Monthly Archives: September 2007

The FDA and Cold Medicines for Children – Part II

According to a Washington Post article today, here (for now), federal officials are now recommending that “consult your physician” be dropped from guidelines on boxes of cold/cough medicine for children under two.  These medicines, in many cases, simply should not be given to young children.  “The preliminary recommendation, from Food and Drug Administration safety officials would apply to decongestant use in children under 2 and antihistimines in those younger than 6, according to agency documents released Friday.”

More than 350 pages of documents were released on Friday.  They are part of a broad investigation into whether roughly 800 medicines (yes, 800) are safe and effective in treating children’s colds and coughs.  Many of those medicines are popular and widely used.

“An FDA review of side-effect records filed with the agency between 1969 and September 2006, found 54 reports of deaths in children associated with decongestant medicines made with pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine. It also found 69 reports of deaths associated with antihistamine medicines containing diphenhydramine, brompheniramine or chlorpheniramine.”  In addition, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report also found more than 1500 toddlers and babies wound up in ERs in a two-year period as a result of the medicines.

The Consumer Healthcare Products  Association (represents makers of OTC medicines)  is backing the recommendation that these products not be given to young children and in terms of antihistamines, they recommend that a warning be added that the medicines not be used to sedate children.

How sad is it that you have to add a warning about that?  And really, do they think that the types of people that would use it for that purpose would care whether there is a warning on the box or not?  It seems to me that the only purpose for that warning is for legal purposes for themselves.  I admit that I’ve wondered about how effective these medicines have been on my two-year-old, but he’s rarely (thank goodness) sick so it hasn’t come up much.  He has taken an antihistimine occasionally, on the recommendation of his doctor, so I wonder about that part of the article as well.  I’m going to have to talk to his doctor about this next time I go in (or rather, next time WE go in).

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Colin Powell’s Rules

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that, when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose, you may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

These were included in his book “My American Journey”, which I recommend.

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Ideas for Simple Thank You Gifts

There are so many occasions on which a small gift is appropriate that it can be difficult to come up with different ideas. The gift you give should, first of all, reflect the interests of the recipient. Just putting enough effort into the gift to show that you really thought about is important. So, what do they like to do? What do they like to read or listen to? What colors or scents do they like? Is the gift a family gift? That would broaden your range a bit. Some ideas that I’ve come up with, been given, or given myself over the years are as follows:

  1. Movie night basket: Buy a gift card to a movie rental place and place it in a basket with microwave popcorn, several kinds of candy and a soda. Rather than using a basket, in fact, you could use a large bowl for the popcorn; you can get those inexpensively from garage sales, flea markets, or a “dollar” store.
  2. For the candle lover: Simply buy a pillar candle and a candle holder. Chose a scent and/or color that the recipient would like or that would match the decor. Another idea is a candle accessory; a candle snuffer is nice, and now they make a wide range of decorations for candles.
  3. For the wine lover: There are all sorts of decorations for wine glasses now that are inexpensive; they make your drink distinctively your own at a party. Of course, another idea is to select a moderately priced bottle of wine that you enjoy to share with your friend.
  4. For the gardener: Buy a simple pot, place gardening gloves, a tool or two, and maybe some seeds in it. Another idea is to buy them a small plant, either indoor or something that can later be placed outdoors.
  5. For the book lover: Find several books in a genre that they enjoy and tie them together with a ribbon or something that could be used as a book mark (or two). If there is something that you’ve read and you think they might enjoy it, share that with them, with a note explaining that you thought they’d enjoy it.
  6. For the pet owner: Put together a basket for their pet; include some treats (be sure they aren’t on a special diet), a brush, maybe some toys.
  7. For the music lover: Pay attention to new releases in a genre that they like, look at reviews or ask others who like the same thing about what is “hot” and buy a CD or two. If they have a favorite artist and don’t have the latest album, that’s a good way to go.
  8. For an artistic person: Buy some supplies for their favorite type of project. Actually, an even simpler idea is to get a gift card to their favorite craft store or hobby shop. Put that in a nice card with a personalized note.
  9. For the coffee lover: Give them the gift of caffeine; if they love coffee from a coffee shop, then a gift card from said shop would always be welcome. Something else that makes a good gift for a coffee lover is a bag of their favorite gourmet coffee with a nice mug.
  10. Take them to their favorite restaurant for dinner, then go to a movie.

