Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Natural Beauty Secrets: Part 2

Here’s some more fantastic, affordable, and completely natural ways to pamper yourself and keep your skin and hair supple, soft and radiant this winter, compliments of the folks at www.better.tv.

Enjoy!

Posted October 10th, 2011.

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Natural Beauty Secrets

Naturally, with the change of the seasons comes the need to pamper your hair and skin to keep it at its best.

Here’s an informative and… um… PERKY video from the folks at E-How on the ten best natural beauty secrets everyone should know about.

Enjoy!

Posted October 4th, 2011.

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Eggshells: A Few Egg-cellent Alternatives To Tossing Them Out

by Danica Waters

Wait! Before you throw out those eggshells from your morning breakfast, check out this fun and informative video from Jeff Yeager… Whether you’re a city dweller or spend your days in the “wild blue yonder”, the self-proclaimed “Ultimate Cheapskate” has a few “Egg-cellent Alternatives To Tossing Them Out” .

Enjoy!

Posted September 27th, 2011.

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We’re Getting Smarter! Urban Farming Is No Longer An Urban Myth

(photo courtesy of  www.podponics.com) 

While even a few years ago the concept of urban farming was etherial and elusive, today it is nothing short of  a movement.  This movement is empowering people across the US to take control of their diet, their environment, and ultimately, their pocketbooks, using creativity, determination, and innovation to blow past socio-economic and even weather-related regional boundaries.  The Allspice Chronicles discovered this article in the SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle)  online, and thought it important – and inspiring – enough  to re-post it in its entirety.  We’re getting smarter!  Urban farming is no longer an urban myth – it’s a reality.

Enjoy!

“Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) — Designer lettuce will soon bud under the flight path of the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta. An orchard is taking the place of a parking lot in Davenport, Iowa. And homeowners near downtown Denver are turning lawns over to farmers like Sundari Kraft, who plant, weed, water and harvest crops from their yards in return for a share of the bounty.

“People are sick and tired of mowing and fertilizing,” said Kraft, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading,” in an interview at her Denver home. “We have a stack of applications, enough to double what we do now.”

From New York to Seattle, cities — which the U.S. Conference of Mayors says account for 90 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product — are attempting to create jobs, foster economic development, feed impoverished neighborhoods and fill long-vacant lots by returning to their agrarian roots.

Kraft, 34, and a team of apprentices nurture tomato forests, white eggplants, rainbow chard and other genetically pure vegetables for 11 homeowners who live minutes from downtown. Kraft sells the crop at farmers’ markets and to 30 families, who fork over $450 for a 20-week supply.

The demand for locally grown produce hit a high point this year, fed by urbanites looking to save money as well as documentaries such as “Food Inc.” and books including Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which explore industrial food production.

Alaska to Texas

More farmers are marketing their products directly to consumers than ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Aug. 5 when it released its 2011 National Farmers Market Directory. The guide lists 7,175 markets, up 53 percent from 4,685 in 2008.

States experiencing the most rapid growth aren’t in the West or Northeast, where the local-food movement germinated, the USDA found. The agency reported a 46 percent increase in markets in Alaska, and a 38 percent jump in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.

“There’s a major trend that has serious legs,” said Matt Liotta, chief executive of PodPonics Inc., which will start growing watercress, arugula and other lettuce varieties hydroponically (in water, without soil) in recycled shipping containers on eight acres outside Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the next two months.

“Organic sales are up, fresh produce sales are up and per- capita consumption of lettuce is up,” he said.

Not Enough Lettuce

PodPonics signed an 11-year lease at the Southside Industrial Park with a unit of the Atlanta Development Authority, Liotta said. The lease is below market rate, he added, because of the city’s interest in the jobs that PodPonics will create. The company said it expects to hire as many as 30 workers.

Even though Americans are eating more lettuce, it’s not enough. Only one in four residents meets federal nutrition guidelines for three or more vegetable servings a day, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found in a 2010 study.

To combat escalating obesity rates, nutritionists are urging diners to fill half their plate with produce.

“The half-a-plate dietary guideline does cause us to look at our current production acreage and try to figure out: How do we get there?” said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan in a conference call with reporters Aug. 5.

With only 2 percent of the nation’s agricultural land used to grow fruits and vegetables, according to USDA statistics, there is opportunity for urban farmers to fill the gap.

