Monday, June 25, 2012

Renewing Furniture

new look bedside table
Our old bedroom furniture is need of updating. It's all reasonable pieces of furniture it just needs a new look.  We have decided to re-make our bedroom into a 'coastal look'.  Using a white chalk paint and some star fish cabinet knobs.

painting drawers
We are moving back into the main bedroom.  Last year we built an extension under the house, adding a bedroom, bathroom, laundry and TV room.  We moved into the new bedroom.  It has now become clear to us that the bedroom downstairs would make an idea living space as an addition to the large deck on that level. 

dresser before
We painted the main bedroom; had new carpet laid and now have an air filter in the room to clear any out-gases from the paint and carpet.  We should be able to move in by the weekend. For the rest of the week we will 'renewing' our bedroom furniture.

The one problem I have is the fake fireplace.  It belonged to my grandparents.  They bought it sometime in the 1940's.  However the years are starting to show.  Every time  it gets a bump or a knock another piece of plaster falls off.  It is that fragile sometimes plaster falls off with just a touch.  It is no longer a nice piece of furniture to live with.  I think I might have to chalk paint it.  My grandmother was a very practical women and I doubt very much that she would mind.  So later in the week the fireplace gets a new look.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Recycling - Garden Project

The new side deck needs a path to the garden
Lately I have come across the interesting work of Mike Reynolds, Earthships.   So I have been saving all our cans and bottles.  We don't normally eat a lot of canned food but at present we are using a lot of organic canned tomatoes as our last tomato crop was pretty dismal (too much rain).  These cans along with a few wine bottles, herbal medicine bottles and few other odds and ends will be use as the basis of our new garden paths.  

The theory is - set the cans (or bottles) in concrete as filler when leveling areas, making steps or small walls.  The concrete sets around the cans and structure is very solid.  Because of the steepness of the block I may need to resort to using a few fly-ash blocks (manufacturing method is said to save energy, reduce mercury pollution and cost less) or tyres.  Once each section of the path is done it will then be paved with whatever left over pavers or tiles are available.

We will be working on this new path each weekend from now on and I will be posting updates.  So keep tuned.  No work today as the rain has set in.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Cold

We have all had colds here.  A head cold is not much fun.  I was just skiting the other day that we haven't had a cold or flu for some time.  We must be a bit run down at present.  Might be something to do with the renovations.  All the noise and dust. And the decision making is quite stressful.  The builders are wonderful and doing a great job but still it is stressful.

We always take preventive measures of homoeopathics, herbs and vitamins when we come in contact with someone with a cold or flu.  But now that we have succumbed to a cold we have also been taking the following:-

Withania somnifera - a great adaptagen to help with stand stress, antioxidant, amphoteric (can help regulate important physiologic processes - helps you feel better) and studies have shown withania to have an immunostimulatory effect.   I have Withania growing in the garden.

Zyzyphus jujube  - sedative - taken just before bed.

Olive Leaf Extract - traditionally used to relief colds, coughs and flu.

BioResearch Homoeopathic Complexes for cold and flu (from health practitioners only)

Oxyrich - oxygen supplement to help keep up body levels of oxygen.

With the above regime we should recover well, ready to face the on-going building extensions.

Please see you health practitioner before considering taking any of the above.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Green Cleaning Alternatives

I was discussing with my Aunt Irene the other day about alternatives to phosphate base dishwashing liquids.  There are a lot of alternatives on the market some work quite well but others don't and it can be quite an expensive experiment.  I have been using a New Zealand brand that is no longer available in Australia.  I usually buy it in bulk, 5 litre container.  There is about a 2 litres left so I have time to consider future options.

Irene then mentioned that you can use bi-carb soda as the dishwasher powder in your dishwasher plus vinegar as the rinse aid.  This intrigued me. (Bi-carb soda also know as bi-carb or sodium bicarbonate).   I really hate using the caustic dishwasher powders that are available but the commercial 'green' alternatives don't work very well.  So as I write this, my dishwasher is running with bi-carb soda and vinegar.  By the time I post this article later today I should have some results for you.  See the results at the end of this article.