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10 Gift Basket Ideas

Gift baskets make great gifts and they don’t have to be particularly expensive. Some ingredients mentioned below can be purchased from “dollar stores” or flea markets (like mugs, candles, candle holders, some bath products, lotions, etc.) Here are some ideas that I’ve had on how to put one together without spending too much.

  1. Movie night basket: Get a gift card to a movie rental place for whatever denomination that you think is appropriate, perhaps enough for two movies. Buy movie sized candy bars or boxes of candy, some microwave popcorn, and a two-liter of soda. Place all of these in a basket or box of a suitable size; craft stores often have sales on baskets, or you may find a suitable container at a flea market or yard sale.
  2. Mini loaf basket: Buy some quick bread mix or muffin mix from the store. Mix up and bake mini loaves. You can make several baskets with the loaves. Cushion the bottom of the basket with new dish towels or something else useful like potholders, and place the loaves on it.
  3. Italian night basket: Buy a large colander, put a box of spaghetti in it, along with a nice jar of sauce, some Parmesan cheese, and a fresh loaf of Italian bread. You could include garlic powder or garlic salt and a dessert item as well.
  4. Chocolates basket: If you know someone that likes a particular type of chocolate, like Ghirardelli, buy a selection of candy bars or smaller pieces and put them in a handmade bag or a nice basket lined with a nice piece of cloth. You could tie the candy bars with a nice ribbon as well.
  5. A Get-Well-Quick Basket: For someone with a cold, you could buy several cans of soup, a large mug to eat it out of, some crackers, and maybe something like hot chocolate or a type of tea. You could also add something to do to the basket, like a book, some crossword puzzles, or a movie to watch.
  6. New Baby Basket: A nice gift for a new mother might be a gift basket of little things for the baby, things that people may or may not think to give her at the baby shower: a thermometer, baby washclothes, nail clippers, baby toothbrush, baby cold medicine, baby Tylenol, baby Q-tips, toddler spoons, toddler feeding sets, and the like.
  7. Another new-baby-related basket: Another idea for gifts for new parents is a gift basket for them. You could include bath salts, a bath poof, and body wash, as well as a book for the father, his favorite snacks, and a movie that both will enjoy (with perhaps a coupon for baby sitting so they can watch the movie).
  8. Housewarming Basket: For a couple just starting out on their own, you could buy a laundry basket and include things that they may not think of for their new place: matching kitchen towels and dishwashing clothes, potholders, a kitchen timer, a meat thermometer, measuring spoons and cups, corn holders, and some basic spices. You could also include ingredients for a first meal, like spaghetti.
  9. Wedding Basket: For newlyweds, you could go with several themes: if they are going on a cruise, go with things they might need: sunscreen, books to read, lotion, body wash, sea sickness medication, brochures about the areas they will visit, a nice thick bath sheet for each, and so on. If they are flying, you could put together a little bag of things to keep them distracted on the flight, particularly, if one or both dislikes flying. Ideas include magazines on subjects they enjoy, books, CDs if they have a portable player, a DVD if they have a portable player, cards so that they can play something together, or things like that. If they are going somewhere you’ve been, you can include a list of suggested restaurants, sites to see, and so on. Another idea is colorful hand towels rolled up in a basket that they can used to hold the towels in their bathroom.
  10. Hostess gift basket: A nice gift for the hostess of a party, particularly a large one, might be a basket with a bottle of wine, some cheeses and crackers, and a DVD. For a winter season gift, you could put in hot chocolate, marshmallows, a throw, and a good book.