New York City

City officials, nonprofits and universities are attempting to quantify urban farms’ economic benefits to boost private and public funding as well as productivity.

In New York, the nonprofit Design Trust for Public Space is surveying farms in the five boroughs to create a citywide plan to support urban agriculture.

“If you talk to longtime observers, they say five or six years ago they knew every farm plot and everyone involved,” said Jerome Chou, the trust’s director of programs. “Now that’s impossible. It’s growing so fast across all sorts of racial, class and demographic lines.”

Urban agriculture would grow faster if the federal government supported farmers’ markets as it does large commodity producers, who receive billions in subsidies, said Jeffrey O’Hara, an economist at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, in an interview.

“Modest public funding for 100 to 500 otherwise- unsuccessful farmers markets a year could create as many as 13,500 jobs over a five-year period,” O’Hara wrote in a study released Aug. 4.

Free Produce

City planners hope urban farms will also revitalize long- forgotten downtowns. To draw residents outdoors, Davenport officials plan to give away produce grown on public land.

In coming weeks, the city will transform a neglected inner- city parking lot into a fruit and nut orchard, vegetable garden and park space.

“It’s a matter of rethinking what public spaces are used for,” said Darrin Nordahl, Davenport’s city designer and author of the book “Public Produce.”

“Every park has landscaping, every plaza has landscaping,” he said in an interview. “There is landscaping on our streets, grounds around schools and public libraries. Instead of doing everything ornamental, let’s see if we can produce food on these lands.”

Growing in Detroit

Restrictive zoning and farming laws in some states make it difficult for aspiring producers to get projects in the ground.

In Detroit, Hantz Farms set out to add to the city’s thriving network of community gardens by building “the world’s largest urban farm,” on scores of trash-strewn vacant lots.

Its plans were slowed by a state policy that governs production guidelines for commercial farms, said Mike Score, the company’s president.

The law didn’t allow Detroit officials control over what agricultural activities might take place at Hantz’s farm, Score said, requiring complex legal negotiations the company hopes to conclude in the next few months.

Hantz wants to purchase 200 acres in southeast Detroit from the city, where it hopes to grow Christmas trees. The company would eventually like to acquire the remainder of the 500-acre site to incorporate gardens and an educational indoor growing center, Score said.

Whether on public or private lands, community garden networks from coast to coast illustrate how urban farms benefit metropolises economically and socially, advocates say.

“People here are growing 24,000 pounds of food, everything from leafy greens to squash,” said Barbara Finnin, executive director of City Slicker Farms, a decade-old nonprofit in Oakland, California, that’s helped 170 inner-city families plant gardens in their yards.

“If things cost $1.80 per pound– multiplied by 24,000 — people here are saving cumulatively over $43,200 a year,” Finnin said. “That’s money that can be spent in different ways.”

–Editors: Mark Schoifet, Stephen Merelman

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/08/15/bloomberg1376-LPQGH407SXKX01-4AU27B6VUPVG1V5JEQ3INTDV4B.DTL&ao=2#ixzz1VOqqGV9p

Posted August 18th, 2011.

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Ten Good Reasons to “Think Globally and Act Locally”: Mother Earth Knows Best

by Danica Waters

 

Ten Good Reasons to “Think Globally and Act Locally”: Mother Earth Knows Best

 

With every passing day, escalating reports of our seemingly doomed economy, of the unending strife in our political system, and of the glaring void between “we the people” and “we the large corporations who don’t seem to care” make the need for personal assessment and decision-making increasingly inescapable.  In just a few decades, our modern society as a whole has rendered itself nearly inept at true self-sufficiency.  Technology and specialization have whittled away at our connection with the basic rhythms of nature, and while our grandparents might have been sure to purchase and actually read and utilize the information in their yearly Farmer’s Almanac, these days most of us don’t even know the basics of growing a tomato.  It’s a lot like the feeling of being in a little boat in the middle of a big ocean and realizing you don’t know how to swim.

 

With the possibility of another Great Depression looming, accompanied by projections of skyrocketing inflation, it’s time we started looking at sustainable ways to take care of ourselves and our communities.  While the prospect of making grassroots changes to our hectic lifestyles may seem overwhelming and next to impossible, most successful endeavors start with baby steps.  One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to support change on both a personal and community-based level is to simply pay a visit to your local farm or farmer’s market.  The selection of local seasonal produce will astound you, and it will make for a fun and relaxing weekend excursion.  Beyond the fun, here’s some reasons why buying local makes sense:

 

Your dollar goes directly to support the farm you buy from.

