Monday, May 28, 2012

Salt, Baking Soda and Vinegar, Oh My!

Hey folks, lately I’ve been trying to find some green solutions for house cleaning and just life in general. After doing a little digging I’m pretty amazed by how many “around the house” items can tackle so many jobs that I had been using harsher chemicals on. It’s cheaper, easier and better for you and your family to be exposed to, so what’s not to love about that right? Because I want you all to live greener and cleaner, as well as just knowing some groovy tricks in a pinch, I’m going to share with you some tips I’ve discovered using your typical household arsenal of products.
Vinegar is such a useful household must-have. You can buy it dirt cheap in large quantities and use it as an alternative from the expensive products you would normally purchase:

1.  Get the funk out of well used lunchboxes. Soak a piece of bread in vinegar then leave it in your lunchbox overnight and it will absorb the smell.
2. Soothe a sunburn or dry skin by lightly rubbing white vinegar on the affected area.
3. Forget about buying the fancy “stainless-steel cleaners” just dip a cloth in vinegar and wipe down your appliances, pots, etc.
4. Get the icky odors out of your clothes. If you smell like smoke or in my fella’s case, sulphur (from a site job-very smelly!) mix a cup of vinegar in with your laundry detergent while doing a wash and the smell will be demolished.
5. Soak your wilted vegetables in two cups of water and a tablespoon of vinegar to liven them up.
6.Make an irritating job much simpler. Using an extra gardening glove dip your fingers in equal parts water and vinegar then run your fingers along your blinds for easy cleaning of dust.
7. Clean those ugly sticker decals and price tags off by saturating the corners in vinegar then scraping them with a credit card. Any remaining glue left behind can can be wiped clean with more vinegar application.
8. Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with one cup water and bring it to a boil in the microwave to loosen all the food particles for easy cleaning as well as deodorize it.
9. Spray your furniture and other areas you don’t want those naughty pussycats clawing at.
10. Clean your garbage disposal by mixing equal parts water and vinegar into ice cube trays. Once a week drop a few cubes into the disposal. Rinse with cold water after.
It has tons of uses other than just flavoring your grub so keep plenty on hand and you can put these tips to good use:

1. Salt works as an awesome stain remover. As an abrasive stain remover, sprinkle it on top of the stained surface (ie bathtub, counter etc.) and give it some elbow grease with a damp cloth. If you spill something like wine on fabric, blot up the excess liquid and then sprinkle this magic powder over top. Once it’s dry vacuum it up and rinse with a bit of cold water. Mix salt with some lemon juice and you can remove rust and mildew. Your stains don’t stand a chance!
2. Bugs hate salt! If you have a bug issue like ants mobilizing troops outside your home (a problem at my house every summer) sprinkle some salt around and they’ll retreat and wave the white flag. If your dog is crawling with fleas, let him take a dip in the ocean and he’ll be itch free -not to mention a very happy pooch assuming he likes water.
3. Get a bee sting this summer? Rinse it immediately then cover it with salt. No more pain for you.
4.  If your unsure whether your eggs are still fresh, fear not. Combine two teaspoons of salt with one cup of water and place the egg into the water. Fresh eggs sink, not-so-fresh eggs float.
5. Salt removes odors like nobody’s business. If you have garlic or oniony smelling hands, rub them with lemon and salt. If your cutting board is smelling funky, cover it with a generous helping of salt and rub with a damp cloth then rinse it in soapy water. If your food boils over in your oven while baking, toss some salt on top to stop the burning smell then brush it away after the oven cools. No more stink fests at your house!
6. A pinch of salt in your vase will keep your freshly cut flowers perky a little while longer.
7. Pour salt over a grease fire to extinguish it quickly and safely. (Never use water)
8. Put your sliced apples or potatoes in a bowl of salted water to prevent them from turning brown.
9. Shake your artificial flowers in a bag with some salt (feel free to dance while doing this for added enjoyment) and your faux-flowers will be sparkling clean!
10. Kill poison ivy by mixing three pounds of salt with a gallon of soapy water then spray the leaves with the mixture. Bye-bye ivy!
Baking Soda:
Sodium bicarbonate, as it’s also known as, has been a staple in homes since the dawn of time (ok maybe not that long) but pretty much everyone has it in their home. Typically we have it for baking but the other uses are endless and quite handy:
1. Make a natural oven cleaner by making a paste of baking soda and water. Apply the paste to you oven and leave overnight. It should wipe clean easily in the morning. 
2. Put four tablespoons of baking soda down your drains then rinse with hot water to give them a good cleaning.
3. Give laundry an extra boost by throwing 1/4 cup in with your wash
4. Apply it under you arms with a cotton ball and it will act the same as deodorant.
5. Put a cup of soda into your toilet bowl and let it sit for an hour then flush. It will remove odors and clean the bowl
6. Soak your dried beans over night in a baking soda solution to make them more digestible
7. Add a sprinkling to your kitty’s litter box to absorb those wretched smells between cleanings
8. Cure your heartburn by drinking a glass of water mixed with one teaspoon of soda.
9. Add two tablespoons to your baby’s bathwater to relieve diaper rash
10. Freshen up your mattress by sprinkling a light layer of baking soda over your bed when changing your sheets. Leave the soda to sit for a few hours then vacuum it up before putting on fresh sheets.

