December 8, 2011 at 6:00 am
I had the opportunity recently to completely invade a new friend’s kitchen.
We were working together to cook for a party, and the conversation came so easily.
She is a long-time vegetarian and advocate of natural living. Her kitchen reflects a love of good, nutritious food and the environment too.
One of my favorite things I noticed in her kitchen was her simple compost pot.
She explained that she had seen expensive stainless steel compost pots in magazines and online, and quickly realized they they were, essentially just a pot. So she has allocated one kitchen stockpot to be her compost pot. She keeps it by her sink and adds fruits and vegetable scraps (of which there are many in her busy, healthy kitchen).
She uses a clear lid, which controls any mild odors, and she can see when it is getting full anyway, so she takes it outside to add to the heap.
Simple and totally doable! And something I have since added to my own kitchen.
My Many Calendars and My New-Age Meal Plan
September 8, 2011 at 6:00 am
A long time ago, when I worked as a newspaper reporter, when I would get overwhelmed I would dash to the office supply store for some new paper clips and fancy pens.
This served two purposes (I realize now) … it took me out of the crazy for a minute or two, and it gave me the illusion of organization.
Perhaps I wasn’t really that much more organized, but a deep breath and an actual working pen helped tremendously.
I still love the idea of being organized.
Organization is NOT something that comes easily, however. And so, I work at it — bit by bit and piece by piece.
One tool I find really helpful is calendars. I have a lot of them: a school calendar; a cleaning calendar; a blog calendar and a meal plan calendar.
Recently, I have embraced the smart phone revolution and I have synced my Google calendar to my phone.
This is almost too much technology for me to handle, but it is giving me a new lease on planning, especially when it comes to meals.
Meal planning has always been a chore for me. As much as I love feeding my family wholesome and nutritious food, it is hard for me to come up with a lot of variety that is also pleasing to four palates.
Add in some food intolerances and general dislikes, and meal planning stops being much fun (as if it were ever fun in the first place).
But my Google Calendar is making meal planning a little simpler. And when it comes to food, I am all for simple.
I have recently plugged in general ideas for meals each night of the week:
- Sunday is chicken or fish
- Monday is salads
- Tuesday is Soup or Pasta
- Wednesday is breakfast (Wednesdays are a busy day for us, so a quick egg-based dinner is fast and easy)
- Thursday is tacos
- Friday is pizza
- Saturday is rice or potatoes
This general framework makes plugging in ideas easier, but still opens us up to a little variety. There’s lots of stuff you can put on pizzas, for instance; and Saturdays could be risotto, or could be a baked potato bar. Mondays and Thursdays I program in reminders to cook beans in my slow cooker so they are always ready.
This plan also works for us because of our split cooking situation here. I still eat primarily vegetarian. My husband needs more meat. The kids like most foods, but also like some choices when it comes to dinner, like what to put on their salads or pizzas.
With the school year starting, I am hoping this new meal plan will get us eating a variety of seasonal foods, but still give me a framework that keeps the overwhelming feelings away.
Otherwise, I just might buy even more paperclips.
Do you meal plan?
Do you make bug spray?
July 21, 2011 at 6:00 am
There are a lot of things that we really like making ourselves. We love making them t so much, that we would never go back to a store-bought brand — like laundry soap, or all-purpose spray, or pillow spray.
Why pay more for chemicals?
But bug spray. Bug spray is a hard one.
I don’t feel comfortable using DEET-based sprays. So last year, we toted our homemade version (essential oils, witch hazel and water) to the CSA in July.
And we got our faces eaten off at a CSA in July.
So for now, we buy All Terrain brand.
I’d really like to give homemade bug spray another shot and I’ve found a few options that look promising:
Mountain Rose Herbals
Little House in the Suburbs
Jalapeno Bug Spray? Really?
But tell me — do you make your own homemade bug spray? How would you rate it on an effectiveness scale? And what do you use to keep the bugs away?
Power-Packed Homemade Produce Cleaners
July 14, 2011 at 6:00 am
Around here, we buy a lot of produce — especially this time of year when so many wonderful things are in season.
I’ve mentioned before that we buy as much as we can organic, but that sometimes, we do buy conventional produce too.
But I think even when buying organic produce, it’s important to make sure that it is washed well before eating (or feeding to a little one).
There are lots of produce sprays out there — usually for between $4 and $6 per bottle.
But there’s also some good old fashioned ways to get your fruits and veggies clean.
