Moving on up . . ..

bigstock-Orange-tree-13699937With a brand new year comes a new adventure. We’ve moved. We’ve left our house on the bluffs in San Pedro and moved to a just shy of 6 acre spread.

The first day was a bit trying. It was freezing (well, not really, but it felt cold for Southern California at 46 degrees) and our furnace didn’t work (and still doesn’t). Both toilets ran constantly. The house needs a lot of work and it was depressing coming from a basically “done” house.

But, it is still almost 6 acres. There is a lot of room. We’ve got avocado trees, lemons, oranges, and more. Yesterday, instead of unpacking as I was supposed to do, I spent time figuring out where my fruit trees from my rooftop garden will go. And then I decided where my raised beds for my new garden will go. I plotted what I will plant with so much room. It is a bit overwhelming to say the least. But exciting.

I also am debating getting chickens. My kids want goats. I also researched recipes to use up the bounty on this land. So this year this blog will be more about our adventures in remodeling our house, setting up a chicken coop and more. Stay tuned for the adventure.

Last night I cooked for the first time in our new house. Well, cooking sounds a lot more grand than what I did. The oven doesn’t work at all, so I am limited to an electric cooktop. Also I haven’t been grocery shopping so I only had some pantry items and minimal freezer and refrigerator staples. I had to toss a lot with the move.

But, I made do and this is my Moving Pantry Surprise recipe that turned out surprisingly good:

Moving Pantry Surprise

Ingredients:

  • 1 box pasta (Farfalle or similar)
  • 1/2 small bag frozen petite broccoli florets (spinach would work too)
  • 1 to 1 and 1/4 pounds ground turkey
  • Garlic salt
  • Dried basil
  • Cream cheese (whipped)
  • Butter
  • Oil (for browning turkey)
  • Parmesan cheese (grated) (or similar)

Cook 1 box of pasta following directions – I used Farfalle noodles. Add 1/2 bag of frozen organic petite broccoli florets to pasta and water at correct time to cook the broccoli according to its instructions. When done, drain and return to pot.

At same time pasta is cooking, brown some ground turkey. I used 1 and 1/4 pounds of organic ground turkey. I browned it in about 2 tablespoons of avocado oil because that was what I had. Season ground turkey with garlic salt and dried basil. I think turkey needs quite a bit of seasoning so be liberal. Also some fresh ground pepper.

Add ground turkey to the pasta pot and stir in to the pasta and broccoli. Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese, a little butter, and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Voila!

 

Back to School – Desktop Diffuse the Blahs! Salt

I use aromatherapy a lot around the house ~ to energize in the shower, to perk up my cleaning, to relax in the evening – but I never really thought about using it for back to school. I got an email from AuraCacia recommending just that and had a “D’oh” moment. Why not use aromatherapy for back to school? I keep an energizing spray at my desktop to revive myself in the afternoon (and pass on an afternoon snack) so why shouldn’t my kids benefit too?

So, I thought I would share AuraCacia’s recipe for Diffuse the Blahs! Salt.

You’ll need the following:

 

  • 2 tablespoons coarse grain sea salt
  • 15 drops bergamot oil
  • 5 drops peppermint oil
  • a tin (2 oz tin with lid)

It is that simple – just place the salt in the tin. Sprinkle with the oils. When needed, shake and inhale.

Now, if you don’t have a tin or sea salts, you can sprinkle the two oils on a natural fiber fabric square, and tuck in your child’s backpack. And, for the record, I tend to use and order my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs (see the box over on the right).

Cleaning the Garbage Disposal – Vinegar Ice Cubes

As summer approaches (although this weather makes me wonder if summer is actually coming), one of the things I don’t like is those pesky fruit gnats. And I really hate when they get in the garbage disposal.

(Here’s a tip – if you don’t know whether they are in your garbage disposal, just cover the opening with some natural waxed paper, weighting down the edges. You’ll seem them collect on the waxed paper after a couple of hours.)

Fruit gnats love to feed on fruits and veggies – paticularly if they are rotting. Clean out your fruit bowl and wipe it down to get rid of their buffet. But even this may not eliminate them if they are in your garbage disposal. They can get in the garbage disposal if there is food bits collected, particularly if food is stuck on the “blades” of the garbage disposal. A bit of lemon or orange peel can freshen the disposal, but peel isn’t that effective at getting food off of the blades.

What can get the food off of the blades are vinegar ice cubes. Just put 1 cup vinegar in an ice cube tray and fill the balance with water. Freeze. Once frozen, pop a few cubes down the disposal and let it run. The vinegar ice cubes should take any food stuck on the blades off. Voila!

