Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Listen to This!

My favorite way to clean the bathrooms is by listening to Joy the Baker. (Guilty pleasure)

The best way to cook is to turn on some Radiolab. (Makes me feel like I really do know all about science)

And the only way  to knit, paint my nails or do anything tedious/time consuming is to play a little bit of CraftLit. (My intellectual English major self)

Thank god these podcasts come out weekly, otherwise I'd never get anything done. Let's be real. Once upon a time, the Joy the Baker podcast skipped a week and I took that as way out to not clean the bathrooms that week. True story.

These are my go to ways to stretch my brain when I can't find time to read. I get to multi-task and feel smarter. (At least, that's what I tell myself!)

Joy the Baker

I started listening to JTB on her third or fourth podcast. This podcast is about nothing at all (anything and everything, as Joy and Tracy would say). Like I said, it's my guilty pleasure. It's just like a conversation with two friends! They talk about recipes, family, lifestyle, fashion and what is currently going on in their lives. Both Joy and Tracy are food bloggers and photographers and it almost feels like they are my BFFs. Once I was in Nashville the same time Joy was in Nashville (I know this because I stalk her Instagram, duh) and had a complete fan girl moment. One where I decided to NOT be creepy and ask if we could meet up.


Radiolab is the coolest podcast you will ever listen to (and I'm proud to say I started listening to it before it was cool, waaaaay before NPR picked it up to add to their arsenal.) It is a head on collision of science and humanities. It is everything all at once; story, science, musical masterpiece. Funny, tear-jerking, eye-rolling and what-the-heck moments. It is usually about an hour long and in that hour explores different angles to different subjects such as Sleep, Falling, Numbers, Speed, Loops, Time and more. Not only is the content rich with knowledge, the way it is presented, through sound clips, music, etc, is a masterpiece for the ears! The hosts, Jad and Robert, are great. One is more liberal, one more conservative which I LOVE because you can hear viewpoints from both sides and this seems to open up so many more questions and opinions.

I highly recommend you go back to the very beginning and start listening from there.

I promise you'll feel like such a smart cookie after listening.

Also a disclaimer: sometimes sensitive subjects are discussed. (All in the name of science!) Some are are just plain gross (like the Parasites episode...ewww!) and some are just, ya know, sensitive. Use your own discretion and Jad and Robert will give you a little warning in case you want to skip ahead or if little ears are nearby.


The host of Craftlit is the fine Heather Ordover: homeschooling mom, English Lit professor, author knitter and quilter. She created a podcast for crafters who love books. Something with substace to listen to while you craft! (or travel)

Each episode, Heather introduces a chapter of a book (think the public domain classics) and gives you background information of the time period in which the book was written, background on the author, insight into a few words that are not commonly used today but maybe appear in the book, oh SO MANY details that just really make the book come to life! This really opened my eyes to the 'boring' (to me) books and gave it so much depth. 

For example, I learned to love Dracula (a lot) through Heather's insight. In fact, I made Matt listen to this book through Craftlit on our way home from our honeymoon (oh yes I did). Because of the history you learn behind the book, it becomes so real and so alive. You realize why the author did what he did: why the book not written in first person. Even though the actual story is hardly believable (blood sucking vampires?!), Stoker uses journal entries, letters, telegrams, etc. to present the story, making you the reader, experience the events almost exactly when the characters do. The collection of documents that are used to tell the story almost make it impossible to deny, especially if you were living in Transylvania during 1897. You would be pretty freaked out reading this story about your hometown. This is one of my favorites that I hope you go listen to. If not for the story, than for the history!

My other favorite books were The Woman in White and Bleak House.

Stretching your mind is good and learning something new is even better. These are simple ways to get a few things done around the house while also educating yourself.

What's your favorite podcast to listen to? I'm going to be searching for a good home finance podcast also maybe a gardening one.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Laundry Maid Status: Dryer Balls

This post is brought to you by Bon Iver. Listen with me.

I don't know about you, but I like my laundry to smell fresh and clean. It lets me know that my laundry is, well, clean. Like many of us, we use scented laundry detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets to get 'that clean smell'.