Vinegar will not only help get rid of bacteria lurking on your apples, but it is great at removing wax off of produce (and who wants to eat wax?) Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water in a spray bottle and spray your produce and rinse before eating.
A few drops of castille soap (like Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint) added to a tub of water can work well too. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly. No one wants peppermint peaches.
Homemade Fruit and Veggie Wash
Credited to Dr. Oz, this recipe can be mixed up in a spray bottle and used and fruits and veggies:
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon baking soda
juice from 1/2 lemon
Sprinkle fruit and vegetables with baking soda and rinse.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to soak fruit in salt water, but for some vegetables like asparagus and Brussels sprouts, a salt water soak can draw out little bugs fresh from the farm (or farmer’s market.)
What do you use to wash your fruits and veggies?
Herbal Kitchen Spray … For a Chopping Block?
June 30, 2011 at 6:00 am
I’m never entirely sure how to clean and sanitize my chopping block.
There is the salt method, and the lemon method. And the salt-lemon method.
There is probably the scrape-off-the-stuck-bits-and-stop-fretting-method.
But my favorite new method is the herbal spray method.
I saw some herbal kitchen spray at a garden market and decided to take a shot at making my own. Utilizing vinegar and the power of herbs, it is great for kitchen disinfecting. I’ve been using it on my counters and chopping block, and thinking of Thanksgiving.
Herbal Kitchen Spray
Dried herbs — Rosemary and Thyme (for their sanitizing and germ-fighting properties) and Sage (it is purifying and traditionally has been used to cleanse away bad energy, and who wants that in their kitchen)
Vinegar — Distilled White Vinegar is fine and encouraged!
A Spray Bottle
Add at least 3 tablespoons of each herb to your bottle. Add 3/4 cup vinegar and allow to sit several hours or overnight. When the vinegar starts to smell like herbs (Thanksgiving-y herbs!) add water to fill up the bottle. Spray away grime, germs, and bad juju.
Wiping down the walls
June 1, 2011 at 6:00 am
This weekend we did some serious spring cleaning. Projects like window-scrubbing and wall-wiping — you know, the things you only really do when company is coming.
This particular company is a new realtor, and so much time was spent doing things like cleaning the giant, scary closet, and stacking things on top of other things.
Then there was some organizing and reorganizing. Does this look better on the top shelf or underneath (or in a sweater-box under the bed)? Sell pile, donate pile, or let’s face it — no one wants it pile?
So much picking up. Which is so silly when you have young kids, isn’t it? My children really don’t see any need ever to stack anything. And their world feels most organized when they just have the things they need and can pretty much see it all from where they are sitting.
And so, we cleaned and organized, and then we let go a little. Because for as long as we live here, this is still our home. It is theirhome. Imperfect. Not always stacked. Organized-ish and certainly lived-in.
I wonder if the realtor will be able to fit all that in the description.
Happy Hip Homemaking
May 17, 2011 at 6:00 am
I am really enjoying the new homemaking book, “The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking,” by Kate Payne.
I’m finding so many useful organic-living ideas in this pretty volume, which is part decorating-on-the-cheap manual, part do-it-yourselfing and part smart kitchen management.
It’s ALL cool.
Payne’s voice is fun and chatty — like you are hanging out with a girlfriend who isn’t going to judge you for never having made your own lighting fixture, but will walk you through it step by step.
I love homemaking manuals, but most don’t make it long in my house because the emphasis is on which blue cleaner to use when you do your twice-weekly dishwasher sterilization, and how to keep people from mussing on your “good couch.”
Payne aknowleges that most of us don’t have “good couches,” and that lots of us also didn’t learn a lot about homekeeping growing up. But we may still want to build a peaceful, functional pad now:
“Why homemaking?” she asks. “Because it’s cool to have a cool house … Because feeling in control in your own home does wonders for every instance when you’re not under that sweet roof.”
Ahh … feeling in control. Wouldn’t that be lovely? It’s true that I can’t concentrate or function when my house is too out-of-control, and so I truly appreciate Payne’s useful tips for home management and self sufficiency.
I’ve already implemented some of her ideas – especially those related to cooking, food planning and gardening.
My favorite “Hip Trick:” using a Sharpie to write on glass storage containers. A little rubbing alcohol will remove the writing so you can change the message when you swap your leftovers.
I really can’t say enough nice things about how much I am enjoying this book, but I originally got it from the library, and I’ve since purchased my own copy to keep (and reference often).
I think that right there says a lot.
Got a hip homemaking tip of your own? Add it to the comments below!! And check out Kate Payne’s blog here for more information about her book, tour and lots of projects!