Even if you can’t eliminate your visits to a large grocery store altogether, you can  make small, healthy purchases from your local farm or farmers’ market.  When you purchase from a local farm, be it organic or not, you know every dollar you spend is going to support that particular farm – not some middleman or large conglomerate with questionable corporate relationships and agendas.  A thriving farm contributes to a vibrant local community, a healthy local economy, and helps to ensure that your community’s food supply is viable and plentiful in times of potential crisis.

 

By purchasing from your local farm or farmer’s market, you directly help to reduce pollution and waste.

Purchasing from your local farm or farmer’s market means that you are helping to reduce the amount of long-distance transportation, and the energy consumption, pollution, and waste that are direct results of having to ship food long distances.

 

Buying local puts you in touch with what grows in your area – how, and when.

Strike up a conversation with your local farmer and over time you’ll most certainly learn a few secrets about the local harvest.  Over time, this serves to provide an enhanced connection to the community in which you live, along with greater insight into the community’s challenges and causes for celebration.

 

Don’t know where there’s a farm or market near you?  Don’t fret – you’re not alone.  That’s why the folks at www.localharvest.org have put together a national database of local, sustainable and/or organic farms and farmers’ markets in both rural and urban communities alike.  Bookmark this site!  It’s wonderful to refer to during road trips, as well.

 

 

Add “organic farming” to the equation, and the positives are overwhelming:

 

 

Buying local and organic maximizes the nutritional value of the food you eat.

Organic, “free-fange”, hormone and pesticide-free foods show higher levels of nutrients, vitamins, trace minerals and anti-oxidants.  Shorter storage and transportation times also contribute to the preservation of your food’s nutritional content.

 

Small-scale, local organic farms preserve habitats.

One of the most miraculous aspects of nature is that, when in balance, all beings within the environment or ecosystem work together to support that particular ecosystem.  Optimally, small-scale farms will usually grow several different types of produce, and will support several different kinds of farm animals..  Additionally, the diversity of flora and fauna will provide functional habitats for other animals, as well.  This species diversification promotes a balanced, healthy ecosystem, and allows a wide variety of birds, animals, and insects to work together to support the delicate balance of our planet.

 

Small-scale, local organic farms protect biodiversity.

In commercial farming, the focus is on growing only those species that will travel well and last a long time in transport and on produce shelves.  This generally involves the use of Genetically Modified Organisms, and does not consider the protection and preservation of wild or heirloom species.

 

Local farms generally grow what is best for their specific microclimate and environment, which results in a wide range of plant varieties.  Furthermore, organic farms are actually prohibited from using any Genetically Modified Organisms, which are actually killing off critical pollinator species and threatening the genetic integrity of many different plant species through cross-pollination.

 

Given the medicinal and chemical wonders that are being discovered on a daily basis from the flora on this planet, it is vital that we preserve and support the genetic library for future generations.

 

Organic farms do not use pesticides, hormones, or anything genetically modified.

Organic farms use natural, ecological solutions to solve pest and other farming-related problems.  This not only keeps you away from potentially cancer-causing toxins in your food, but prevents the contamination of groundwater, as well.  Additionally, organic farming prevents the vast annihilation of various bird, animal, fish, and insect species, including the beautiful Monarch Butterfly.

Organic/Free-range is better for you, and for the environment.

Organic, free-range animal products, including eggs, milk, and meat, have been proven to have a much higher nutritional value than their commercially-produced counterparts.  Additionally, a free-range lifestyle allows for the natural disbursement of animal waste over a large area, in amounts that serve to enhance rather than poison the land.

Organic farming eliminates the threat of Mad Cow Disease.

Mad Cow Disease, or Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy, is caused by feeding cattle ground-up remains of their own kind.  This forced cannibalism has disastrous results; Mad Cow Disease destroys the central nervous system and brain.  It can be transmitted to humans in the form of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. (www.wikipedia.org)

Organic farms support long-term sustainability.

By rotating crops, planting “cover crops”(secondary crops planted in-between rows of the primary crop for natural weed-control and soil amendment), and enhancing the soil with animal manure and other minerals, organic farmers work tirelessly to leave the topsoil even better than they found it. This, in turn, creates “sustainability”, which allows the farm to produce bountiful harvests year after year after year. (www.wikipedia.com)

 

Throughout the month of August, the Allspice Chronicles will focus on the almost-lost art of canning and preserving the bounty of the harvest.  With how-to’s and tasty, tantalizing, economical recipes, our goal is to join thousands of others nationwide as we prepare for the National Can-It-Forward day, August 13, 2011.