Hope these have been some informative tips for you to incorporate into your lifestyle. I’ll share some more of my favorite green ideas with you another time. 
Have a fabulous week beautiful people!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

-Snapshot Of The Week-

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
-Ms Katherine Switzer

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Celine Dion Lists Home For $29.7

One of my most favorite people, Celine Dion, has listed her breathtaking French-Normandy style home for $29.7 million which just happens to sit on its very own gated 20 acre island. It’s said that she and her husband Rene Angelil want to spend more time in their main place of residency, Las Vegas, while Celine fulfills her performance obligations with Cesar’s Palace.

cd The home is being sold to include all furnishings and artwork. So all the grief of finding and filling this 24-thousand square foot home is done for you. And might I add that staircase is fit for royalty!

cd2 The home has its own private bridge, 3 dining rooms (one formal one which can sit 18 people), three living rooms, double master bedrooms, and a library.

cd3 This is the wood paneled library for all your reading needs. I wouldn’t mind curling up on that red sofa and snuggling in with some classic fiction like Bronte or Austen. Every room also has a water view brimming with inspiration and there is an elevator which can take you to any of the four floors the mansion has to offer. (Rich people don’t do four flights of stairs.)

cd4This is one of the double master bedrooms. All the fabric, sheers and draperies are custom made for the home. Is that bed not incredible? Celine has some brilliant taste I must say.

cd6 Celine and Rene plan on buying a smaller home in Quebec once her contract is finished with Cesar’s Palace. I am a HUGE fan of hers so it’s kind of a thrill to think about the idea of living in the home of one of your idols. Too bad I’m not filthy rich, or mildly wealthy, or fairly well-off but it could happen….
cd5 And of course, like all palatial homes this one has its own wine cellar complete with a tasting room. Can you imagine living in a home that has its own room designated to just get loaded in? Talk about posh!
   What do you think of Celine’s French Normandy style home? Too much frills or fabulously exquisite?

Share your thoughts!
(1, 2)

No More Cheese?…. But…. How?

Happy Thursday my lovely readers. I’ve been absent from the blogger-verse lately because life just seems to be speeding by at a pace that won’t allow for a blog break. My best friend gave birth to her first child (sweetest baby ever!) which I spent most of last week soaking up. I’ve been elbow deep in tootsie kisses and nose nuzzles. I’ve also been researching/making some personal lifestyle changes to improve my health …which is quite time consuming when you want to absorb all the info available. That’s not to say I was unhealthy before but I’m always open to new information or as lady O would say: “living my best life”. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 8 years now and always had the goal in the back of my mind to give up animal products altogether (ie. milk, cheese, eggs, honey etc.) I wanted to do this for several reasons and trust me when I say there are countless reasons but I won’t preach about it because it’s a personal choice for every individual. Back to my original point, I finally achieved my goal of living on a plant-based diet and I’m pleased as punch about it! (Sugar free, 100% juice punch, but punch none the less.)

