Cut the Cable…

You can save many dollars per month by switching to basic cable television and continuing to rent the cable-box for a few bucks. One can even live without cable TV. Fox News Channel has an internet website that shows the main news stories on video, and other amusing content. Many other cable channels have the same feature. With the cable box, one can still rent on a pay-per view basis, or even choose to watch the free movies offered, including fearnet productions and classic horror flicks. If your monthly cable bill is a fright, consider living without premium service. It is possible!

Additionally, you can purchase classic movies for a few dollars apiece and create a movie library. Considering what is actually available on premium cable television, and the abundance of things you would never watch but are paying for nonetheless, it is worth cutting it from your budget.

Strategy Room: Streaming TV News Talk Shows on FNC


2009 Miscellaneous


USPS News, 2009:

New Forever Personalized Stamp Envelope

WASHINGTON — A noted author, a philanthropist and a racehorse champion are among the subjects featured on the Postal Service’s 2009 price-change stamps. In addition, a new Forever personalized stamped envelope is being introduced.“The stamps we are issuing cover a variety of subjects and will have wide appeal across many audiences,” said David Failor, manager, Stamp Services. “We are especially pleased to introduce a new Forever personalized stamped envelope. It will make quite an impression.” Most of these stamps will be issued on or before the May 11 stamp price change, Failor noted.

Richard Wright (61 cents)

Richard Wright stamp

With this 25th stamp in the Literary Arts series, the U.S. Postal Service honors author Richard Wright (1908-1960). Best remembered for his controversial 1940 novel, “Native Son,” and his 1945 autobiography, “Black Boy,” Wright drew on a wide range of literary traditions, including protest writing and detective fiction, to craft unflinching portrayals of racism in American society. The stamp artwork by Kadir Nelson features a portrait of Richard Wright in front of snow-swept tenements on the South Side of Chicago, a scene that recalls the setting of “Native Son.” Nelson’s portrait of Wright was based on a circa 1945 photograph.

Polar Bear (28 cents)

Polar Bear stamp

This stamp features a stylized illustration of a polar bear. Polar bears, found throughout the Arctic region, are among the largest land carnivores in the world. Newborn cubs weigh just over one pound, while full-grown males can weigh more than 1,500 pounds. Illustrator Nancy Stahl used a collection of photographs to create this design. Stahl has created several stamp designs for the Postal Service, including the Florida Panther in 2007 and Dragonfly in 2008.

Koi Fish Stamped Cards (28 cents)

Koi fish stamped card
Koi fish stamped card

These stamped cards feature colorful carp known as koi. Many Americans collect koi, prizing these large freshwater fish for their bold, bright colors in striking combinations and patterns. The stamp art is by Kam Mak, who left Hong Kong as a child and grew up in New York City’s Chinatown. He based the art on his own photographs of koi.

Purple Heart (44 cents)

Purple Heart stamp

With the reissuance of the Purple Heart stamp, the Postal Service honors the sacrifices of the men and women who serve in the U.S. military. The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president of the United States to members of the U.S. military who have been wounded or killed in action. The medal is the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first award made available to a common soldier. The stamp features a photograph by Ira Wexler of one of two Purple Hearts awarded to James Loftus Fowler of Alexandria, VA, who was battalion commander of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines serving in Vietnam. This stamp was first issued in 2003.

Wedding Rings (44 cents)

Wedding Rings stamp

This new one-ounce stamp featuring wedding rings is intended for use on the response envelope enclosed with a wedding invitation. Photographed by Renée Comet of Washington, DC, the rings rest on a small white pillow united by a slender ribbon of white silk.

Wedding Cake (61 cents)

Wedding Cake stamp

Sure to add a touch of beauty and romance to wedding correspondence, the 2009 Wedding Cake stamp is being issued at the two-ounce mailing rate in order to accommodate the heavier weight of an invitation. In addition, the price covers other mailings such as oversize cards or small gifts that require extra postage. The stamp depicts a three-tier wedding cake topped with white flowers, their green stems and leaves a delightful contrast to the cake’s creamy white frosting. The cake was photographed by Renée Comet of Washington, DC.