 

Need canning supplies?  Check out our favorites featured in the links in the right-hand column of our site.  Each product is personally chosen and highly recommended.  And better yet, a portion of every purchase made via Amazon.com through the links on our website goes to support the Allspice Chronicles.

Posted August 1st, 2011.

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“Shoo-Fly, Don’t Bother Me”: The Best DEET-Free Mosquito Repellant

by Danica Waters

Frolicking in the Great Outdoors is a wonderful thing – until you have to endure the mosquitoes.  Besides delivering an almost-maddening itch with their bite, mosquitoes are also carriers of the West Nile Virus.  Although the virus is not usually deadly, it is a sure-fire way toput a damper on summer fun.  (You can read more about West Nile Virus symptoms here.)

Although the use of insect repellents containing DEET is usually recommended, the effects of DEET on human health are questionable, at best.  “Citing human health reasons, Health Canada barred the sale of insect repellents for human use that contained more than 30% DEET in a 2002 re-evaluation. The agency recommended that DEET based products be used on children between the ages of 2 and 12 only if the concentration of DEET is 10% or less and that repellents be applied no more than 3 times a day, children under 2 should not receive more than 1 application of repellent in a day and DEET based products of any concentration not be used on infants under 6 months.[16][17]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DEET)

So what about natural alternatives? According to a 2002 study by the New England Journal of Medicine, DEET-free, natural insect repellents are a completely effective alternative – without the health risks.  Here’s the recap of the best natural repellents, courtesy of  about.com:

The most effective natural mosquito repellent at the time of writing is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.

  • A 2002 study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared different synthetic chemical and herbal repellents: Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent provided 120.1 minutes of mosquito protection, more than a repellent with a low concentration of the chemical DEET (Off Skintastic for Kids with 4.75% DEET provided 88.4 minutes of protection) and less than Off Deep Woods with 23.8% DEET, which provided 301.5 minutes of protection.
  • A study by the US Department of Agriculture compared four synthetic mosquito repellents and eight natural mosquito repellents and found that Repel Lemon Eucalyptus was the most effective repellent, more so than a 7% DEET repellent.
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil repellents, in addition to the chemicals DEET and picaridin, have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (which means that the materials have been reviewed and approved for effectiveness and human safety) and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile virus.
  • A June 2006 Consumer Reports article stated that after conducting their own tests, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus was the best non-DEET mosquito repellent. However, volunteers criticized its odor.”

Repel is available in a variety of forms (foggers, sprays, travel size, etc.)  at Wal-Mart,  in a 6-oz spray at Target, and is available at other retailers as well.

Don’t like the smell of “Repel”?  There’s another effective option:
“The New England Journal of Medicine study found that Bite Blocker provided 94.6 minutes of protection against mosquitos. This is slightly more effective than Off Skintastic for Kids (containing 4.75% DEET), which provided 88.4 minutes of protection.

The study by the United States Department of Agriculture ranked Bite Blocker number two in effectiveness after Repel. Bite Blocker was rated more effective than a synthetic 7% DEET mosquito repellent.

Bite Blocker contains the oils of geranium, soybean and coconut and is available as a spray or lotion. It can be purchased online at the Bite Blocker website for about $9 per bottle.” (www.about.com)

While we’re all familiar with the wonders of citronella, evidence points to it being an excellent second-defense, but comparatively ineffective as a stand-alone repellent.  Citronella candles and incense should be used  in combination with other, stronger repellents for maximum benefit.

So what if we all end up smelling like lemon-eucalyptus while frolicking in the Great Outdoors? We will be able to sound out “Shoo-Fly, Don’t Bother Me” ’round the campfire with DEET-free (and mosquito-free) confidence.

(photo courtesy of Wal-Mart.com)

 

 

Posted June 28th, 2011.

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The Great Vinegar Experiment Part 6: Vinegar and Your Health

by Danica Waters

With the vast amount of research and experimentation I’ve been doing with respect to the various uses for vinegar in the home, it was impossible for me to ignore the proposed health benefits that are said to accompany the regular use of vinegar in the diet.  While there’s a lot of folks who vehemently believe that vinegar can cure everything from arthritis to IBS to cancer, much of the data is unproven.  However, there are some important – and scientifically proven – things everyone should know about what regular use of vinegar can do to improve your state of overall health.