I love to spread the health-wealth to everyone and because we all deserve long happy lives I thought I’d share with you some of my current discoveries, cravings, and must-haves for my new lifestyle. Whether you consider yourself a carnivore, a herbivore or you just like to try new things, these are all neat ideas worth checking out for yourself:

One of the most interesting and exciting parts of taking up a whole new diet is the recipes. I should mention when I use the word “diet” I don’t mean it in the same way as when you hear, “The Atkins Diet” or “The South Beach Diet”. This is a permanent lifestyle change which is why it has a permanent and positive effect on your health. You don’t give this up in six months when you’ve reached your weight goals just to gain it all back and then some. But as I was saying, there is a whole world of yummy recipes to try. You also get to try foods you’ve never eaten before and have fun just being creative in the kitchen. I’ve honestly never enjoyed cooking as much as I do now. These are three recipes I highly recommend for you to try over this exhausting summer heat. They’re indulgent (in a good way; it’s difficult to gain weight on plant-based foods), super fresh, and soooo delicious: tahini pineapple wrap9 480 Mint Tahini Pineapple Kale Tofu Wrap Mint Tahini Pineapple Kale Tofu Wrap

These are a few of the super “health foods” I’ve found while browsing my local health food stores that I have rather enjoyed the effects of: powder is a super food that is said to increase stamina, boost libido, and combat fatigue. All fabulous and greatly appreciated effects right? It has a slightly nutty taste that I use to sprinkle in my oatmeal and smoothies. This is not cheap stuff but you only need about a teaspoon a day so it does last a long time.

Chia Seeds are bursting with an insane amount of health benefits and are so versatile you can work them into a zillion foods. They offer Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, and B-vitamins. They tend to gel when mixed into a liquid but as far as I can tell have zero taste. I throw it in pretty much everything I cook and no one even notices but their bodies are getting all the benefits.
Hemp Hearts are something totally new I’ve discovered and really enjoy. One of the biggest misnomers I hear constantly is: ‘you NEED meat in your diet for the protein.’ I promise you, this is 100% untrue. Yes, there is protein in meat and yes, you NEED protein however, there are so many sources of plant-based protein that meat isn’t worth ingesting the extra fat and other garbage your body doesn’t like. Hemp seeds are one awesome solution to protein (as is the Chia seeds above). Hemp also gives you your omegas and fiber as well. Dr. Oz is said to refer to these cute little seeds as “brain food.”

Flax powder is really great for your diet because of its high concentration of fiber. It fills you up and then cleans you out. It can also act as a great egg replacer. I made some vegan chocolate chip cookies earlier tonight and used this magic powder for just that. 1 tablespoon ground flax and 3 tablespoons water equals one egg. Flax also holds the valuable essential fatty acids we need. If you are taking fish oil for the omegas you can switch to flax oil for the same results sans the dead fish. You can also get flax seeds which are just as versatile in your cooking.
With every beverage I enjoy I tend to be so picky about the ingredients list. It’s got to be water, herbal tea or pure juice that has no additives, sugars etc. because it’s just empty calories I don’t need settling in on my butt. 100% Carrot Juice is one of my favorite health beverages because, well, carrots are healthy duh! I admit I have trouble drinking straight 100% carrot juice from a glass but I do add it to my smoothies which sweetens it naturally and still pumps me full of the goodness it offers. Carrots are outstanding sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and calcium. Who needs milk? Drink carrot juice!

Goji berries are considered a super food too. They cost a small fortune but they are really yummy. I’ve read that goji berries contain more vitamin C than oranges. They are used in treating diabetes, hypertension, malaria, fever, cancer, and other ailments. I bought a vegan snack with these red beauties, dried coconut, and maca that were so delicious I went out and bought some goji berries (in spite of their high rolling price) just so I could recreate them at home. They’re also great in cereal, homemade granola bars and tea.

Before I decided to make this change in my live I did a ton of mad-scientist reading on the subject of plant-based diets. I don’t like to make decisions lightly or from an uneducated perspective about anything let alone my health. I wanted to know why these diets are beneficial, what they will do for me and my body, and how it’s all put into action in a reasonable and manageable way for my everyday life. I feel like it’s important to know your stuff especially when you meet aggressive people -and you will, should you go down this path- who jump to conclusions about your choices and challenge your views. This has happened a lot to me even as a vegetarian so I knew I’d be up against some “discussions” soon to come. I’ve found that these books were hugely instrumental in my decision to make a change. Even if you know you will never give up your steaks and ice-cream there is still some pivotal information here and making healthful choices isn’t an “all or nothing” decision. Aka: You can have your cake and eat it too!   Alicia Silverstone has been getting a lot of flack for her parenting style lately but I choose not to judge. (Maybe because I grew up in the nineties utterly addicted to her movie “Clueless”? But who can say for sure?..) Whether you like her or not, the girl knows her stuff. The Kind Diet is loaded with information that is helpful to everyone, from those who are just emerging into this new world, to those who are pros at it. It walks you through the entire process with such a calm non-judgmental tone to it that you feel like it really is possible for some of these options to work into your lifestyle and you don’t have to feel guilty if you can only make small changes because hey, that’s better than nothing. The Kind Diet is broken into three branches of vegan-ism. There’s “Flirting” which is for the newbies who are considering incorporating this diet into their lives and want to dip their toes in the water. “Vegan” for those that have decided they’re ready to fully commit to cutting out all animal based products and lastly, “Superheroes” which is a section all about the best of the best food for you to eat. Check it out from your library, order it on Amazon, or borrow it from a friend because it is an awesome read.