King and Queen of Hearts (44 cents)

King and Queen of Hearrts stamps

These stamps pay a clever tribute to the world’s favorite game—the game of love—with the issuance of the King and Queen of Hearts, the latest stamps in the Love series. As the English poet, John Donne, wrote, love is “got by chance” but “kept by art.” With all its risks and pleasures, love is sure to keep writers busy for a long time to come. And with these stamps, love letters and other correspondence will have a delightful, playful touch. Using images from 18th-century French playing cards as reference, artist Jeanne Greco created the stamp art.

Forever Personalized Stamped Envelope

Forever Personalized  stamped envelope

Whether it’s for business or personal correspondence, the way you send your mail sends a message. Make an impression with this new Forever personalized stamped envelope. You can include your name, your company’s name, address, and even a short message or slogan as part of the personalization. There’s lots of extra convenience with personalized stamped envelopes, and no need to affix postage or type in your name and return address. This envelope is available only through the Personalized Stamped Envelope Program. Call 1 800-STAMP-24 to order.

Seabiscuit Stamped Envelope (44 cents)

Seabiscuit stamped envelope

An unassuming champion, Seabiscuit raised the hopes and spirits of a beleaguered nation during the Great Depression with a series of unlikely victories. A small, dull brown, unattractive horse, he ran perhaps his greatest race against just a single horse: the 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral. Held on Nov. 1, 1938, at Pimlico in Maryland, the race drew around 40,000 spectators and was broadcast on the radio to 40 million listeners across the country, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. War Admiral, the favorite to win, ran his fastest time at the track distance by 1-3/16 miles. However, Seabiscuit won the race by four lengths and set a blazing track record in the process. Artist John Mattos created the design, which depicts a scene from the exciting 1938 match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.

Later in the year, the following stamps will be issued:

Mary Lasker (78 cents)

Mary Lasker stamp

This stamp in the Distinguished Americans series honors Mary Woodard Lasker (1900-1994), philanthropist, political strategist, and ardent advocate of medical research for major diseases. Lasker persuaded the nation’s leaders to adopt dramatic increases in public funding for biomedical research, and her efforts helped make cancer research a national priority. Created by Mark Summers, the stamp artwork is based on an undated, black-and-white photograph. Summers is noted for his scratchboard technique, a style distinguished by a dense network of lines etched with exquisite precision.

U.S. Flag (44 cents)

U.S. Flag stamp

This stamp depicts one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. The American flag has regularly appeared on definitive stamps intended for mail use, and recent commemoratives have displayed the flag as well. This new stamp, a photograph by Rick Barrentine of Duluth, GA, depicts a detail of an American flag. The detail, showing a softly folded flag, features most prominently the starry blue field, with red-and-white stripes occupying the remaining space.

Celebrate! (44 cents)

Celebrate! stamp

This stamp, first issued in 2007, helps to acknowledge a host of happy occasions, from birthdays to engagements to anniversaries and more. When good times call for good wishes, this stamp will add a touch of cheer to special greeting cards and gift-bearing packages. Artist Nicholas Wilton of San Geronimo, CA, designed the Celebrate! stamp

Dolphin (64 cents)

Dolphin stamp

This stamp features the bottlenose dolphin, a marine mammal noted for its high intelligence and playful behavior. The bottlenose dolphin belongs to the family Delphinidae, which includes over 30 species of dolphins that swim in oceans and bays around the world. Found mainly in temperate and tropical waters, bottlenose dolphins are social animals that live in groups ranging in size from two to several hundred. They eat a variety of fish, as well as squid and crustaceans. This stamp was illustrated by Nancy Stahl.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (98 cents)

Grand Teton National Park stamp

This international rate stamp in the Scenic American Landscapes series features a photograph by Dennis Flaherty (Bishop, Calif.) of Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. The photograph was taken from the Snake River Overlook at dawn. Originally established in 1929 to protect part of the Teton Range and lakes near its base, the park was expanded in 1950 to include much of the adjacent Jackson Hole valley. Renowned for its climbing and hiking trails, the park, which encompasses nearly 310,000 acres, receives most of its nearly 2.5 million recreational visitors a year in the warm summer months, where they marvel at the park’s wildlife, including moose, bald eagles, and trumpeter swans.

