Archive for April, 2010

Cleaning the Floors with Vinegar?!

Last week, I used up the last of my Murphy’s Wood Oil for cleaning my hardwood floors.  This week, I had to start using a natural cleaning product.  I was nervous about this change.  I have been using Murphy’s Wood Oil for a long time – all 3 years in this house and for 4 years in my townhouse.  It was a trusted product.  I admit that I’ve always been concerned because it isn’t a natural product. Rusty stays away while I’m doing the mopping, but once I’m done, he likes to come in and check out what is going on.  The floors aren’t dry yet, so he is walking on this product, carrying remnants on his paws on to the carpet and furniture only then to  lick them clean.  I am always afraid that I am slowly poisoning him with floor cleaner.  Also, I am cleaning the floors barefoot and inevitably step on the wet floors.  I feel like I need to clean my feet before I start walking on the carpets.  Maybe this change would be good.

I turned to my trusted cleaning source Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook (Thanks to Kim, a new reader of my blog, for buying such a perfect shower gift for my bridal shower!). Just a note that this book tells you the best way to clean everything in your house and many of her cleaning solutions are with natural products.  As I’m reading the section on cleaning wood floors, two items jump out at me.  I shouldn’t use oil soap on my floors because it leaves a residue that traps dust.  What?!  All these years and I’m  making my dust on the hardwoods situation even worse. Ugh.  The  second thing is that I am supposed to use vinegar and water to clean them instead.  I hate the smell of vinegar and am worried that this cleaning solution will make my entire house smell like vinegar.  I follow the instructions anyway – 1/4 cup of vinegar to 1 quart of lukewarm water and off I go.

Guess what. My floors are clean.   My house didn’t smell like vinegar, and I didn’t worry about my dog walking on my still damp floors.   Vinegar and baking soda can pretty much clean anything in your  house.  Not only am I eliminating toxic chemicals from the air and surfaces in my house.  I’m also saving money.  Both of these products are inexpensive. 

That last cleaning product that is still in use in my household is windex.  Will I ever switch that?  Let’s wait and see.


Shouldn’t Every Day Be Earth Day?

Happy Earth Day!  Today is the 4oth anniversary of Earth Day.  Earth Day was created to protest the deteriorating conditions of the earth’s waterways, air quality, forests, and all other elements of our environment.  It triggered the development of the EPA whose mission is to protect human health and the environment.  We have come a long way since 1970, and we live in a much cleaner environment.  We still have further to go. 

Earth Day is celebrated every year to remind people of the need to keep our world clean and healthy – to save the environment.  Let’s hope that one day, the population doesn’t need a reminder of the importance to protect the world around us and Earth Day will no longer be needed.

Roasted Chickpeas Anyone?

A few months ago, I saw a recipe for a salad that included roasted vegetables.  Included in the roasted vegetables were roasted chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans.  They were so delicious. I ate the remaining chickpeas as a snack and have continued to make them specifically for snacking (although, they are tasty in a salad). 

These are an ideal snack.  One serving has 12 g protein and 11 g of fiber!  You can’t beat that. Chickpeas are the staple of many foods,including hummus and falafel.   They are also inexpensive.  A single can costs less than $1.  My grocery store sells a can of organic chickpeas for $1.29 at full price, and $1 when they are on sale.  Who says you can’t afford to eat organic?

Roasted Chickpeas

Drain the can of chickpeas and toss them in olive oil and salt.  Roast them for 1/2 hour in a 400 degree oven, turning once.  You can’t get easier than this.


You can’t get much healthier than this….Mixed Grain Casserole

I just shared this recipe with my sister.  It is a delicious, simple dish to make.  It’s healthy and has an element from each food group.  Each serving is 187 calories, 4 g fat, 33 g carb, 7 g fiber, and 10 g protein.   I can’t take credit for this recipe.   It’s from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  If you don’t have this cookbook, I recommend adding it to your collection.   It was the first cookbook I ever owned (a gift from my mother), and it is the cookbook that I use the most today.

Mixed Grain Casserole

2 medium carrots thinly sliced (I just use the baby carrots and cut them into chunks)
1 cup of fresh mushrooms, quartered
1 can of black beans, rinse  and drained
8 oz (1 cup) frozen corn
1 cup of veg broth (you could use chicken broth)
1/2 cup pearl barley  (might be a little pricey but will last you a long time; also a good side dish instead of rice)
1/4 cup bulgur
1 small onion chopped
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1.  In a 1.5 quart casserole dish, mix all the ingredients except for cheese.  Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for an hour, stirring once halfway through.