Supercharge your food. Vinegar contains high levels of acetic acid, which boosts the body’s ability to absorb important trace minerals from the food we eat.  This is especially important when it comes to calcium intake and the fight against osteoporosis; simply drizzling a small amount of vinegar (any kind) over dark leafy greens and other calcium-rich vegetables not only enhances their flavor but their nutritional impact, as well.

Regulate your blood sugar. By simply adding 1 tsp of vinegar to a glass of water, blood sugar levels can be regulated – quickly.  This is super-important when it comes to not only basic weight-loss, but also as a dietary aid for folks with type 2 diabetes.  While vinegar will not cure diabetes, it is an invaluable weapon  in the fight to keep it under control.  In a lengthy article posted on howstuffworks.com, Gayle Povis Alleman, M.S., R.D writes:.

“Vinegar has recently won attention for its potential to help people with type 2 diabetes get a better handle on their disease. Improved control could help them delay or prevent such complications as blindness, impotence, and a loss of feeling in the extremities that may necessitate amputation. Also, because people with diabetes are at increased risk for other serious health problems, such as heart disease, improved control of their diabetes could potentially help to ward off these associated conditions, as well.

 

With type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to the action of the hormone insulin. The body normally releases insulin into the bloodstream in response to a meal. Insulin’s job is to help the body’s cells take in the glucose, or sugar, from the carbohydrates in food, so they can use it for energy. But when the body’s cells become insulin resistant, the sugar from food begins to build up in the blood, even while the cells themselves are starving for it. (High levels of insulin tend to build up in the blood, too, because the body releases more and more insulin to try to transport the large amounts of sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells.)

Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage nerves throughout the body and otherwise cause irreversible harm. So one major goal of diabetes treatment is to normalize blood sugar levels and keep them in a healthier range as much as possible. And that’s where vinegar appears to help.

It seems that vinegar may be able to inactivate some of the digestive enzymes that break the carbohydrates from food into sugar, thus slowing the absorption of sugar from a meal into the bloodstream. Slowing sugar absorption gives the insulin-resistant body more time to pull sugar out of the blood and thus helps prevent the blood sugar level from rising so high. Blunting the sudden jump in blood sugar that would usually occur after a meal also lessens the amount of insulin the body needs to release at one time to remove the sugar from the blood.

A study cited in 2004 in the American Diabetes Association’s publication Diabetes Care indicates that vinegar holds real promise for helping people with diabetes. In the study, 21 people with either type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance (a prediabetes condition) and eight control subjects were each given a solution containing five teaspoons of vinegar, five teaspoons of water, and one teaspoon of saccharin two minutes before ingesting a high-carbohydrate meal. The blood sugar and insulin levels of the participants were measured before the meal and 30 minutes and 60 minutes after the meal.

Vinegar increased overall insulin sensitivity 34 percent in the study participants who were insulin-resistant and 19 percent in those with type 2 diabetes. That means their bodies actually became more receptive to insulin, allowing the hormone to do its job of getting sugar out of the blood and into the cells. Both blood sugar and blood insulin levels were lower than normal in the insulin-resistant participants, which is more good news. Surprisingly, the control group (who had neither diabetes nor a prediabetic condition but were given the vinegar solution) also experienced a reduction in insulin levels in the blood. These findings are significant because, in addition to the nerve damage caused by perpetually elevated blood sugar levels, several chronic conditions, including heart disease, have been linked to excess insulin in the blood over prolonged periods of time.

More studies certainly need to be done to confirm the extent of vinegar’s benefits for type 2 diabetes patients and those at risk of developing this increasingly common disease. But for now, people with type 2 diabetes might be wise to talk with their doctors or dietitians about consuming more vinegar.

 

 

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Other great articles that include health and beauty tips include Discovery Health: Uses for VinegarWeb MD:  Apple Cider Vinegar, and about.com’s article on vinegar and Swimmer’s Ear.