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101 Gift Ideas On a Budget

  1. A pound of cashews/pistachios/etc. for the nut lover
  2. A teapot/cup with tea for the tea lover
  3. A coffee mug with biscotti and several sample size gourmet coffees
  4. A cute platter with cookies or baked goods on it
  5. A tin filled with baked goods with the recipes
  6. Gardening gloves with a trowel or other tool or with a plant or seeds
  7. Basket filled with fancy chocolates
  8. Movie night gift: basket with gift certificate for movie rental, box(es) of candy, soda, bag of microwave popcorn
  9. Housewarming gift: postcards that say “we’ve moved” with stamps
  10. Note cards and stamps
  11. Nice glass candy dish (try an antique shop or a flea market!) filled with candy
  12. Books – try a book sale or a used book shop for unusual finds
  13. Prepaid phone cards
  14. For the bread lover: home-baked bread with the recipe
  15. From the dollar store: candles, bath mitt, body wash to make up a gift basket
  16. Italian night for a family: colander with a jar of spaghetti sauce, a package of pasta, and a loaf of Italian bread
  17. Make mini-loaves of quick bread mixes from the grocery store; give to multiple people as a small gift.
  18. Make stationery on your computer and printer. Design it in a word processing program, buy colored paper (or white if you prefer) and print it yourself. You could even buy matching envelopes, stamps, and stickers to seal the envelope if you wanted to get fancy.
  19. Make a “quote a day” jar with quotes you find amusing or inspirational, print on colored paper, cut apart, fold up, then place them in a nice jar or container. I’ve done this for years for my mother and she loves it.
  20. Get a rubber stamp and make note cards (and matching envelopes).
  21. This one requires planning ahead: buy a blank book or journal and fill it with quotes that remind you of the recipient, newspaper or magazine clippings that they’d be interested in, stories of the two of you together, and pictures of you together, etc.
  22. If you are good with kids, offer to babysit.
  23. If you enjoy cooking, offer to make dinner.
  24. Give an “experience” – go out to lunch and a movie with a friend, take someone who doesn’t get out much shopping, go hiking together, do something you both enjoy together.
  25. If you are good at cleaning, clean house for someone who’s working extra shifts (or who has a newborn!).
  26. Make sachet bags for dresser drawers/closets. This does not take much fabric or potpourri to make a nice set.
  27. Get magnetized shopping pads for the refrigerator; everybody goes shopping or needs to make notes at some point.
  28. Get decorative boxes that remind you of the recipient – they are great for organizing small things.
  29. If you know someone who is short of time and behind on laundry, do it for them.
  30. For someone who is really busy or just not up to cooking, make a week’s worth of meals and put them in easy-to-reheat containers in the fridge or freezer. (Mark with the date cooked.)
  31. Thank you gift? A simple thank you note. Many people don’t write notes anymore, so this would be a nice surprise.
  32. Have a greeting mailed from the White House; mind you, these are available only for a limited number of events, but you can find information here for these greetings.
  33. Make a simple Christmas ornament; there are a lot of interesting ideas out there. Try going to your local craft store for ideas – or check out a library book. One idea is to buy a ceramic ornament from the craft store, along with either the proper paints to decorate it or press-and-stick decorations.
  34. Buy a plain tote bag from a craft store and decorate it with fabric paints, iron-ons, or whatever you would like. They make good book bags.
  35. Crochet an afghan. This can be easy to do even on a budget. Simply buy the no-dye-lot yarn – and don’t buy exotic colors. If you do that, they should continue to have the yarn in stock and you would not need to buy it all at once. Another idea would be to make a rainbow colored afghan so that you could simply buy colors you like as you go.
  36. Crochet or knit scarves for those you know in cold climates. Handmade scarves are much nicer than store-bought.
  37. Make a personal care gift basket: fill with finger nail polish/polish remover/cotton balls, makeup/makeup remover, or a bath sponge/body wash/ scented spray.
  38. Jar gifts: take a nice jar and fill it in layers with the ingredients for something like your favorite chocolate chip cookies (only the dry ingredients, obviously). Then type up and print out the wet ingredients and directions for making the cookies and attach to the jar with a pretty ribbon. Some sites with recipes are listed below:
    1. RecipeGoldMine This has recipes for treats, snacks, and other things.
    2. Allfreecrafts This site has recipes for a lot of different things, including soups, and ideas for decorating the jar.
    3. Recipes to Go
  39. You can find nice candles that are not too expensive – just be careful about giving them to people with allergies!
  40. Small figurines that match the recipients taste can be nice without being expensive.
  41. Matching hat and glove sets can be nice as well, and can be as expensive as you’d like.
  42. Gift certificates to their favorite store can be nice as well – and can be for many different denominations, depending on your budget.
  43. Gift certificates to restaurants are also good, particularly for people on a fixed budget.
  44. A miniature Christmas tree decorated with mini-ornaments
  45. A blooming plant of some sort for the gardener
  46. For new parents: a bib a day for their baby (one for each day of the week). You could go with a theme (humor, I Love…, a color, etc.)
  47. Also for new parents: a gift basket with a number of indispensable items like a thermometer, nail clippers, comb, baby wash clothes, Vaseline, and the like.
  48. Another one for new parents: lots and lots of wipes.