Aunt Irene lives on acreage in NE Victoria.  She does not have a dishwasher so has not tried the bi-carb and vinegar.  She has tank water and septic toilet system and is always interested in environmental issues.  She often relies on information gained while growing up with my mother and their other siblings on their family acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia.  Their parents were soldier settlers from England after WW1 and settled on 10 acres in The Gap.  Back then The Gap was in the middle of nowhere and it was a very hard life as poultry farmers.  Now The Gap is quite a trendy suburb in Brisbane's outer west.

Back to my conversation with Aunt Irene.

Irene also mentioned that you can use vinegar in place of fabric softener when washing clothes.  We don't use fabric softener for washing accept for the massage towels. My husband, Greg, is a massage therapist and there are always towels to be washed.  I do use fabric softener when washing these towels and have found an environmentally friendly one but would like a cheaper, greener alternative.

I had heard somewhere that fabric softener lessens the absorbency of  towels which is not an issue for our massage towels.  Massage towels just need to be clean, soft and fragrant for clients.  So I decided to test this.  I have put on a load of washing.  A couple of towels and few grubby tea-towels used when bottling the home brew last night. I have a front loading washing machine that has 3 dispensers 1 for pre-soaking; 1 for washing powder and 1 for fabric softener.   I used 2 tablespoons of bi-carb and 4-5 drops of eucalyptus oil in the washing powder dispenser and 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 4 drops of lavender essential oil and 4 drops of ylang ylang in the fabric softener dispenser and programmed the washing machine for a cold wash. Eucalyptus oil is often used in 'green' washing powders and liquids. I selected lavender and ylang ylang in the final rinse because I love the fragrances and lavender is great for all your linen (see lavender properties below).  If bi-carb works on the dishes it should have some effect on fabric.  My results later in this article.

I make my own kitchen and bathroom spray.  I find that most of the 'green' commercial kitchen/bathroom sprays usually have some type of essential oil (orange oil?) that is so strong that it catches at the back of my throat when I use it.  I can't believe that this sort of irritation can be good for your respiratory system.  My Spray Cleaner Formula is:-

To a spray bottle add

1 tablespoon of your favourite no phospate dishwashing liquid
1 teaspoon of colloidal silver (sanitizes)
a few drops of lavender essential oil
(You can use a different essential oil - but lavender has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antiseptic proprerties.  Alternatives would be eucalyptus, tea tree, bergamot or lemon essential oils.  I just love the smell of lavender and it is reported to have some insecticide properties.  Just remember that  Lavender Essential oil can cause drowsiness when used constantly or in low blood pressure.)

Top the spray bottle up with water. Close the lid.  Shake. And you are ready to go.

I usually spray chopping boards and other things I want to sterilize and leave for 30 minutes. I also use this spray for all my furniture.

I also use the colloidal silver to sterilized all my brewing equipment.

Result Bi-carb and Vinegar in the Dishwasher

Well I have just emptied the dishwasher and the dishes are lovely and clean.  No different to when they are washed with caustic dishwasher tablets.  I must admit though we don't put 'pots and pans' in the dishwasher.  Usually we wash these by hand and if they are hard to clean I just soak overnight in bi-carb soda and water. Not adding pots and pans to the dishwasher alleviates the concern about using the longer 'pots and pans' cycle and leaves a lot more room for dishes etc.  For most of our meals we use slow cookers or other cooking appliances that can't be put in the dishwasher. 

For years I have been cleaning the dishwasher by sprinkling the bottom of the dishwasher with bi-carb and running it empty on the shortest cycle.  (This little hint came from my nephew who picked it up in a science class at school).  I am not sure why I never made the jump to using the bi-carb for cleaning the dishes.  Well, I will be from now on.  

Results Bi-carb and Vinegar in the Washing Machine

On the first cycle of washing the laundry smelt like the clean, crisp fragrance of eucalyptus and then later on the fabric softener cycle on the entire floor where the laundry is located there was a blend of the clean crisp fragrance of eucalyptus with the light, refreshing, floral fragrance of lavender and the sweet smell of ylang ylang plus a touch of apple cider vinegar.

I don't normally put towels in the same washing load as tea-towels but I wanted to compare how they washed.   The heavier fabric items smelt stronger of the essential oils and as I placed the washing on the line (inside as it is raining today) the whole room became very fragrant.  Now sometime later, the whole house just smells wonderful.

The washing itself appears clean. A few old stains did not miraculously disappear and a few new stains remained.  However, I would normally pre-soak the tea-towels to remove these stains.