While white distilled vinegar is the preferred choice for home cleaning purposes, it’s not as tasty as some of its more exotic cousins.  Apple cider vinegar seems to be the vinegar of choice if adding to a glass of water for digestive and other purposes; malt vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic and  wine vinegars tend to be tastier additions to food.  Great ways to use vinegar as a substitute for high-fat ingredients or sodium include:

– Instead of using high-calorie tartar sauce on your batter-fried fish, use malt vinegar!  It’s great drizzled over french fries, as well, and the enhanced flavor from the vinegar will automatically reduce the amount of sodium and sugar you’d normally be taking in if you used ketchup and salt.

– Drizzle fresh strawberries with a high-quality balsamic vinegar;  the flavors will pop, and you won’t need as much (if any) sugar!

– Steamed vegetables are fantastic when they’re drizzled with a little rice vinegar!  Try some on a bit of steamed cabbage – you’ll think you died and went to heaven.

– Drizzle hot-pepper infused vinegars  over your next batch of steamed or wilted collard greens.  Your body will thank you for it.

Here’s to health!

 

Posted June 20th, 2011.

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The Great Vinegar Experiment Part Five: Wood Care

by Danica Waters

I can’t believe there’s a part five to The Great Vinegar Experiment.  Really.  But since I’ve replaced my cleaning arsenal with distilled white vinegar, some baking soda,  a bit of all-natural laundry detergent and some dish soap, the last thing on my list to replace was my commercial wood polish.  Why replace the wood polish?  Because since I’ve been using all-natural cleaning agents, I have become acutely aware of how things that aren’t completely natural make me feel.  Things I used to brush off under the assumption “that’s just the way it is” are now subject to much more scrutiny.   No, it’s not okay for your eyes to burn even a little bit, or for your lungs to feel like they’ll explode if you don’t clear out of the room.  And quite frankly, my skin didn’t like my old wood cleaner.   Oddly enough, in retrospect, neither did my wood furniture.

My home is furnished with a lot of antique, unsealed wood furniture pieces that require a fair amount of maintenance to keep the moisture levels up.  While I grew up using products like Scott’s Liquid Gold (deadly solvent- based stuff) and Pledge (waxy aerosol) , I moved away from all that years ago.  Even though the (non-solvent based) commercial wood cleaner I used was touted as being all-natural, my skin used to sting like the devil anytime it came into contact with the product, or even with a rag  that contained its residue. On top of that, the product I used previously never really seemed to sink into the wood.  No matter how much I polished and buffed, I always felt like there was a sort of film left on top, and my furniture wasn’t getting the deep moisture it really needed.

I was really worried that an alternative homemade wood polish would end up having an adverse effect, so I tested it on a smaller piece of furniture first.   After using it for a couple of weeks with no weird reactions, no leftover gummy residue or discolorations (and much happier hands!), I started using the polish on my larger, more conspicuous pieces.  After a month, I’m enthusiastically sold.  (And I’m mad as hell that I’ve spent as much money as I have over the years on stuff that made my skin sting and didn’t really do anything that terribly great for my furniture. But now I know…)

Simply combining 1 part distilled white vinegar to 4 parts olive oil created a polish that my wood actually LOVES.      The solution is instantly absorbed by wood surfaces, almost like they’re drinking it in.  Finger prints come right off, and there is a lovely warm glow to the wood, rather than an oily sheen.  And the cherry on top? My hands are SUPER-HAPPY.  Let’s face it:  they’re getting a makeover every time I decide to dust!  “A makeover?”  you might ask.  “How on earth could a furniture polish give your hands a makeover?”

I cannot tell you right now, because I’m saving that information for Part 6 of the Great Vinegar Experiment.  Oh yes, there will be a Part 6.

But in the meantime, I should mention a few more  things about my new natural wood cleaner.  There are other recipes out there for what I’m sure are great natural wood cleaners.   Some of them called for the use of lemon juice in combination with olive or linseed oils, which I’m sure would be wonderful.  I chose to stay with vinegar, primarily because I figured it would have a longer shelf life than lemon juice.  I also opted to use olive oil instead of purchasing linseed oil, because it is something I can just pick up from the grocery store without having to make any special trips anywhere else.

This mixture can be easily distributed by means of a clean spray bottle.  Please note that you should vigorously shake the spray bottle in order to emulsify the ingredients prior to spraying it on your furniture, as oil and vinegar will separate.

Even though I have used this recipe for over a month now with great success on a variety of unsealed types of wood (walnut, mahogany, cherry, etc.), I do need to urge you to test it out on a small, inconspicuous area first to be sure you are as happy as I am with the results.

