Tiny Toilet Paper and Other Shrinking Products

I happened to be in a discount store yesterday when I spotted a display of tiny Angel Soft packages near the end of the aisle. I’m not usually that interested in exploring bath tissue, but the scale was so unusual, I thought they had developed a new product. Perhaps a kiddy sized roll for toilet training.

Nope. This was plain old toilet paper, and it looked so unusual I actually burst out laughing when I saw it up close. Why had they decided to package a miniaturized version of such a familiar product?  The banner across the front of the package told the story:  4 Regular Rolls

I’ve handled a lot of TP in my life, and as far as I’m concerned these rolls were highly irregular. But I guess the folks at Angel Soft figured they might get in trouble if they touted their core products as Double Rolls when they didn’t have a half-size single roll on the market.  I started to buy a package just for the novelty of it (I do have grandkids in the potty training stage) but I decided I didn’t want to support such silliness with a purchase. Instead I shot a few pictures and included a soft drink can for scale.  

When I got home, I did a quick search online and discovered that Scott Tissue was also called out in a recent Consumer Reports article for making a less obvious roll size reduction.  ABC news also reported on the trend last month. Shrinking product size is a pet peeve of mine, and I really wish manufacturers would just charge us more.  Rising prices, while not pleasant, are a fact of life, and I can live with them. Shifty merchandising and deceptive packaging break trust, and I don’t want to do business with a company I can’t trust.


Homeschooled Iowa Wrestler Defaults to Avoid Competing Against a Girl

Whenever I see a news article or video clip about a homeschooler taking a stand based on principle, I tense up just a bit. I know that the temptation to anxiety may be just around the corner because they often include some sort of cringe-worthy content, such as:

  • An attitude of arrogant, dogmatic superiority on the part of the conscientious objector.
  • Portrayal of a sense of entitlement within the homeschool community.
  • Misrepresentation of the facts by the news reporter.
  • Media slant manifested in selective editing in the newsroom.
  • Ill-informed commentary from a biased source masquerading as an objective authority.

So it was really refreshing to read the recent story of Joel Northrup, a homeschooled Iowa wrestler who refused to compete against a girl in the state tournament. He was humble and gracious, and even complimented  the female competitors.  He did not demand special treatment or threaten to sue anyone.   He gave a clear, Biblically sound reason for his action. A quote from Northrup’s pastor dispelled any suspicions that an inferior view of females was at the root of the decision:  “We believe in the elevation and respect of woman and we don’t think that wrestling a woman is the right thing to do.”

The facts of the situation rang true and were well ordered. Plenty of commentary was offered by others involved in the wrestling tournament, and though most would not have chosen the same course of action, all expressed respect for Northrup’s convictions and decisions. No “experts” were brought in to babble on about sexism or religious intolerance.

What I expected to stress me out actually left me feeling encouraged.  Encouraged that it really is possible to get a good story about a good guy published in the mainstream media.  Encouraged that somewhere in Iowa, there’s a young man whose commitment to Christ outweighs his desire for championship.  And most of all, encouraged by the reminder that as we are faithful to walk the path the Lord has called us to, He will be faithful to bring forth a harvest of righteousness throughout our generations.


Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Egyptian Revolution Study Guide: Communicating the Ideas of Revolution

Want to discuss current events in Egypt with your students but aren’t sure where to begin?  Start the conversation with our FREE Communicating the Ideas of Revolution study guide. This brief study encourages students to compare the development and distribution of ideas in the Egyptian Revolution with that of the American Revolution.  The embedded links offer a synopsis of events for those who may need a primer, and the Teacher Resource page gives background information to help guide discussion.

Egyptian Revolution Study Guide


Cosmopolitan in the Candy Aisle: The Battle Continues ~ Foot Soldiers Needed

Cosmopolitan Magazine, Lollipops, and Doritos in the Checkout Aisle

I was standing in line at our community’s newly opened Dollar General store a few days ago when I happened to glance over and notice the September issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.  I immediately blushed.  Cosmo and I go way back—but not as friends.  For nearly 20 years I have been waging a private battle to get this vulgar publication placed beyond the view of the young eyes that pass through store checkout lanes.   In the early days, my biggest beef was the scantily clad women on the cover.  But in recent years, the titles of the cover stories have become more and more shocking, making the exposed cleavage seem rather tame by comparison.  (If you’re feeling brave or need to be convinced, you can find a gallery of Cosmo covers with a quick Google search, but be forewarned—they are explicit.)