Well, here's the sad part . . . 'that clean smell' can be one of the most toxic things you are bringing into your home.

Unlike food, there are no laws in place which require manufacturers of these products to list all the chemicals used. *red flag*
You'll see something along the lines of, 'biodegradable catatonics softeners". Basically the stuff that makes our laundry static-free and fluffy. A.k.a toxic chemicals.

"When people use dryer sheets, they are coating their cloths with a thin film of artificial chemical perfumes. Just like other perfumes, a person’s sensitivity to these perfumes decreases over time to the point where they don’t even notice how potent these artificial fragrance chemicals are. None of this would be interesting if it weren't for the fact that these fragrance chemicals are extremely toxic. They are known carcinogens. They cause liver damage and cancer in mammals.” Mike Adams

Read more from Mike Adams' article here. 

Here are the most common chemicals found in dryer sheets: (and this is just dryer sheets! Detergent and fabric softeners are just as bad!) 

  • Alpha-Terpineol causes central nervous system disorders. Can also cause loss of muscular coordination, central nervous system depression, and headache.
  • Benzyl Alcohol causes central nervous system disorders, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, central nervous system depression, and, in severe cases, death.
  • Camphor on the US EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Central nervous system stimulant, causes dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles, and convulsions.
  • Chloroform on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Neurotoxic and carcinogenic.
  • Ethyl Acetate on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Narcotic. May cause headaches and narcosis (stupor).
  • Linalool causes central nervous system disorders. Narcotic. In studies of animals, it caused ataxic gait (loss of muscular coordination), reduced spontaneous motor activity, and depression.
  • Pentane causes headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and loss of consciousness. Repeated inhalation of vapors causes central nervous system depression.

Every chemical that touches the skin finds it's way into the body and eventually the bloodstream.
You can read so much more about it here, so I won't go into any more details. Seriously. Read this.

I have sensitive skin and skipped fabric softener completely, just relying on dryer sheets for smells and softens. My bad. I am changing my ways.

While we can't control every toxin in our house, we sure can control this one.

Here is the solution to dryer sheets . . . dryer balls!

Dryer balls are small balls of wool (about the size of a tennis ball) that you put in the dryer along with your laundry. Dryer balls can help your dryer run more efficiently. They fluff up your laundry, prevent clothes from clumping and increase air circulation which means that will cut down on the time it takes your clothes to dry! Dryer balls also replace dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener, which, over time, saves money. Dryer sheets and fabric softener aren't very expensive, but the same set of dryer balls can be used for years! Fabric softener makes your towels less absorbent. The chemicals in fabric softener products leaves a film behind on your clothing. It feels nice, but it actually makes your towels less effective. This isn't an issue with dryer balls. Dryer balls are biodegradable. Dryer sheets aren't. Because you'll probably never throw away your dryer balls (which are 100% wool, by the way, not a plastic-y mesh sheet) you'll use them for years. And, in the event you want to make new ones, these make fun cat toys. Or, pick them apart and spread the fibers outside so the birds can use them to build nests. Boom. Biodegradable.

Make your own!

  • fiber (I used a total of 3 oz of merino wool. The brand is Lunabudknits; I found mine at Kanawha City Yarn Company.)
  • pantyhose or a sock (I used an old pair of tights from my dancing days!)
  • scrap yarn
YOU CAN ALSO used yarn wound into balls, just make sure it is 100% wool. If it is a blend, i.e. wool/acrylic, it will NOT felt. Excellent tutorial for felted yarn balls here.

1.) Unwind your roving and cut in half.

2.) Tightly wind into balls.

3.) Using scrap yarn, fasten off each ball into a pair of hose/tights/socks.

4.) Throw into your next load of laundry. Wash and dry.

To use, sprinkle a few drops of essential oil on each ball and throw it in with your next load.

Aaaaand done.

If you prefer to just purchase your own, this brand is the best that I've found.

Quick impressions: Fluffy and dry! Check. I can definitely smell the essential oils on my clothes much more than when I just use essential oils in my detergent. The scent does linger longer. However, the static still remains. I recently washed a blanket and noticed how that static was not quite eliminated.Hmm.