#ecowed Twitter party – Spring Cleaning: Creating a Toxicant Free Home

I’m so excited for this week’s #ecowed Twitter party! We will be talking Spring Cleaning: Creating a Toxicant Free Home with our sponsor ecomom and some very special extra guests, including mother-daughter team Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell from Celebrate Green, Lisa Frack and Senior Scientist Becky Sutton from the Environmental Working Group, and Beth Greer from Super Natural Mom.

Spring always makes we want to clean, organize and start fresh. This #ecowed party will focus on how to undertake that spring cleaning and create a toxicant free home. Tweet with me @thesmartmama and our sponsor @ecomom and @ecomomkimberly to learn some tricks and tips for creating that toxicant free home and be sure to share your own tips.

Also, Social Media Manager Lisa Frack and Senior Scientist Becky Sutton from the EWG are also joining us with their expertise. Make sure you follow @ewgtoxics to learn from Lisa and Becky. And, go check out EWG’s 10 tips for non toxic spring cleaning.

Beth Greer, holistic health educator, radio talk show host, and certified Build It Green professional will also be joining us. She is also the author of Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home, and Planet–One Room at a Time. Make sure you follow her at @supernaturalhome.

And, finally, we’ve got Lynn and Corey, authors of Celebrate Green. Make sure you follow @celebrategreen on Twitter.

Don’t forget to enter ecomom’s $75,000 Healthy Home Makeover contest and check out ecomom’s blog with daily giveaways.

We will have great advice for going non toxic and prizes to boot. That’s right – we’ve got three $25 gift certificates to the ecomom website and a grand prize $100 gift certificate to ecomom. Prizes will be randomly drawn from those who join us during the #ecowed Twitter party using the #ecowed hashtag. Get an extra entry by leaving a comment on this post about how you create a toxicant free home or a question you have about creating a healthy home.

So join us at 7 pm Pacific on Wednesday, April 20, 2011, using the #ecowed hashtag. If you aren’t sure how to join a Twitter party, just read about it here. And if you want some tips for reducing toxic chemical exposure, don’t forget you can always check out my book – Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure

#ecowed Twitter party with ecomom: Entertaining the Family for Spring Holidays

This Wednesday’s #ecowed Twitter party will focus on Entertaining the Family for Spring Holidays the eco-friendly way. We will be tweeting green partying for Spring with our sponsor ecomom on April 6, 2011, from 7 to 8 pm Pacific (that’s 10 to 11 pm Eastern). Our special guest expert is the wonderful Gigi Lee Chang, founder and CEO of Plum Organics.

ecomom is sponsoring a series of #ecowed Twitter parties in support of ecomom’s fabulous contest to win a $75,000 Healthy  Home Makeover. That’s right – one lucky family will win a newly refreshed and healthy home. This is week two – and it is about the garden and the family room. I love gardening, so I’m particularly excited about this party.

And spring is the time to think about a newly refreshed and healthy home! Spring always makes me want to clean out the old, go green with the new, and invite people over for parties! So we will be talking with the founder of Plum Organics, Gigi Lee Chang, about how to entertain the family eco-friendly style. We will be talking about simplicity, food and celebrating new life!

As always, we’ve got prizes. Our fabulous sponsor ecomom is providing three (3) $20 gift certificates to the ecomom website, and a $100 gift certificate as the grand prize! Woot! To be eligible to win, you must (1) leave a comment on this blog with your Twitter handle and (2) participate in the Twitter party (don’t forget to use the #ecowed hashtag). If you haven’t participated in a Twitter party before, here’s a run down on how to participate in a Twitter party

Tweet with you on April 6, 2011 from 7 to 8 pm Pacific. Don’t forget to follow me http://twitter.com/thesmartmama), our sponsor @ecomom and @ecomomkimberly, and our guest expert @plumorganics.

DIY – Herbal Infusion

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with growing and using my own herbs. Herbs are so easy to grow – you don’t need a garden even – just a sunny spot and some pots. You can even often just use an indoor spot with a sunny window. They really don’t need much care – some herbs even have a better flavor with a little stress. 

I also want to use them, and not just for cooking. I have this romanticized notion of the herbal healer woman. And I have a desire to be that herbal healer woman. At least sort of. A modern day notion. The ability to be able to make my own tonics and creams and teas and all that appeals to me.

So, in any event, I’ve been researching and reading what to add to my herbal garden. I thought I would share some of my adventues with you.

One of the easiest  herbal preparations is probably something you are already familiar with – the infusion. Preparing an infusion is really just like making a cup of tea. You bring water to a boil (a good, roiling boil – you want the hot water to break the cell walls of your herb(s)) and then pour it over a herb or a combination of herbs. Allow it to steep. Then, you can use a a tea strainer, or a small bag, or a ceramic insert strainer, or a strainer, or whatever, to take the herb(s) out when done. That’s it. You are extracting the herb’s scent, flavor, and color into the water. An infusion works best for delicate herbs.