  49. Another one for new parents: a copy of your favorite childhood book.
  50. To give parents who don’t need anything else to dust: write a letter thanking them and describe the great memories you have of childhood.
  51. Make your spouse’s favorite dinner and dessert for a romantic evening.
  52. Call relatives you haven’t seen in a while – the gift of time is a wonderful thing.
  53. Write to older relatives. Shoot, write to younger relatives…most people enjoy getting letters or cards in the mail.
  54. If you don’t see your family often, have professional pictures taken, then frame some as gifts. You can often get package deals that are not too expensive for the pictures.
  55. Crochet bookmarks for readers.
  56. Cross stitch bookmarks for readers – you can match the design to their hobby or interest.
  57. Find out if they have an “Amazon” list; if they do, find an item from their list that is in your budget.
  58. Give coupons for a service that you can perform for them: offer to wash their car, cut their grass, cook dinner, clean their house, babysit, etc.
  59. Bake cookies and stop by for a visit, if you haven’t seen them in a while.
  60. Offer to pet sit.
  61. Make up a recipe book of your family’s favorite recipes, then print it and put it in binders for family members.
  62. Make a gift basket with a few nice pieces of fruit and some different kinds of cheese.
  63. Make a basket for someone who likes to cook with different utensils that you know they need or want.
  64. Gather 12-13 pictures together and have a family calendar made. Many 0nline sites can take digital photographs you upload; one I’ve worked with can even do multiple pictures for each month. They aren’t too expensive and if you look, some are less expensive than others.
  65. Put favorite pictures on mugs, t-shirts, playing cards (I think), note cards, and the like. There are a number of sites that do this sort of thing.
  66. If youhave MS Powerpoint, create a slide show using special pictures. You can do so much with it: add music, use special effects, etc.
  67. Buy Christmas ornaments in January, when they are on sale.
  68. Look at other items on sale in January; see if you can find things that are appropriate for those on your list.
  69. Several books from the best seller’s list
  70. A CD that you found that you know they’d love
  71. Books on CD or tape
  72. Gift certificates to a movie theater
  73. A donation to a charity in the recipient’s name
  74. Make candles! Add a candle holder.
  75. iTunes gift card might be good for a teen.
  76. A set of colored pencils and a sketch pad for a budding artist
  77. A journal or blank book with a nice pen for someone who likes to write
  78. For an soon-to-arrive baby: a small basket with pacifiers, teethers, stroller toys, washcloths, or other small items
  79. If you cross stitch, buy a set of plain place mats and cross stitch a small decorative element on each. You could even make matching napkin rings.
  80. Make a decorated picture frame. Buy a simple wooden frame. At a craft store, you should be able to find some elements that represent the recipient’s interests or hobbies that you can glue to the frame.
  81. A basket with muffin/biscuit mix with jams/jellies
  82. A magazine subscription; there are some out there that aren’t terribly expensive.
  83. For a new mother: babysit so she can sleep, get her hair cut, run an errand, etc.
  84. Pet sit for a friend who travels at the holiday.
  85. Fill a nice container with their favorite treat, homemade or otherwise.
  86. If you have a special talent like backrubs, cooking, or working on cars, offer your services.
  87. Try a fruit-of-the-month club for a three-month period.
  88. A small package of gourmet chocolate
  89. If there is an inexpensive wine that you’ve found that you like, share it with a friend.
  90. For kids, make an arts and crafts box. Get a box or basket of some sort and put stickers, paper, crayons, colored pencils, and the like in it. You could add coloring books or sketch pads as well.
  91. If your favorite gardener likes antiques, try giving them an “heirloom” plant. There are heirloom roses and tomatoes, among others. Try your local garden center.
  92. If the recipient likes unusual plants, try a venus flytrap or a tropical-type plant.
  93. A get-well-soon basket: a can or two of their favorite soup, a large mug to eat it out of, and some tea/honey. If you know they are coughing, add cough drops or hard candy!
  94. If they have a pet, make homemade dog treats or cat treats.
  95. Listen to what your recipient really wants or needs; it could be as simple as a pair of nice gloves for driving to work on cold days or a mug with his favorite sports team’s name on it.
  96. Crochet a scarf (or knit it!) in their favorite team’s colors.
  97. Make a set of handmade notecards with matching envelopes and add a book of stamps for someone who loves to write notes to people. There are any number of ways to go about this; you can now print out your own notecards using specialized stationery from an office supply store; simply pick out a nice font and personalize it. You can also get nice rub-ons or stickers that are acid-free and simply add those to the paper.
  98. Put together a small “kit” of the supplies to finish a small project in a craft that you excel at and give it to someone who is interested in learning with the promise to show them how.
  99. Write a letter to a friend to tell them how much they have meant to you over the years and print it on really nice paper.
  100. Just listen when a friend or relative needs to talk – don’t offer solutions or to fix things unless you know that is what they need. Sometimes people just love the gift of listening.
  101. Does your recipient participate in a particular sport? They may need some supplies: tees/golfballs, gloves for weightlifting, a new exercise video, good socks to wear with hiking boots or inline skates, and so forth.