This book totally changed my way of thinking and is really what started me on this path to improving myself. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) is mind blowing. You will look at everything on your plate in a totally different light. He approaches the subject of eating animals from a completely neutral point of view at the start of the book having battled with the decision for years. He and his wife have just had their first child and he feels like he has to stop jumping back and forth between eating animals and not eating them and just make a final choice for the sake of his son. This propels him into a research endeavor to find out for himself whether or not it is beneficial to eat animals. What I love about this book is he isn’t preaching anything, he isn’t hiding anything and he is brutally honest about all of his findings. He interviews vegans, farmers, slaughterhouse employees, and more. No stone is left unturned in his venture. Think “Eat, Pray, Love” but Italy is his grandmother’s kitchen, India is factory farms, and Bali is slaughterhouses. Sounds like a weird comparison I know and I’d be curious to know if Foer disapproves of my correlation, but in my opinion the end result of learning about who you truly are is paralleled in a very similar way. I greatly enjoyed reading about his journey to discovering what best suited him and his family’s life.
I recently purchased The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions off Amazon. I admit 20% of the purchase was based on the adorable cover but luckily for me it turned out to be 100% useful. The biggest questions about living off plant-based foods are: “How will I cook my famous spaghetti and meatballs?” or “Can I still have pancakes?” or “What am I going to put in my cereal?” This book answers all those questions and so much more. Everything you once used in your recipes such as milk, butter, eggs, etc. has an animal friendly substitution that is good for you and better for your body. I am constantly referencing this handy little guy when I cook. I think it’s a must have for people who are confused about how to substitute or curious as to how to incorporate healthier options in place of the less healthy.

The last thing I want to talk a bit about is a documentary I just watch last night with my fella called, “Forks Over Knives”. For all you squeamish people, there is zero animal cruelty depicted in the film. You will not see any suffering that has you grabbing for tissues and hiding your eyes like most documentaries on this topic. This film comes from a strong scientific foundation and is laid out beautifully from start to finish. It takes you through compelling research findings conducted by prestigious doctors and shows you exactly what is happening to our bodies and our society as a whole. If you eat food, you should watch this documentary.

So I hoped I shared some helpful information with you folks. This is just where my life is at right now so it’s kind of the focus of my day-to-day. I’ll never force unsolicited preaching on anyone or a wag a finger at their diet choices because that isn’t my place but I can tell you that since making the switch I personally feel so incredible compared to where I was at and I considered myself a normal healthy twenty-something woman. I’ve got more energy than I’ve ever had, excess weight is falling off, and my conscience is clear of all the grim discoveries about what the other foods were doing to my body and my animal friends. I’ll leave you with that and bid you adieu until my next post.
Much love!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

-Snapshot Of The Week-

Pinned Image“I don’t have any understanding of a human being who doesn’t respect the beauty of life and that goes for all creatures that have thoughts, feelings and needs.”

-Ms Alicia Silverstone




Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DIY Re-Useable Shopping Bag

DSC02036I’m going to begin this post by making a very soon-to-be obvious statement. I am not a seamstress or “sewer-person” of any kind. I am what you would call a novice at the skill. My lines aren’t straight and my techniques aren’t perfect but I am having a lot of fun getting the hang of using my sewing machine recently handed down to me as a gift. It’s an invaluable skill to have and it’s mighty rewarding making something from some pieces of fabric. I’ve been trying my hand at some beginner projects lately and this post is about one of them.
An eco-friendly re-useable shopping bag is a simple project that you can use any durable fabric for to make it. This particular bag has a flat bottom rather than a V-style bottom which I personally prefer because items tend to fit inside it better. I’ve been really trying to make my life more green and environmentally aware so this was an extra rewarding project for me because it cuts down on those nasty plastic bags. All this for the price of about $4 worth of fabric and thread; can’t beat that. The following is how I made my shopping bag:
   DSC01954 No fancy materials needed for this project. The bag stays open so no zippers or buttons are needed (unless of course you want them to close). What you do need is some fabric that makes you happy to look at, matching thread, a pair of fabric scissors, pins, measuring tape (I used my fella’s manly one but most of you probably have the normal sewing kind) and a fabric pen which is a useful tool for this project to mark and cut straight lines. You’re also going to need an iron later on to make some straight edges for pinning.