Now, how much of the herb to use in relation to how much water, and the steeping time, depends on what you are trying to do.

Generally, you use about a cup of herbs in a quart jar, and fill with boiling water; close the lid; and allow to steep for 4 to 10 hours. Strain. You can then keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

You may use an infusion for a variety of reasons. I just made a herbal infusion for purposes of doing a facial steam. I used 1/3 cup of lavender blossomes and 2/3 cup dried chamomile (from last year) blossoms. After steeping and straining, I refrigerated the infusion. Then, 2 days later, I brought the infusion back to a boil, let sit and then draped a towel over my face and gave myself a facial steam. I then rinsed my face. Voila! Instant tension reliever, and chamomile is supposed to  soothe irritated skin.

Have you ever tried a herbal infusion?

The Smart Mama on CBS’ The Talk

So, accordingy to my sister, I finally made it. I appeared on CBS’ The Talk on January 4, 2011. Woot!

I was so excited to be asked to give some tips for going non toxic at home on CBS’ The Talk. I had the pleasure of being on camera with fellow green mama Sara Gilbert, the amazing Julie Chen, and the tireless and formidable advocate Holly Robinson Peete. So check it out my segment on Tips for a Non Toxic Home (okay, and I’m having a fabulous hair day)

I also got to talk briefly off camera to Sharon Osbourne about, of all things, the presence of hormone disrupting phthalates in conventional air fresheners. 

Just ahead of my segment was Dr. Jay Gordon. He talked broadly about the potentially toxic chemical soup facing children today. I urge you to check out his segment on Poisons and Your Kids too.

Non Toxic Solutions to Clean Your Toilet

Does anybody like scrubbing toilets? I don’t think so. I mean, I certainly appreciate indoor plumbing, but that doesn’t mean I have to like cleaning the toilet bowl.

And those conventional toilet bowl cleaners have some not so nice chemicals in them. Some are made with strong acids or caustics that can cause burns on the skin. Some have synthetic scents that contain hormone disrupting phthalates.

But, an easy way to clean the toilet is to use my favorite homemade soft scrub followed with a vinegar chaser. I talked about this non toxic option for cleaning toilets on CBS’ The Talk.

So, first, to make the soft scrub. Take an empty squeeze or squirt bottle – be green and re-use a ketchup or mustard bottle (cleaned out of course) and add some baking soda. Now, how much depends on the size of your squirt bottle. Try 1/4 cup to start and add to the bottle with a funnel. Then add liquid castile soap. My fave is Dr. Bronner’s rose scented, but you can use whatever castille soap (a vegetable based liquid soap) you like. Just add until you like the consistency.

I happen to like this soft scrub a little runny. Okay, you can use the soft scrub for counters, sinks, etc. but you can also use it to clean the toilet. Just squirt up under the rim to coat the bowl (like your typical toilet bowl cleaner), let sit, and then follow with some distilled white vinegar. The vinegar and baking soda will react, cleaning your toilet without scrubbing. If your toilet is in bad shape to start, then you can just sprinkle in baking soda to start, followed with vinegar, and allow to foam for 10 minutes or so before flushing.

Another option is 2 parts Borax to 1 part lemon juice.

Here’s a video showing how to make the soft scrub if you need it:

Quick Cleaning & Stain Fighting Tips to Prepare for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and, if you are hosting dinner, you are probably getting ready for it. I know I am. We usually have around 45 people, so I have to start in early November.

This morning, I was on the Morning Living show on Martha Stewart Living Radio with hosts Kim Fernandez and Betsy Karetnick talking about stain fighting recipes from pantry staples in preparation for Thanksgiving. So, I thought I was share some of them with you.

Since we have dogs, one of my chores in preparation for Thanksgiving is to doggy deodorize the carpets, rugs and upholestered furnitue. What I do is just sprinkle some baking soda on the carpet and rugs, and on the couch cushions that aren’t removable. I let it sit at least 30 minutes – the longer the better – and then vacuum up. Deodorizing done!

To clean my wood floors, I just use a mixture of vinegar and water – at a one to one ratio. If I need some cleaning boost, I’ll squirt in some castile soap. Now, for those of you who don’t like the odor of vineger, I’ve got a  tip for you. Simmer some water on the stove or use an electric water pot, and add your favorite essential oils (pure essential oils, not synthetic) or add some cinnamon, cloves, orange peels, pine needles, whatever you like. Do this while you are cleaning and you won’t notice the vinegar. Plus, your whole house will smell amazing without phthalate-containing synthetic scents.