Zion National Park (79 cents)

Zion National Park stamp

This stamp in the Scenic American Landscapes series features a photograph of a sandstone formation on the east side of Zion National Park in Utah. Established in 1909 as Mukuntuwean National Monument, the park was expanded and designated a national park in 1919. Now encompassing more than 229 square miles, Zion National Park is characterized by high plateaus and mesas with deep standstone canyons carved into towering cliffs. One hundred twenty miles of hiking trails are available to the approximately 2.5 million people who annually visit the park. The photograph featured on the stamp was taken by Richard Cummins of Temecula, Calif.

In addition to these stamps, the Postal Service is introducing a new Forever Personalized Stamp Envelope, as well as a stamped envelope featuring the racehorse champion Seabiscuit and a stamped post card featuring the koi fish.

American Treasures: Edward Hopper (44 cents)

Edward Hoppert stamp

A sunlit painting by Edward Hopper is showcased in the ninth entry in the American Treasures series. “The Long Leg,” painted in oil on canvas around 1930, depicts a boat sailing against the wind near Provincetown, MA. As a child, Hopper enjoyed drawing and reading. He determined early that he wanted to be an artist. One of his teachers at the New York School of Art was Robert Henri, the noted realist painter. Today, Hopper’s work remains highly popular and influential. The American Treasures series was inaugurated in 2001. It is intended to exhibit beautiful works of American fine art and crafts.

# # #

Please Note: For broadcast quality video and audio, photo stills and other media resources, visit the USPS Newsroom at

An independent federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that visits every address in the nation — 146 million homes and businesses. It has 37,000 retail locations and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to pay for operating expenses, not tax dollars. The Postal Service has annual revenues of $75 billion and delivers nearly half the world’s mail.


Miscellaneous Items from M-J

My latest housecleaning formula: water, vinegar, lemon juice, eucalyptus oil, and banana extract–smells lovely!

New Article in the Telegraph U.K. on the Recession, Citing some of the Advice I Have Given on Elegant Survival for Three Years

Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide

Gardening, Spring 2009:

Buy eggs in cardboard cartons, rather than in styrofoam ones. Fill them with dirt, and start your seeds in them, one per egg-cup.  Then, when the danger of frost has ended, you do not need to transplant each seedling individually. All you do is dig an area and set in the egg carton (minus the lid, of course, which you tore off earlier). Cover up the edges with soil. The cardboard egg carton will bio-degrade inside your garden.
Spray a solution of 30% hydrogen peroxide and 60% water on your seedlings and plants to give them an oxygen-boost.

Elegant Cupboard Update

Elegance Is Found in Simplicity
Elegance Is Found in Simplicity

Recycle your analogous jars, fill them with your staples, and label them yourself. This reduces the visual confusion in your kitchen cupboards or cabinets.

Elegant Kitchen Cupboard Update
, March 21st 2009

Elegant Kitchen Cabinet Organization Update, March 21st
Elegant Kitchen Cabinet Organization Update, March 21st

