a lot). So my big plan is to take the train in, with my bike, chain the bike up outside, and ride the bike home. This will actually only work on Fridays (Mondays I have a night class, and no, I won’t be riding my bike home through the potholed streets of sketchy areas of the Bronx at 10:30 pm) but it will be decent practice run for fall, when my schedule changes dramatically. I figure I can save about half of my commuting costs and get some great exercise in at the same time.

Alright. WALL OF TEXT. Evidently I had  a lot to say there. Next time, I will discuss my personal snowball credit payment method and the ripoff that is payment protection, but in the meantime, have a great day, avoid the critters, and enjoy those dried beans!

**Second sidenote: During a period of unemployment, Mr. Frugalacupunc found a temporary position with an exterminator. He said rich people have roaches, rats, mice and bedbugs just like everyone else. Ewww.


Mental Minimalism

I have a couple of short observations to share during my little post-oatmeal, pre- ‘studying the digestive system for hours for anatomy 2’ break.

First, over the weekend I wandered into our local Bed Bath & Beyond with my son, looking for an air-popper for popcorn. We have one in our student lounge and it reminded me that air-poppers exist (plus, we buy a lot of that delicious Herbs & Spices organic popcorn from Trader Joe’s, and it is awesome, but costs $2 a bag for maybe 4 cups of popped corn. We’d do a lot better if we popped and spiced our own). My takeaways from that are, one, I am old, since my 16-year-old son had no idea what I was talking about and referred to the little devices as relics from the 1980’s. Two, I’m really starting to develop a sensitivity to all of the consumerist clutter and bullshit in a big-box environment like Bed Bath & Beyond. All I could see for miles was walls fully covered in plastic gee-gaws, and I didn’t like it. I’ve always been one to go for the more expensive but well-made and long lasting product over the cheaper, crappier pieces, but I think I’m coming to a point where I no longer even want the well made product; instead, I want nothing at all, and in fact want to get rid of or sell some of the stuff we already have (which is probably a surprising amount, considering we live in maybe an 800 square foot apartment). I want to put all of our money toward a happy future and spend only on absolute essentials. I like this feeling. It’s liberating.

On the same note, we’ve been trying to minimize the auditory and mental clutter around our home. We’re pretty mellow in general, but my husband is a little bit of a news addict (which is putting it euphemistically in kind of the same way that you might say Lucille Bluth has a little bit of a taste for vodka). Anyway, for years it’s been NPR this and CNN that and never really any silent non-media saturated moments – we’ve sped home early from beach and camping trips because WE HAVE TO MAKE IT HOME BY 7 FOR 60 MINUTES, you know, that kind of thing. So for the past week he’s been trying a no-news, or at least minimal news, experiment, and I’ve got to say it’s been lovely. There’s not so much noise, he’s not so distracted, we can all talk and engage and enjoy life without worrying that we’re interrupting the IMPORTANT UPDATE of the moment, and there’s no underlying sense of chaos and anxiety, which is what I think the 24-hour cable news cycle serves to generate and perpetuate. The no-news experiment seems to be clearing out mental clutter and showing how we can create mental space for things that are more important.  This is unexpected and I love it (almost as much as I love studying the 4 tissue layers of the gastrointestinal tract… oh, wait, I don’t love that. Never mind).

OK, break over. Back to work.