Joe Camel is a vile offender, but smut-laden Cosmopolitan covers are kid friendly?

Is this the same culture that’s determined that a gas station sign with Joe Camel is a heinous assault on childhood?  Why is it that the graphic sexual content emblazoned in bold type across the Cosmo cover gets a pass? Ladies and gentlemen, these are not articles about relationship basics with innocuously vague titles.  It’s the kind of stuff you would never, ever bring up in polite conversation, and they would probably be awkward topics even among the closest of friends. And yet, there it is.  RIGHT IN THE CANDY AISLE—AT CHILD’S-EYE LEVEL!

This is not something that I complain about every time I go shopping. It’s more of an occasional endeavor, and I’m sure there are others whom I’ve never met who are taking a stand as well.  We’ve had some success getting action in our town, but it has taken time, patience, and changes of strategy.  For instance, after getting nowhere with our Wal-Mart Super Center in spite of numerous attempts, a former WM corporate insider gave me an invaluable tip.  He said that while store managers and district managers have little control over the merchandising arrangements within their stores, the corporate office has initiatives in place to adapt to local community values.  He advised that I change to a “This is not acceptable in our community” approach.  A call to their consumer services hotline and a brief but pointed letter got the desired results:  Content shields that obscure everything but the face of the model and the name of the magazine. (I followed up with a letter to the editor of our local newspaper, thanking Wal-Mart for their action.)

Another strategy that has been effective is to actually repeat the titles of the articles out loud to the person receiving the complaint.  This is not for the faint of heart, and it certainly goes against my nature.  But I’ve found that the embarrassment that ensues when I actually refer to the content specifically highlights just how inappropriate it is for children.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

Thanks so much for taking a moment to speak with me. I wanted to share a concern I had about this magazine.  I picked up right over there—next to the Ring Pops and Snickers bars.  Would you agree that that’s right about at the eye level of an elementary school student?


Well, take a look at the cover stories here.  This one is about (*insert exact title of graphic content*).  Is that a subject you’d feel comfortable discussing around your family’s dinner table?

Absolutely not.

If you overheard two of your employees discussing that topic within earshot of customers, would you give them a reprimand?


Then I think you can understand why parents of young children wouldn’t want these topics thrust upon them without their consent.  It’s a really bad idea—just completely inappropriate.  So I’d like to ask you to do whatever is necessary to get this kind of product moved to an area that is not easily visible by children.

Yes, ma’am, I’ll speak to (*whoever’s next up the ladder*).

Here are a few other things I keep in mind when addressing this issue:

To avoid the censorship debate, I keep my focus on moving the magazine away from kids—not on removing it from the store entirely. (That’s a separate issue.)

I make sure that the situation is right for me to make my complaint without inconveniencing the folks in line behind me, or drawing the attention of any minors in the area.

I ask permission to take a picture of the magazine and surrounding kiddie foods, so I can document the relative proximity.  This request has never been denied.

I treat the store staff kindly and respectfully.  After all, they had no part in the decision to sell the magazine or to merchandise it in such a foolish manner.

I know we can turn the tide back toward decency, but it’s going to take a lot of concerned shoppers who aren’t afraid to voice their objections.  So I’m asking…if you’re tired of the premature sexualization of our kids…if you’re sick of seeing the delicate beauty of human intimacy promoted as common vulgarity…if you’d rather not have half naked women put on display for a captive childhood audience…will you take a moment to speak up if the opportunity presents itself?  Will you ask friends and family to do the same?  After all, if we all do a little, we can do a lot!

Would you like some Nilla Cakesters or Mini Oreos to go with your graphic sex tips?


Read any good guarantees lately?


Here’s my submission for the most ridiculous item of the day—and further proof that manufacturers think consumers are stupid.

My daughter’s blow dryer recently went kaput.  My husband, the master tinkerer, was not able to revive it because certain specialty parts were needed.  It’s a pricey unit, but my daughter’s hair is very long, and I like to think that this particular product causes less damage, so I decided to reorder the same one.

When the replacement arrived, I made sure to check on the warranty, just in case we had the same problem again.  Here is the guarantee that is offered on this top shelf piece of equipment:

Your common sense probably tells you that pretty much the entire unit is composed of steel parts, plastic parts, and the flex cord. I can confirm this, since I have a dismantled version of this blow dryer in my possession. It does have a thin piece of cardboard on the inside, so I guess that’s the part they’re guaranteeing. I’d have more confidence in the product and the company if they just labeled it “SOLD AS IS”.