Elegant Survival Household Tips

New Additions, November 29th, 2007:
Microwave Safety
Always cook with glass dishes when using a microwave oven. Even if your crockery was made after the lead-poisoning alert, it could still be produced by a manufacturer whose products have slipped past the inspections/standards process. Pyrex and Corningware are safe, as are inexpensive glass dishes and cups made by Arcoroc of France. I have one glass mug in which I reheat my coffee.
Speaking of Coffee…
I’ve found that Douwe Egberts is my favourite brand of coffee in Europe, and I am also very fond of their Senseo pods which are used in the eponymous brewing system. I liked it so well that I bought them for two of my friends. However, the pods can be punitively expensive if one wants to have five or six cups a day of Senseo coffee. In my Utopian vision of a perfect world, that is what I would do. But, I’m loath to be so self-indulgent, and only use the Senseo brewer when I have guests. For daily coffee in the U.S., I recommend Yuban. You can purchase a two-and-a quarter pound can of Yuban Original Colombian Coffee for about $5.00 US. It smells heavenly–even more so than Chock-Full-O’Nuts in New York claims to do. I like to percolate it in a stainless steel coffee pot. It tastes wonderful, for those who don’t like their coffee beans blackened beyond recognition Starbucks-style. Speaking of coffees available in the U.S.A., I subscribed to Gevalia Swedish coffees for twelve years until I sensed that their quality had gone down–that was just before I discovered the Senseo system. If you use powdered, non-dairy creamers, avoid Coffee-Mate. It contains aluminum (see my health section). Brands that don’t are offered at Sam’s and Wal*Mart; anywhere else, you only have to read the ingredients and see that your choice doesn’t include aluminates (popular flow-agents) of any kind.
Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ironing a Man’s Shirt
My Swedish grandmother taught me how to iron men’s shirts. Like Scandinavians of all social strata, she adored being at the ironing board. I don’t know how other people do it, but here is our system:
Flattening and folding the yoke (found under the collar at the back of shirt) at its bottom seam, iron it. You can iron-out the resultant crease later, when ironing the whole of the back.Iron the underside of the collar, then its topside, then iron a crease at the seam where it meets the shirt.
Iron the insides and outsides of the cuffs, before doing the two sleeves. Then you are ready to execute the easy parts: the two front sides and the back.
Hint: keep a spray bottle of water nearby to mist the shirt’s stubborn wrinkles, even if you have a steam iron. Spraying with water is generally safer than using the shot-of-steam feature on your iron. If do you use steam, empty the iron, refill it, and test-run for rusty water which can be difficult to remove once it is on the shirt. Do not use the highest temperature setting: crispy brown edges are for tortes, not chemises!
Besides the great feeling of accomplishment one gets finishing each shirt, it saves money which one may have spent having a cleaning outfit doing the work. There is dignity in ironing; don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
UPDATE: The very best iron that I have ever owned is this one from Panasonic. I have owned irons from Germany that cost three times as much, and each one ruined my silk clothes by dripping on them. This one is totally reliable, and costs about $30.00 US. I choose the the Japanese over the Germans here, and if given the same choice in cars, I would do the same.
Washing Your Shirts
Your shirts will last much longer if they are washed by hand and hung to dry. Don’t use so much detergent that it takes a rinsing marathon to remove it. “A little dab’ll do ya”, as the old Brylcreem jingle said. Wet the grimy, sweaty and stained spots and rub them with a bar of Zote Soap (in the absence of Zote, a bar of Octagon will do). Soak them overnight in a small tub of water, then agitate and rinse by hand, preferably. Hang to dry. If you don’t want to get hanger-marks on the shoulders, just put wash-cloths under them, over the ends of your hanger. My husband has been treating his shirts this way for decades, and some of them have lasted for twenty years. The worst thing to do, even if you wash your shirts in cold water in the gentle cycle, is to dry them in a machine–doing so will quickly degrade your shirt’s fibers. You’d be surprised at how swiftly they dry naturally, and when they are just a wee bit damp, shirts are easy to iron. Sending your expensive or custom-made shirts to the cleaners may seem luxurious, but will sound an early death-knell for them. Getting up-close and personal with your shirts will ensure that they enjoy the good, long life that their maker intended.
~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton; August, 2007