Happy Earth Day!! A GREEN Give-Away!
April 22, 2011 at 6:00 am
Happy Earth Day!!
I am so excited to be featuring a really great give-away today from I’m Organic!
As a lot of you know, we’ve spent Earth Month talking about natural and safe cleaning and this give-away will help you to create your own green cleaning kit! Plus, you’ll get one of I’m Organic’s limited edition Earth Day bags!
Inside your I’m Organic bag you’ll get:
With these ingredients will be able to make the recipes featured here during the past month including laundry soap, all-purpose spray, bathroom cleaners and more!
All you have to do to enter is tell us how you are celebrating Earth Day this year!
So leave a comment below about how you plan to celebrate Earth Day. Comments will close Monday at noon. A winner will be announced in Tuesday’s post! Good luck, and Happy Earth Day from I’m Organic!!
A simplyneutral Interview and Give-Away!!
April 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm
I am so excited to be partnering up today with Maggie Mohs and the folks at simplyneutral!
As many of you know, we been talking the past few weeks about green cleaning. Maggie is co-owner of simplyneutral, a non-toxic cleaning products company she started with her sister-in-law Sara after realizing that “regular” cleaning products were causing health problems for her and her daughter.
simplyneutral’s products are safe for your family, the environment, and they are really affordable! And for one lucky reader, they are free!! Sign up for our simplyneutral give-away below and we’ll announce a winner in Saturday’s post!!
TVNT: So first, you have a really personal story about how your business came about. Why was it important to you to create a brand of products that other people could use?
Maggie: The reason it was important to me was because I was clueless to my own health problem until I accidentally stumbled upon the reason. I felt there had to be many people out there like myself. And, many people out there are still using conventional cleaners that think it’s OK, because they do not have any reactions/problems yet…
We felt it was our job to spread the simplyneutral story. Let people know that the body can only detoxify so many chemicals before it starts storing them in their fatty cells. And, that our homes are built so air tight that if a chemical is sprayed today, it could still be polluting our indoor air 2 weeks later.
Above all, Sara and I believe individual change can impact the world.
TVNT: What was the process of creating your products like? What was important to you as you were going through that process?
Maggie: We started with a list of do not use chemicals. These chemicals were known to cause hormone disruption, cause cancer, not break down in the environment, or were skin irritants. Our chemist understood there was no compromise with this list.
The cleaners had to accomplish two main things:
1. They had to be safe enough for people with asthma, allergies, and multiple chemical sensitivities. This meant almost anyone should be able to use our cleaners.
2. They had to work as well as conventional cleaners.
This was not an easy task. We spent months testing. Our houses were so clean, we called neighbors to test the cleaners in their homes!
TVNT: What do you tell people who have always used chemical-based cleaners and are hesitant to switch?
Maggie: First I tell them I understand their hesitancy. I also tried green cleaners that did not work, or that were not as green as they claimed to be.
Then I explain to them about toxins and our bodies ability to detoxify. They can only detoxify so much before we start storing those chemicals. Just because you do not have any problems with chemicals now, does not mean they are not causing problems you will deal with later in life.
Or, I explain how the cleaners they are using now leave a toxic film on our counter tops, tables, floors, and bathtubs that our children later eat off of, crawl around on, or bathe in. Skin is the largest organ of our body. We absorb the chemicals placed or rubbed on our skin.
Last, I tell them that our products really work!
TVNT: I think having a good, safe cleaning products and the right tools makes cleaning a little less of a chore. What cleaning gear do you have in your home at this moment?
Maggie: I agree the right tools make cleaning less of a chore.
- I have a good quality, light weight vacuum cleaner with HEPA filtration. (Very Bad Back)
- A good microfiber mop makes cleaning floors (both dry and wet) much faster and easier.
- A Pumie brand pumice stone for the calcium/lime ring where the water sits in my toilet. Keep the pumice stone wet at all times. It will take that ring right off!
- My favorite microfiber sponge. It has a no scratch scrubby side and is as big as my hand, great for cleaning my shower.
I hate to tell you the best way to make cleaning less of a chore is prevention. I spray my shower with our after shower spray. I hardly have soap scum and it has helped to keep the mold and mildew under control. I keep my bathroom fan on for an additional 15 minutes to suck up the excess moisture in my bathroom to prevent mold and mildew.
I try to vacuum more often so that I need to dust less as I hate dusting! Carpets and hard floors hold a lot of dirt and dust. When we move around, we kick that dirt and dust up to settle on our surfaces.