Posted June 13th, 2011.

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The Great Vinegar Experiment: Part 4 (In The Garden)

by Danica Waters

I have to admit it feels a little weird to have enough material to write yet another blog entry on a single subject like vinegar.  But yes, folks, we’re on to The Great Vinegar Experiment:  Part 4 (In The Garden)!  Now that I’ve tackled everything in the house and reduced my cleaning arsenal down to a gallon of vinegar, some baking soda, a small bottle of all-natural laundry detergent, and some wood cleaner, I figure it’s time to take the Great Vinegar Experiment outside.

Along with the myriad little birds and the frisky pair of squirrels who love to scamper back and forth across my rooftop, I have four wonderful fat little brown doves who live right outside my home.  At precisely 5:45 every morning, they start cooing their little dove-coo’s.  I suppose having birds right outside your window making noise that early could be considered annoying by some, but the way I see it is they’re so darn nice about it, there’s no way I can be mad at them.  So I feed them. And I have a birdbath for them.  Yep, I’m a complete sucker when it comes to animals.  I do like to spoil them.  But all these critter conveniences get a bit on the “Yick” side – quickly.  Here’s some tried – and – true vinegar tips for maintaining all your wild-animal amenities, and more:

Hummingbird feeders must NEVER be cleaned with any type of dishsoap or detergent, as these will leave a film that is toxic to hummingbirds.  A simple solution of equal parts white vinegar and water will naturally clean your feeder and keep your little critters healthy.  (Be sure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning the feeder!)

No More Funky Green Patina! You know that funky green slime that develops on your birdbaths and fountains? Heaven knows I wouldn’t want to take a bath in one when it looks like that.  But a full-strength solution of vinegar and a nice stiff scrub brush will safely and thoroughly clean and de-scale even your slimiest outdoor water features. Rinse thoroughly and re-fill it with nice clean water. Your bathing birdies will love you for it.

 

Reroute the Summer Ant Parade!

I personally prefer to keep all my summer parade action on the standard 4th of July parade route, which happens to be downtown, away from my house.  Want to forego the ant parade through your house this summer?  Take your nifty full-strength white vinegar spray bottle and spray generously around windowsills, foundation cracks, door jambs, etc.  Ants hate vinegar. (Which makes me like it even more.)  And in the event they decide to move into your yard, simply pour a whole gallon of vinegar on top of the hill, concentrating especially on their front door.  I know it sounds mean, but after having seen ants attack fledgling baby birds – some who had fallen from their nest (many of whom we saved, and some we didn’t get to in time) and others who were still in their nest (that was the worst), I don’t care if I’m mean or not.  It’s my yard, and birds are welcome; ants are not.

Resolve to Get Rid of Pesky Weeds NATURALLY.

I know. There’s nothing more unsightly than grass and weeds poking through your sidewalk / driveway / patio.  But you don’t have to resort to toxic sprays to eliminate them.  Pour full-strength white vinegar on to the affected areas, and treat them regularly throughout the summer.  I should note that this should be limited to weeds poking through concrete surfaces.  If you spray this on weeds growing in your lawn, it will kill the weeds – and your lawn, too.  Just sayin’.

Bless Your Acid-Loving Bloomers!

Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas, Gardenias and Azaleas are among several plant varieties that prefer higher acidity.  Give them a little boost by occasionally watering them with a solution made with 1 C white distilled vinegar and 1 gallon water.

Preserve Your Cut Flowers (and wake up droopy ones!)

There’s nothing better than coming in with armfuls of blooms cut from your own garden.  Or blooms from anywhere, for that matter.  Don’t panic if you’re out of those little packets of flower preservative.  Make your own!  Just mix together:

2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar + 1 tsp sugar + 1 quart water

If you’re trying to refresh droopy stems, be sure to re-trim the stalks for maximum absorption.

Make Your Own Fruit and Veggie Wash

Heaven only knows how many times I’ve told my kids to wash their fruit before eating it. I say the same thing every time:  “Kids, you don’t have a foggy clue about how many people have touched that before you got to it, and I can tell you right now you don’t EVEN want to know where their hands have been.” So what do they do?  Rinse it off with water.  Like that’s going to do a lot.