I know this hoodwinking is nothing new, but sometimes I just want to speak up. So here’s a message to all those big companies that think they’re pulling one over on us:

We know that you’re shrinking the size of ice cream cartons and coffee cans. We know that you’re pumping our meats full of “solutions” to bloat the net weight so you can walk away with more dollars per portion. We know that you’re choosing deceptive brand names to mislead consumers about a product’s country of origin . We’re onto you, and we’re adjusting our shopping habits accordingly.

Furthermore, we’re training a generation of students who can read, think, contrast, compare, and make rational decisions. When they finally outnumber the sheeple, you’re going to have to change your ways.


Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 6:11 am  Comments (1)  
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“Give me liberty or give me death!” A study guide, a clip, and an appeal to parents.

The anniversary of Patrick Henry’s famous speech could not come at a more appropriate time.  As political lines are drawn and ideological fervor escalates, Americans are reexamining what liberty really means and which issues are worth contending over.  Politicians are scrambling to save their own hides, and citizens are uniting to ferret out untrustworthy leadership.  Regardless of our position on the political spectrum, recollection of Henry’s stirring appeal on the eve of revolution offers a much needed recalibration of our expectations of political leaders. 

Our children have much to learn from great Americans such as Patrick Henry, so we are appealing to parents to take a few minutes to introduce him to your students if you’ve not already done so.  Younger students may only be ready for a few basic facts, but older students can compare and contrast the political standards of the past with those of the present. To help start the conversation, we have created a brief study guide as well as a document featuring the text of the original speech.

They can be printed out at the following links:  STUDY GUIDE      SPEECH

Please pass this along to friends and family—especially those with children in public schools.  Patrick Henry’s legacy has slowly been chiseled out of many school textbooks, and they may not have another opportunity to get to know this key figure in America’s history.

Feeling ambitious?  Why not have your students stage a dramatic reenactment of the speech?  You could even capture a video clip and post it on Facebook or YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, they offer several audio renditions of this speech for those who prefer to listen.  Here are a couple of examples: 




Suggestion for a new home improvement show: “Satisfied With What We’ve Got”

Here’s the concept:  The owners of the featured homes show the viewing audience that outdated cabinets store canned goods just as well as new ones, popcorn ceilings don’t cause mesothelioma, and friends will come over to visit even if you have laminate countertops and mini blinds.  From what I’ve seen, these points may come as a surprise to the world of cable TV.

It’s not that I’m against remodeling.  I like a little creative spruce up every now and then myself, and it’s nice for a home to reflect the owners’ tastes, which do often evolve over time.  What bothers me is the way hosts on many of these shows demean and ridicule home owners because of their serviceable but outdated décor.  I know, I know, these people volunteer for the show, so they know what they’re in for.  And they apparently do want to make the changes, so they probably agree with the hosts.  Still, it just seems like poor manners and unnecessary insult to roll your eyes, make gagging noises, or scream, “Oh my gosh! This mauve carpet is awful!” upon entering someone’s home.

Worse still, they sow seeds of discontent.  Couples are often pushed into public conflict, either because of disagreements over past decorating decisions, resentment over project delays, or even strife over whether something actually needs to be changed at all. In one episode of HGTV’s “My Parents’ House,” the husband fought valiantly to save his beloved easy chair.  Here are couple of snapshots from that show.  Note the unkind captions:

Unfortunately, the will of the father was no match for the collective enlightenment of the hosts, the (adult) children, and the mom.  The chair had to go, and go it did.  It made me so sad.

But thinking beyond the guests on a particular show, I have to wonder how this kind of condescension impacts young, impressionable couples. How many have “learned” to be ashamed of the homes with which they were previously quite happy? Given our country’s extraordinary standard of living, is it really advisable to ratchet up expectations even higher?  I think not.

 We can install hardwoods, upgrade to stainless appliances, and tear out every last scrap of wood paneling, but perhaps we should first pause and consider this:  Nothing improves a home like satisfaction and gratitude among its inhabitants.


Published in: on March 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Country of Origin: What’s in a Name?


Whenever possible, our family tries to purchase goods that are manufactured in the U.S.A.  If that’s not an option, we at least try to choose items from countries we can feel okay about supporting.  China falls very low on our sourcing hierarchy, and as we all know, their merchandise dominates virtually every store shelf one might browse.