Have you ever used dryer balls before? What did you think of them?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Saturday was a day full of fun!
Guess what I joined? Hint: not a gym.

Months ago, with the recommendations of many friends, I started to follow Twin Maples Farm on Facebook. In my effort to supplement our grocery shopping with fresh, organic food, one of my goals this year was to join a Farm to Family CSA. What's a CSA you ask?

Here's Twin Maples's description:

Community-supported agriculture (CSA; sometimes known as community-shared agriculture) is an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme. Many CSAs also sometimes include herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat. In theory a CSA can provide any product to its members, although the majority of CSA tend to provide produce and other comestibles. Some CSAs provide for contributions of labor in lieu of a portion of subscription costs.

Twin Maples Farm is a local farm located about 20 minutes from me. There are several folks that I know that are part of TM's CSA  and it was definitely something I wanted to be a part of, too!So Saturday, not three days into the New Year, up pops into my newsfeed that there was an extra share (box of food) this week that was up for grabs. First come, first serve. So I thought, well why not? It's something I want to try and why not give it a test run. When I checked the pickup locations, you'll never guess where one of the drop offs are. My neighborhood.I squealed.She even offered to deliver to my door!OMG!
I was so excited! And for good reason, because I am very impressed with these boxes.

Here's a peek into the box:

I got the half share which is just perfect for us two. (Note: since this was a trial run for me, they just gave me a cardboard box. If I were to purchase a subscription, I would get a sturdy, plastic box that I would exchange weekly.)

This week's box included:
  • half dozen brown eggs
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • loaf of homemade bread
  • bag of spinach
  • bag of chard & kale
  • a few cookies (peanut butter)
The  meats and produce varies according to what is in season. Also, from what I've read on the Facebook group, sometimes a jar of honey, bar of goat's milk soap or a jar of salt is thrown in.

The full share is more appropriate for a family; full dozen eggs, more meat, bigger variety of produce, etc.

I froze the meat, but have used everything else in my box. Very tasty, very fresh :)

If you are interested in Twin Maples Farm, here is their info:

If you are interested in finding a farm co-op in your location, go here:

Are you part of a farm co-op? Is this something that you find beneficial to your family? I would love to hear your experiences!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Healthy Home: All-Natural Dishwasher Pods

As part of my Healthy Body, Mind and Spirit makeover, I am adding a sub category: Healthy Home! Each of my endeavors will have two phases. For example, let's say if I was using a generic brand of dish detergent, my first phase would be to convert to an all natural, commercially available brand (i.e. 7th Generation) and the second phase would be to make my own detergent from scratch. In some areas, I already use an all-natural brand, so then my next step would be to jump in and make my own.

And that's the case here, so last night I got out all of my ingredients to make Citrus Dishwasher Pods! 

I am not a fan of powdered dish detergent because I am guilty of (more than once!) spilling it all over the kitchen floor. The pods keep it all intact and are pre-measured for easy-peasy dish cleaning.
I found this particular recipe on Tammy's blog. I made a small test batch as seen here and halved her recipe. You could easily double or triple the recipe and make enough to last months!

Here's the deal:

Gather your ingredients. I found all of mine at Kroger.

Combine and mix to the consistency of thick frosting. You may need more or less lemon juice to achieve the consistency. (It smelled awful at this point.)

Using a teaspoon or tablespoon (be sure to check your dishwasher and see which size is best to fit your pod in the compartment; I used a tablespoon) scoop and tightly press onto a cookie sheet. If not tightly pressed, they will crumble.

Let dry completely overnight.

Store in an airtight container.

All-Natural Citrus Dishwasher Pods
Small Batch Version

1/2 cup of borax
1/2 cup washing soda
1/4 cup epsom salt
4-6 tablespoons of lemon juice

Mix, scoop, let dry.

Oh! And need a good rinse aid? Hydrogen Peroxide! I'm telling you it works better than vinegar! Just mix a little citrus essential oil with 1/4-1/2 of peroxide and pour in your dishwasher.