Because Swiffer-type cloths are expensive, and not re-usable after a certain point, I now use large microfiber cloths for dusting furniture and floors. They pick up just as much dust and hair as the aforementioned product. Large microfiber cloths are available in bulk at Sam’s Club, in blue, yellow, chartreuse and orange. At our last purchase, they were 15 USD for 25 of them. They’re soft and washable. Here is what I devised today for dusting floors and cars–it leaves those disposable electrostatic gadgets in the dust:

M-Jeanne’s Home-Made Microfiber Dust-Mop

Take three large microfiber cloths and lay them on top of each other, at varying angles. Center your stack of cloths over the end of an old broom/mop stick, and then, a couple of inches from the end of stick, strap them on with a tightly-pulled, heavy-duty plastic cinch (available at Sam’s and office-supply stores–alternatively, you may use a rubber band). Invert this and run it around your floor, under furniture, or over your car. Clean the mop by shaking it outdoors. You could even use a lint-brush on the cloth, then when you have enough dirty ones, wash them together in the machine. Repeat construction process after they are dry, using a fresh cinch (I use multipurpose ties/cinchos by Thomas Betts). Attach the Cloths to the Broomstick; Invert and Use Dust-Mop

Microfibre Dust-Mop and Photos Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2007

Update: I have found that a microfibre rag will adhere to a sponge-mop. Tie the ends and you will be ready to clean and polish a smooth floor with very little moisture. Fill a one-litre spray bottle with water, leaving room to add a third-cup of white vinegar and one teaspoon of lavender oil. Shake it. This is my preferred cleaning fluid. Mist the floor with it, and go over it with the dry microfibre mop until it is dry and shiny. This cleaning mist can be used on sinks and fixtures, mirrors, microwave ovens, jugs, anything that needs cleaning and shining about the house. It is also a deodorant. The scent of the lavender overpowers that of the vinegar. Careful–this method of cleaning is so easy that you may be cleaning as a hobby if you don’t temper your enthusiasm!

M-J’s Miscellaneous Hints

Keep newly-polished silver free of tarnish by storing it with a piece of aluminum foil (one of the safer uses for aluminum).

Omit the fabric-softener when washing and drying towels. It leaves a coating which reduces their absorbency. I prefer a sun-dried white cotton towel, which is excellent for an invigorating rub. Lightweight cotton towels for the kitchen and bath can all be washed in a solution of detergent and a little bleach. They dry much faster than coloured velour ones, and lend a look of sparkling cleanliness. Lightweight, white cotton towels may be bought in bulk at wholesale stores like Sam’s Club in the U.S.

To keep rarely-used garlic fresh, peel it and store it in a jar in the freezer.

Use salt in your wash-water to help remove stains.

To rid old books of odors, dust the pages with talcum powder, and let them sit for a day. Brush out the powder.

To make cake rise higher, add a half-teaspoon of white vinegar to the batter.

Use old-fashioned wooden clothespins to close bread and chip-bags. They’re cute, easier to manipulate than twist-ties, and are cheaper than chip-clips.

To remove red and burgundy wines from tablecloths after dinner parties, wash them immediately afterwards in the machine, with the laundry detergent of your choice, in hot water with the addition of a half-cup of white vinegar and perhaps some table salt. This routine has always worked for me.

Conserving Candle Wax
I have noticed a jump in candle-prices. Many candles are unusable before their wax disappears. Then, you may have a considerable amount of unused candle wax which could go to waste. I save old candle wax, scented or plain, and when I have enough of it, I melt it in an old pan and pour it into a container into which I have put a standing wick. Then I have a new candle. The wicks can be purchased at crafts stores.
Keep defunct candles in a plastic bag until you have enough to melt. A plain metal pot is best, and I recommend melting wax together from similarly colored candles. Shown are stubs from beeswax tapers and a yellow pillar candle. Old wicks and metal anchors for them are not a problem; just use a metal ladle to transfer hot wax, omitting the debris. Caution: don’t melt used candles in a microwave oven–there will likely be a metal wick or anchor in it.