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Ways to Manage Stress

You can’t eliminate all stress from your life, but you can learn to manage it. Some stresses are good, like weddings, the birth of a baby, promotions, and some are bad, like layoffs, divorces, deaths, and so on. Symptoms of stress include anxiety, feeling scared, irritability, and moodiness. You can also become forgetful, have trouble concentrating or focusing, and have low self-esteem. Behaviors include stuttering and other speech problems, changing eating patterns (either losing your appetite or overeating), grinding your teeth, increased use of alcohol or drugs, and crying for no apparent reason.There are some things you can do to manage the amount of stress in your life. For example, time management can be an issue. If you are perpetually running late to things, that can be stressful – particularly if you get to work late on a regular basis. Most bosses don’t appreciate that. You can adjust your schedule in ways that make it possible to get to work in a timely fashion:

  1. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get up 15 minutes earlier.
  2. Lay out your clothes the night before.
  3. Be sure that everything you need to take with you is in one place the night before.

Pay attention to what stresses you. Do you get stressed in traffic? If so, why? Is it because you are running late? If it is, look at ways to adjust your schedule – or ways you can manage your time better in the morning. Are you stressed by a crying child? Are you just overtired? Can you call someone to help you and give you a break? Put the child down somewhere safe, like a crib, for 10 minutes and take a small break. Are you stressed about a big project? Break it down into smaller steps, then break those down into smaller steps and continue this process until you have manageable steps to follow to finish the project.

Look for ways to strengthen your physical reserves. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep as often as you can. Go to bed earlier and go to bed at the same time every night; you should find that you feel better if you stick to a routine. Get exercise as many days a week as you can; a recent study found that even 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week helps. Eat healthy meals; you’ll feel better if you avoid fast food and junk food as much as possible. Watch your caffeine intake; it can increase nervousness and cause irritability. Don’t forget to laugh – watch a funny movie, read a funny book, watch comedians…laughter can be very helpful. In addition, try keeping a journal or just writing out what you are feeling or going through; you don’t even need to keep it if you don’t want to do so. Sometimes the simple act of writing it out will relieve stress.

Some resources online:

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A Comforting Thought for Busy People: Short Bouts of Exercise Are Helpful Too

According to an article in the Washington Post on August 14 (here), a new study finds that “even low amounts of weekly physical activity can reduce blood pressure and improve overall fitness in adults.” This was a 12-week study that was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. It involved 106 healthy but sedentary people between the ages of 40 to 60. What they found was that even the group that did 30 minutes of brisk walking only three days a week also had significant reduction in systolic blood pressure and waist and hip girth, along with the group that did the exercise five days a week. The group that maintained their normal, sedentary lifestyle made no such improvements.

What a comforting thought. I’ve been trying to take better care of myself by exercising more often, flossing daily, taking my vitamins, eating more fruits and vegetables, and so on. But there are just days when I cannot fit my exercise in. I suppose it makes sense to think that some exercise is better than none, but it is nice to have it confirmed that there are visible and measurable improvements to be made even by moderate exercise. According to the article, “even slimming a few centimeters off hip and waist circumference and gaining a slight reduction in blood pressure is enough to reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.”

Now, I know that I can work in 30 minutes of exercise three times a week at least, even if I can’t work in 5 times a week. That relieves some of the pressure of trying to fit everything into my week, and I hope it will relieve some of the guilt. I think that feeling guilty about letting other things overtake my exercise time is one reason I tend to quit exercising after a certain length of time.

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