So what do I think about bi-carb and vinegar in the wash.  Well I will definitely continue to use it.  It is a lot cheaper and lot more environmentally friendly.  When we build our new laundry and grey water system next year I will need to look into the effects on the grey water system, especially the essential oils.  I will however continue to pre-soak items with difficult to remove stains as there are 'green' pre-soaker alternatives on the market to use.  I will report later on the laundry items once they have dried, softness etc.  I think in future I could probably use less essential oil.

And then there are the hints on the Bi-Carb Soda pack.

Carpet - sprinkle carpets with Bi-Carb Soda; leave a few minutes then vacuum.  (I usually mix a few drops of essential oil in the Bi-Carb first)
Fridge - to absorb odours, fill a small container and leave in the fridge
Tea/Coffee Cups - apply Bi-Carb Soda to a damp cloth and rub stains away
Sinks - pour half a cup of Bi-Carb Soda down the drain with warm tap water (I usually use vinegar instead of tap water)
Smelly shoes - sprinkle a little Bi-Carb Soda in the shoes and leave for a few days (Again I usually add some essential oil - peppermint)
Oily stains on concrete - sprinkle Bi-Carb Soda over stain and scrub with a wet brush
Laundry - 1/2 cup in the laundry rinse cycle (This differs to my trial)
For your body - a refreshing bath soak, 1/2 cup of Bi-Carb Soda in your bath leaves the skin soft and silky. (Oh yes, don't forget the essential - lavender for relaxing)

Plus there are a number of health benefits to Bi-Carb Soda but that's another article.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season

This holiday season be prepared. This is the time we catch up with family and friends.  It's also the time we eat more, drink more and spend more.  Just a few precautions can make a difference to your diet and to your budget.

1. If going out make sure you eat a healthy snack before you go out even if you are going out to dinner. Consider fruit, nuts, popcorn, organic cheese and homemade crackers.

2. Alcohol flows freely during the Holidays with all the different parties and get-togethers we have.  If you are drinking wine add filtered or mineral water (at least half and half) and try the low alcohol beers.  You just have time to brew a batch of beer for Christmas. Home brewing has come a long way and there are some really great home brew beers available.  One of our favourites is Coopers Mexican Cerveza.  Coopers recommends using their Brew Enhancer 2 instead of sugar. This makes it more expensive but it makes a great tasting brew. To make a low alcohol beer use only 500g instead of the 1kg.  Keep away from the ‘pop’ alcohols. If you drink spirits, mix your own drinks.   Add fruit juice (no added sugar) and soda water to your champagne.  

3. For non-alcohol drinks, try fruit juice (no added sugar) with added filtered or mineral water.  Try to keep the ratio to 25% fruit juice and 75% water.  Or try some homemade cordials like Old Fashion Lemonade.

4.  Snacks at parties can greatly increase calorie intake, unhealthy fats and food additives.  Try to keep away from purchased chips, biscuits etc.  and go for the dips that are home made.  Try roast garlic dip, salsas and vegetable base dips.  Have these with bite size pieces of raw fruit and vegetables.  Consider fruit, nuts, popcorn, organic cheese and homemade crackers.

5. When out, keep a supply of healthy snacks with you. Again, consider fruit, nuts, popcorn, organic cheese and homemade crackers. Eat these at the first signs of hunger instead of going for the unhealthy, expensive packaged alternatives.

6. If going out for a meal skip the entree course unless you are very hungry. 

7. Select meals that have a high vegetable content.
8. Avoid meals with creamy or high fat content sauces.  Ask for the sauce to be put on the side.

9. When ordering salads ask for the dressing to be put on the side.  Otherwise you may find you salad is covered in oil (unhealthy types) and sugar. 

10. For desserts, go for those that include fresh fruits, ricotta, yoghurts, yoghurt cream cheese or coconut milk.  Try Pineapple Freeze

11. Often at this time of year we are meeting friends for coffee.  Keep your coffee intake to no more than 3 cups per day. Or better still go for herbal teas.  Like peppermint or black adder tea.  If you drink decaf coffee please make sure it is decaffeinated through natural filters and not by chemicals. Try to resist the temptation of cake with your coffee.  If you can’t resist go for something with lots of fruit.  Better still invite your friends to coffee at your place then you can control what you eat and what you spend.

12. Drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water per day. 

13. Go to the for more great ideas and recipes.