Okay, now what about fighting stains? For a fresh red wine stain (doesn’t somebody always spill red wine?), blot up what you can (don’t rub, you don’t want to force it into the carpet fiber) and then throw on some coarse salt. Be generous. The salt will absorb the color and keep it from setting while you figure out what to do. You can leave it on overnight and then vacuum in the morning. Then mix 1 cup cool water, 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) and a very small squirt of dishwashing soap. Spray this on the area, and gently blot up, working the stain out. Don’t saturate the carpet. Once done, put a clean white rag or towel over the area to wick up the moisture. Be careful with the soap – you don’t want soap residue on your carpet which can then attract dirt in the future. And, if you have a wool carpet, use hydrogen peroxide sparingly and skip the squirt of dishwashing soap.

Another option is to use white wine to neutralize the red wine and then blot up. Then follow with the salt and cleaning solution routine.

For coffee, you need to replace the acidic coffee (which gets into the carpet fiber) with a stronger acid. First, blot up what you can using a dry, clean towel. The blot with a mixture of water and distilled white vinegar, and let that sit for 15 minutes. Then blot up with a slighty damp rag.

For greasy food stains, take up what you can and then try a mixture of vinegar and water. Vinegar cuts grease, and usually will perform well.

For candle wax, freeze it by adding ice cubes in a ziploc bag or frozen veggies in a ziploc bag. Then gently lift what you can using a blunt knife. Then, use paper towels or a paper bag, placing these over the spot. The use a clean rag, and iron gently on the lowest setting. Be careful if your carpeting is synthetic – you do not want to melt the fibers. Check the paper towel or paper bag repeatedly, and switch out once you see a stain.

What’s wrong with natural deodorants? You may be surprised to find aluminium.

Well, the real answer may be that many people find that natural deodorants just don’t work as well. But that isn’t what I was going to talk about in this post. Instead, I wanted to talk about what is in what many consider to be the most natural of all the natural deodorants – the crystal rock deodorant.

Now, some people switch to natural deodorants because they want to avoid aluminium. Aluminium is present in many conventional anti-perspirants, although it isn’t typically found in conventional deodorants. An increased amount of aluminium is found in the brains of many Alzheimer’s patients. Aluminium is a neurotoxin at high doses. However, aluminium in anti-perspirants has not been shown to cause Alzheimer’s, and the absorption of aluminium from anti-perspirants may be low although it does occur. While some animal studies have shown that high doses of the same aluminium salts used in anti-perspirants have detrimental impacts, The Alzheimer’s Society concludes that the evidence does not demonstrate a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer’s.

So, even though the science does not confirm a link to Alzheimer’s, some people prefer products without aluminium. So they switch to natural deodorants. Other people want to avoid other ingredients commonly found in conventional anti-perspirants and deodorants, such as parabens, phthalates, and more. So they switch to natural deodorants. And some people just want to avoid the disposable plastic that comes with most conventional anti-perspirants and deodorants. So they switch to natural deodorants with less packaging.

All of those are valid reasons. But, if you are switching to a “natural” deodorant to avoid aluminium, then the natural deodorant better not have aluminium, right?

The thing is – those crystal deodorants contain aluminium.  Just check out the ingredients here, including the original Rock with ammonium alum. Ammonium alum is ammonium aluminium sulfate. Potassium alum, or hydrated aluminium potassium sulfate, may also be used. Now, it is true that the aluminium compounds are different in the rock crystal deodorants than in most conventional deodorants, and may be absorbed differently, but they still contain aluminium. And it is aluminium which is considered a neurotoxin that penetrates the blood-brain barrier. It is a bit misleading for The Original Crystal Rock to suggest that it is only aluminium chlorohydrate that is a neurotoxin.

In any event, it just seems to me that if you want to avoid aluminium, then you shouldn’t use the crystal deodorants. And keep in mind that those cystal rocks aren’t just mined naturally. They are as close to the aluminium compounds mined as sodium laureth sulfate is to coconuts. In other words, not much.

In any event, I find baking powder is the easiest and cheapest. Just put some in a small dish – I use a dish that used to have some fancy dusting powder and a pouf to put on the baking soda. It works wonders. Some people like a lit bit more to their deodorant, so you can make  your own. The best recipe is 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup corn startch and 1/4 cup coconut oil. Heat over low heat, until the coconut oil melts and the ingredients are combined. Pour liquid into container of your choice (re-use an old stick deodorant container). Let it cool. You can add some essential oil to the mixture if you want some more scent. Enviromom posts about her efforts with a slightly different recipe that doesn’t involve cooking.

If you don’t believe me and want a product, try Weleda. I like Weleda Citrus Deodorant. Now, the ingredients include the dreaded “fragrance” but the fragrance is from natural essential oils. And all those potentially yucky sounding chemicals – limonene, linalool, geraniol, citral, and farnesol – are the componds that make essential oils smell. Linalool is the top note in lavender essential oil. The information is included because the European Union’s rule requiring identification of certain potential allergens. And essential oils contain compounds which can cause allergic reactions in some people.