DSC01967I choose a happy looking fabric from Ikea that looked perfect for perusing produce stores and farm markets. Ikea has a really inexpensive collection of fabric to choose from but the choices are somewhat limited so if you want a better selection keep an eye on your local fabric store for a good sale. I wanted to spice my bag up a bit so I went for a different fabric for the side pieces; a green and white striped fabric. The front, back, and bottom of the bag will be cut from one long main piece of fabric and you will sew the sides on separately. Measure according to the size of bag you want to make and remember with every piece of fabric you cut you should leave about an inch on each side for the seams.

DSC01948 Next you need to cut your side pieces. Measure according to how big you want your bag to be. The side pieces will need to be as tall as your main piece of fabric when it’s sewn together and the width of the bottom of your bag (plus the inch extra for seams).
  DSC01958 Cut the side piece in one long strip twice the size that you need for one side, then cut that piece in half to make the two even sides:
  DSC01960 Viola!
   DSC01971Now’s the time for your trusty iron to heat up and make its guest appearance.
    DSC01974 Iron down all those sides that you left an inch gap for when you cut your fabric. This makes it a zillion times easier to pin and sew later.
 DSC01977 Once you’ve ironed down all your sides, center and pin the two side pieces to your main piece of fabric. You want to attach the sides perpendicular to the bigger piece. See the pictures below:
 DSC01981When the pieces are pinned in the center it will look like a lower case “t”.

DSC01978 Make sure you have an even crease with your pins and then you’re ready to start sewing.
You want a strong stitch for the bottom of your bag because it’s going to need to carry some hefty weight. I used a tight V stitch then went over it again with a small straight stitch:
DSC01987 I was told by someone who actually knows her way around a sewing machine that this was an effective way to make a strong and sturdy stitch. "In Mother in-law we trust"
DSC01990 Pretty straightforward but this is how your bag should look once you’ve attached the bottom of one side.
  DSC01991 Going around the corner can be a little tricky. I pinned up the sides of the fabric together then sewed a straight tight stitch:
   DSC01994 This is how the side looked when that line was stitched. Everything that wasn’t the bottom of the bag I did in this tight straight stitch.

DSC01999  Complete the other side and you’ll have an entire side of your bag finished!:
    DSC01997 When the bag is turned the right away around you can see your bag really starting to take shape, it’ll look something like this.
 DSC02003 Repeat the exact same process for the other side of your bag and both sides will be looking sharp.
  DSC02007 Next step is going to be hemming the top of your bag for a crisp and even seam all the way around. Pin down the entire length of the bag making sure that it all sits at an even height (which may mean it looks ugly on the inside but it can be cleaned up later).
     DSC02009 Hem down the length of the bag the entire way around and the base of your bag is now complete. Onto the handles!:
 DSC02010 I cut one long length of fabric about two inches wide then cut that same piece in half like I did earlier with the side pieces for even length.
 DSC02011 If you want to reheat your iron so the sides sit perfectly flat go for it. I skipped that step out of pure eagerness to complete my bag. It isn’t crucial but either way you want to sew down the top width wise to make a crisp seam.

DSC02017  Then pin each side down about a half inch in and sew both sides.
 DSC02020 This is an excellent example of my less than perfect sewing abilities but it gives you the general idea of how it should look.
  DSC02024 After that is complete fold your handle in half and sew straight down the side. I went over this twice just to be sure it was extra strong. Repeat these steps for your second strap and you’re ready to attach it to your bag base.
       DSC02030 The handles will need to equally if not stronger, than the bottom of your bag so really have at it with the sewing. It’s a good idea when attaching your handles to do an X stitch like the one above. Be sure you sew all four ends of your handles at the same length within the bag so the straps are even when you carry it.
   DSC02034That’s it. Your bag is all finished! Don’t forget the pat on the back for a job well done. Now you just need to hit up the stores and fill your new bag with goodies.
Hope this was a helpful tutorial for you guys and you have fun making your very own!

(All photos property of Reckless Bliss)