2.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Cover; let stand for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Next time I make this, I’ll post a picture of it.

Trash, Trash, Everywhere

Sometimes when I think about the amount of trash generated every day, I am overwhelmed at the losing battle to recycle and reduce garbage. I remember when I was younger, maybe junior high, maybe even high school hearing that if something wasn’t done, we would run out of landfill space. That frightened me even then. If still frightens me. Of course, new landfills could be created but where would they be? My region of the country has very little open space left, and I hope that that space will continue to be used for parks, farming, and general preservation of green space.
I try not to think about mounds of garbage but every once in a while, the reality of how much trash is created every day hits me. This weekend, Steve and I participated in a charity walk. Charity walks are great. Free food and drinks are everywhere. We started off the day with a bagel. Each one was individually wrapped in its own paper bag. That’s not so bad. Paper bags take from 1-5 months to biodegrade. During the walk, we were treated with fruit. Fruit waste is the good kind of trash, so I was ok with that. Of course, along with the fruit was bottled water. It takes 450 years for a plastic bottle of water to biodegrade. 450 years. Just thinking about that is staggering.

At the end of the race is when the real freebie food was accessible. There were hot dogs (wrapped in aluminum foil), pretzels (individually wrapped in plastic), cookies (individually wrapped in plastic) and more and more plastic bottles of iced tea and water. We also got snack bags filled with candy bars, single serving Rice Krispie treats, Twizzlers, and potato chips. Each item was individually wrapped and all the items were put into a plastic bag. Plastic bags are estimated to take anywhere from 500-1000 years to biodegrade. 500 years if the bag is exposed to sunlight.

We made out great in the food and snacks department at this walk, but the landfills did not. In just a couple of hours, this event generated enough trash that will take more than 1,000,000 years to all break down.

Even in our daily lives, we generate more trash than we even realize. I strive to always use reusable containers. We never wrap lunches or food in bags or foil at our house. Knowing that I make a concerted effort every day to reduce my trash generation, let’s examine what trash I do generate. Yesterday for breakfast, I had some instant oatmeal. That oatmeal comes in a paper package, which is trash. Later, I had a snack pack of crackers (a leftover goodie from the walk), which was wrapped in plastic – trash. At lunch, I used a napkin – trash. I used the bathroom several times yesterday and dried my hands with paper towels – trash. For dinner, I made some tofu and fresh green beans. The tofu package – trash and the green beans were packaged in a plastic bag – trash. After dinner, I had another goodie from the walk – a package of Twizzlers wrapped in plastic – trash. That was just me – an environmentally conscious individual.

I’m not here to judge how people live, but I am appealing to all of you. Think about the trash you generate and what you can reduce. Use a reusable container for your sandwich instead of a plastic bag. Use reusable tote bags for all purchases. They aren’t just for grocery stores. Take one to the mall or Home Depot. Avoid purchasing individually wrapped items. Buy a reusable water bottle. Steve and I each have a Nalgene bottle. If you’re worried about BPA, buy a stainless steel water bottle (Costco has a set of 3 available right now). We always fill a bottle before we go anywhere. Even if we don’t drink it, we’ll have it in case we get thirsty. We won’t be tempted to just run into WaWa and buy some water. If everyone makes one small change in reducing their trash generation, a big change will take place.

Where’s that Snooze Button?

I was thinking about sleep this morning as I drove into work, sipping my coffee.  Why is that so many people don’t get enough sleep?  I am frequently well-rested, but I do go through spurts where I am just exhausted.  Night after night, I don’t get enough hours of sleep.  I pay for it for weeks afterwards.   For me, being tired is the result of not enough hours in the day.  I’m sure many people can relate to this problem.  It isn’t even a problem of not enough hours to do all the things that you need to do, but also the things that you want to do.   

Let me give you a rundown of my day yesterday.  Woke up at 6am.  Left for work at 7:45am.  Worked until 4:30pm.  Picked up Gavin and was home by 5:30pm.  Family time (which really means, doing laundry, preparing and eating dinner, cleaning up after dinner, cleaning lunch containers, coffee mugs, and Gavin’s bottles all while trying to enjoy quality with the G-man) until 7:30pm.  Gavin’s in bed by 8pm, and I’m out the door to the grocery store by 8:15pm.   Home by 9:15pm.  We unloaded the groceries and finished cleaning up around the house until 9:30pm.  Now, here is where I made myself even more tired.  Instead of taking a shower and going to bed to try and recover from the previous night’s exhaustion, I decided to watch some tv.  I hadn’t had any time to relax all day.  I wanted to spend an hour hanging out with Steve with some mindless entertainment.  An hour later, I take a shower and am in bed only to pick up the latest book that I’m reading (which happens to be The Bourne Identity – very good!) and decided that I needed to make some more progress on it.   I didn’t turn out the light until almost 11:30 only to wake up at 6am and start all over.

Why do I do this to myself?  I’ll tell you why.  I want some time to relax.  Some time to do anything that I want to do.  Time to enjoy hobbies.  Once you do all that things that you have to do, there isn’t a lot of time left for hobbies.  I’m sure that many of you can relate to that.

A long time ago, I read that you need a week of good night’s sleep for every hour of missed sleep.  I don’t know how true that is, but I do agree that making up for loss of sleep never happens in just one night.   I also know what sleep deprivation does to me physically and physiologically.  Physically, I eat more.  When I’m tired, I eat anything and everything.  It’s like my brain is saying, keep eating for energy, but my body is too tired to prepare a healthy, energizing meal or snack.   Since, I’m eating all these bad foods, my body is too tired and depleted to exercise.  Physiologically, I’m cranky.  I’m not happy.  I’m not in a good mood.  All I think about is how will I catch up on my sleep.  I’m not a doctor, but I’m sure prolonged sleep deprivation has a multitude of long-term health consequences.  I wouldn’t even be surprised if prolonged exhaustion resulted in a shorter lifespan. 

Isn’t it ironic that as you age, you need less sleep.  So, once I get to that retirement age, where work doesn’t hinder me from doing all the things I want to do, I’ll have even more hours in the day to do them.  In the meantime, I’m going to try my best to prioritize sleep and watch tv another night.  Isn’t that what a Tivo is for anyway?

Sickness Strikes Again

It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I was complaining about a slight cold that I had.  Maybe because it was only a few weeks ago.  A week after recovery, I got slammed with a second, much worse cold that left me unable to breathe out of my nose for 3 full days.  When I say “unable to breathe”, I mean not one puff of air was making it through either nostril.  The post-nasal drip force me to sleep on 3 pillows for a week and a half.  My overall miserableness did end after it followed the typical course the common cold takes.  Days 1 and 2 are usually a sore throat followed by stuffiness, runny nose, and coughing on days 3 and 4, which are typically the worst days and are what drive people to the doctor.  Knowing this information about the cold, on day 4 when I still couldn’t breathe, I was tempted to go to the doctor’s.  I decided to wait and see if day 5 brought any improvement, and sure enough it did.  My body fought that cold all on its own.  I spent one glorious night sleeping on only  1 pillow before the stomach virus hit.

On Friday evening, I was rejoicing in successfully making some ice cream with my Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment.  (My first couple of batches were not very good.)  After I had my celebratory bowl, I immediately didn’t feel all that well.  I went to sleep soon after thinking that I would be fine when I woke up in the morning.  I must disclose that my stomach churns just thinking about that ice cream.  Without going into any gory details, Saturday was spent in bed.  I was unable to move due to nausea, body aches, and fatigue.  Fortunately, I was on the road to recovery when Gavin started coughing from his allergies at 3am Sunday  morning.  Steve took care of him and about 5 minutes after Gavin was back in his crib, the stomach virus had hit Steve full force.  Steve spent all day Sunday in bed feeling my agony from the day before.

It’s now Day 3 of the virus, and I still haven’t fully recovered.  I’m still nauseous after eating and can’t really think about much more than toast, rice, and pretzels.  Needless to say, I haven’t been watching the Food Network.  I’ve also thrown out everything that I had for dinner the night before I got sick.  That ice cream is going too, as soon as I can stand to look at it.  Of course, I did go to work.  Hopefully for all of my co-workers’ sakes, I’m no longer contagious.  On a brighter note, Gavin hasn’t shown any signs of the virus.  Let’s hope it missed him.

One more important component of this weekend to share is how great my dog is.  Rusty laid in bed with me all day Saturday.  Every time I woke up, he was there.  On Sunday, he stayed in bed all day with Steve.  Rusty is not a lazy dog.  His favorite activity is chasing a tennis ball from our family room to our dining room.   His second favorite activity is going outside.  While his third favorite thing to do is going to bed, I think that he stayed with us because he knew that we needed a little comfort.   It was nice waking up and reaching over to feel that little fluff ball (he needs to be groomed) cuddled up against my leg.  I couldn’t ask for a better pet.

Let’s hope that I am now back to my usual healthy self, and we can chalk up March and April 2010 as a fluke in my immune system.