But kids are kids.  They like things easy and glamorous.  Look for a small, pretty colored spray bottle and keep it at the sink, filled with a simple mild solution of 1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar in 1-1/2 quarts of water.  Chances are your kids will use it just like mine do.  And it’s the perfect way to sanitize your fruits and vegetables.  (Just remind them to rinse after they spray.  They’re kids.  They forget these things.)

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During my research, I came across several tips that I think might work really well, but alas!  I am unable to try them personally because I’m now an urbanite.  If you try them out, please share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Keep the Cats Out of the Kids’ Sandbox

It’s suggested that regularly spraying the sandbox with distilled white vinegar will discourage kitties from using it as a litter box.  A very useful tip, indeed.

Discourage Bunnies and Other Nibblers from Eating Your Plants:

This tip suggests putting a cotton ball soaked in distilled white vinegar in film containers (or other small containers), punching holes in the lids, and placing them around the garden.  If it works, this is another very useful tip!

Kill Slugs Naturally

Spray them with a mixture of 1 part distilled white vinegar and 1 part water.  Eeeewwww.

Posted June 6th, 2011.

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A Funny Story About Vinegar and Carpet Care

by Danica Waters

As I was using vinegar to clean my carpets over the weekend, a really wild memory from way, way back hit me like a ton of bricks, and I simply had to share.  I grew up in a house with hardwood floors that had been covered with lots of Oriental carpets.  They were beautiful; I learned early on that they weren’t something you could just use the ol’ Rug Doctor on – they had to be treated with special care.  One year when I was about twelve, we’d had  a particularly wet and muddy spring.  My mother called a man who specialized in cleaning Oriental rugs out to the house to get an estimate.  There was no way we could afford to have him clean the rugs, but the man was very kind, and he told my mother that the best thing to use to freshen and clean Orientals safely was- you guessed it – VINEGAR.   Mom and I, being independent, eternal optimists with a strong “Wonder Woman” complex pulsing through our veins, got it into our heads that we were perfectly capable of tackling the job ourselves.  How hard could it be?  And we had vinegar – lots of it!  Charged with adrenaline, we decided to devote the day to carpet cleaning.

It was all very exciting; my two little sisters enthusiastically carried couch cushions and bric-a-brac as Mom and I moved the heavy furniture off the carpets.  I remember my sisters gleefully twirling and romping around the broad, newly-cleared spaces as we gave ourselves a minute to breathe.  All together, we rolled those bad boys up and, on a determined count of three, managed to lift the first one with relative ease.  It wasn’t until we tried to negotiate corners with our twelve-foot-long friend that we realized Oriental rugs can quickly develop a personality and will of their own. Ours was not just feeling frisky, it was being downright rebellious.  Indeed, carrying the rear end of that carpet felt more like carrying the business end of an angry crocodile, and by the time we reached the long, narrow flight of stairs leading down to our back porch, the beast liberated itself from our grasp, shooting like an unstoppable missile to explode in a cloud of dust at the base of the stairs.  Stunned, bruised, and smarting from the rug burns we’d been dealt, we realized we’d gotten in over our heads.  The very thought of trying to negotiate that twelve-foot monster onto a clothesline was out of the question.  But there was no turning back now.  We’d gotten ourselves into this mess, and we were going to get ourselves out of it – with clean carpets, to boot.  We devised a plan.

The next day we marched down to the small brown barn at the edge of our lot and retrieved several old sawhorses my dad had made years earlier.  We hauled them all up to our back porch and set them side by side.  We wrestled our wily carpet onto the sawhorses and, armed with every broom we could find, took great delight in beating it into submission.  (It had it coming, after all.)  When the dust died down, my mom doused the carpet – and us – with the garden hose, and then she poured a solution of vinegar and water all over the surface.  We scrubbed and scrubbed, and she rinsed and rinsed, and lo’ and behold, that carpet came back to its original brilliance.  We left it to dry for several days, and, wise to the Ways of Wily Carpets, succeeded in getting it back in its rightful place inside the house.

While I will always wrestle with my Wonder Woman complex, I am relieved to not have to wrestle monsters of the carpet variety.  As I spent my weekend engrossed in the rites of Spring Cleaning, it was indeed very nice to pull out my trusty Hoover carpet shampooer, add a cupful of vinegar to the rinse water, and leave my shag carpets clean and fresh.  But the experience somehow lacked something.  In retrospect, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should have finished off the day by dousing my own kids with the garden hose.  Gotta’ keep those memories comin’, right?

Posted May 31st, 2011.

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