I cover my food in the microwave with a towel. I hardly have to clean the inside of my microwave.
My stove has a flat cook top. If we have a boil over or burnt on food, I spray the top with our all-purpose cleaner before cleaning up the dishes. By the time I have my dishwasher loaded and pans scrubbed, it pretty much wipes right off.
TVNT: I’ve enjoyed catching up on your blog and hearing your thoughts about lots of natural topics. How has starting this company changed things for your family and your household? What other aspects of being green do you embrace most?
Maggie: Starting simplyneutral opened my eyes to the many challenges humans and the planet will face. I believe if we live in a manner that is safest for the earth, it will also be the healthiest for humans.
For example, I do not use chemicals in my garden. Therefore, my family eats produce that is free of chemicals. The ground will not have to filter out chemicals. Therefore, the ground water we drink will also not have chemicals.
The bees that pollinate our plants in the garden will not be exposed to chemicals. Right now bees across the world are experiencing colony collapse disorder. If we do not figure out what is causing this, agriculture could change as we know it.
Another issue I embrace due to simplyneutral is water. What we pay for water, how much water we use and waste. An example of this is the water in cleaners. Cleaners only require a very small amount of cleaning agent to really work. As consumers we purchase these big, heavy bottles of cleaner. How much did that bottle of cleaner cost you to arrive at your local store. Manufacturers and consumers pay many times over to ship that water all over, it is heavy. We try to encourage our customers to purchase concentrates or ship the products “waterless”. This cost is less to humans and to mother nature. Less fossil fuels were used because heavy water was not shipped around the country.
simplyneutral is generously offering an awesome package including 16-ounce sizes of Strut Your Shine, Sreak No More, and Scrub So Fine to one Very Next Thing Reader!
You can enter by commenting below and telling us your favorite aspect of living green!
The winner will be announced in Saturday’s post!! Good luck! And than you so much to Maggie and the folks at simplyneutral!!
Green Spring Cleaning: Cleanin’ that Can!
April 8, 2011 at 6:00 am
Is that a gross title? I was not going for gross.
But I was trying to think of a way to make cleaning your bathroom sound fun. Because really, who wants to scrub a toilet? It is not the most fun job ever.
Although, mixing up some green cleaning products makes it a little more enjoyable, if only because it saves money and makes the whole room smell fresh and clean without chemicals.
And really, isn’t fresh and clean about the best we can expect from a bathroom?
So as part of our green cleaning series, this week, we are talking toilets (and all other things bathroom related).
I recently bought myself a new toilet brush. It was a very exciting day.
But bringing that new little friend home made me wonder about something — isn’t the toilet brush really doing most of the work in the toilet cleaning equation? Do I really need a strong cleaner? Turns out the answer is no. A little squirt of castile soap actually got the potty sparkling. I’m sure mixing some castile soap with a little tea tree oil would create a natural disinfectant too!
For the rest of the bathroom, I often call upon my favorite all-purpose spray cleaner that I talked about a few weeks ago.
When a deeper clean is needed, I mix up some homemade paste out of baking soda, castile soap and essential oils. I use about a half a cup of baking soda and add enough soap to make a paste. Then I add a little tea tree or eucalyptus oil and a citrus-y oil like lemon (about 5 drops total of essential oils).
The paste works a lot like those Scrubbing Bubbles type cleaners without the chemicals. Tea tree and eucalyptus help kill nasty stuff in tubs and showers too.
For mold in showers or tubs, try mixing 2/3 parts water to 1/3 part hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle and scrub, scrub.
Finally, I would like to share with you my top secret recipe for cleaning mirrors (works on windows too). It was passed down to me from my grandmother. Ready?
Top Secret Glass Cleaner
1 part vinegar
1 part water
Mix in a spray bottle. Spray on glass. Wipe with a cloth.
OK, if you want to get really fancy, you can add a little essential oil to make it smell a little nicer, but my grandma never did that.
I remember in spring going to my grandparent’s house and our entire family spent a day cleaning all of their windows. It wasn’t that big of a house, but it sure had a lot of windows. They all sparkled using this homemade mix.
So there you have it! A very clean bathroom area!
My friend Laura also sent me a simple idea for a bathroom air freshener (you know, just in case) — mix one part baking soda with one part scented bath salts and place in a dish.
I love this idea — such a nice, low-cost alternative to chemical air fresheners!
I’m really excited to announce that as part of the green cleaning series leading up to Earth Day, we have at least one big give-away coming up. So stick around, and if you have green cleaning ideas, please share them in the comments below!