One marketing practice for imported goods that’s particularly fascinating—and which I’ve succumbed to myself—is the inclusion of misleading iconic phrases in product and business names.  Take for instance Virginia Mill Works’ Colonial Handscraped hardwood flooring.  Can’t you just envision a traditional American craftsman, spending hours in his workshop, carefully running his trusty plane along the grain of domestic hardwoods?  You can imagine my shock when the shipment arrived at my house and the boxes were emblazoned with the “Made in China” proclamation.  I guess I’ve seen too many episodes of New Yankee Workshop.

How about the Icelandic Salmon I used to buy at Sam’s Club?  You might guess that Icelandic Salmon comes from…drum roll, please…Iceland.  But you’d be wrong.  “Icelandic” is the name of the company, silly.  And believe me, the fillets in those little vacuum pouches have never spent a moment swimming the chilly waters of the North Atlantic.

The logo for JC Penney’s American Living brand features a bald eagle regally poised with an American flag clutched in his talons.  It’s enough to make you want to say The Pledge of Allegiance.  And the “Savannah” bedding set from this collection looks as if it would be right at home in any plantation boudoir.  But vast though this product line is, I have yet to find a single piece of merchandise that was made in the U.S.A.

I’m onto this shtick now, so whenever I see a name that makes me feel warm, fuzzy, or patriotic, I start looking for the country of origin.  If I can’t find the information in fairly short order, I’ve been known to call the manufacturer from the store.  Nine times out of ten, if it sounds like it’s not made it China, you can bet it is.  It seems like the people of Virginia or Iceland or America would be a little miffed at having their geographic identities and good reputations hijacked.  The folks in Parma and Champagne don’t put up with these shenanigans.  Neither should we.

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 3:01 am  Comments (1)  

Farewell to an Almond Side-by-Side


I suppose we were the last ones in our circle of friends to step into the 21st century appliance-wise.  We’re pretty thrifty anyway, and it just didn’t make sense to replace a perfectly good piece of equipment with something new just because of outdated cosmetics.  Our 1988 almond Kenmore refrigerator was oddly out of place in a kitchen that had been updated in most other respects.  For a few years we toyed with the idea of an appliance paint makeover, but never quite got around to it.  When the plastic interior shelves began to crack and crumble from old age, we figured we’d better go ahead and take the plunge.

My first shock came when I discovered it was nearly impossible to purchase a nice refrigerator that didn’t qualify for its own zip code.  When did they get so big?  Our home was built in 1982, and the empty space left between the cabinets would most definitely not accommodate a typical late year model.  More than the practical problem of retrofitting cabinetry, I was concerned about the prominent physical presence that one of these units would command.  “Come on in.  Meet the fridge.”

We shopped around for the one that was least imposing.  We were disappointed to find that counter-depth models were significantly more expensive than their mega-depth counterparts.  We eventually found one on clearance, and only minor woodworking was required for installation.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful (although I know I do), but I do not like the new refrigerator.  From the start it was obvious this wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven.  Keeping the stainless steel clean is a constant struggle, and we don’t even have little ones in the house any more.  It requires the replacement of a $33 water filter every few months.  And you could grow old waiting for the dispenser to spit out the ice.  Turning on the “crushed ice” feature prolongs the agony.

But the real sticking point is the interior space.  We’ve owned this refrigerator for almost a year, and I’m still confused about where things go.  The milk slot is fairly obvious, there’s a cradle for canned soft drinks, and it does have a butter cubby in the door, but after that everything is fuzzy.  It’s the shelves that really don’t make sense.  Countless times I’ve lingered in front of that open door, trying to figure out the logical place for the item in hand in particular and our cache of provisions in general.

Finders Keepers FridgeI kept my disappointment to myself for several months.  (That not sounding ungrateful thing again.)  One day I confessed my true feelings to my mom, and she said my sister had the same complaints about her new refrigerator.  After a few minutes of discussion, it suddenly became clear to me what had happened.  This refrigerator wasn’t designed with people like me in mind.  It had been updated and completely revamped to accommodate a shifting culture.  One that subsists on yogurt cups, Jimmy Dean Sausage Biscuits, juice boxes, and Lunchables.  No wonder I could never figure out where to put a leftover ham!  We’ve become such a society of home meal replacement/convenience food addicts that even the major appliances have crossed over to the dark side.  The good news—or bad news, depending on how you look at it—is that this new refrigerator probably won’t be around as long as our old Kenmore.  Durable goods just aren’t as durable as they used to be, at least not if my new dryer is any indication.  But that’s another story.

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment