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Unacceptable Levels

Unacceptable Levels examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes of affable filmmaker Ed Brown, a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children. To create this debut documentary, one man and his camera traveled extensively to find and interview top minds in the fields of science, advocacy, and law. Weaving their testimonies into a compelling narrative, Brown presents us with the story of how the chemical revolution brought us to where we are, and of where, if we’re not vigilant, it may take us.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Vinegar Friday

TGIVF!!

Well, here it is -- not only our last Vinegar Friday of the year, but the last day of the year as well. So, how did 2010 treat you? I know it was a hard year for a lot of you, but I hope there were some bright spots as well.

How will you spend your New Year's Eve? Do you take some time to reflect on the past year and make some plans, or resolutions, for the year ahead?

Today, I'm thinking about vinegar. It's only right, after all, since it is a Friday. I'm thinking about how much vinegar has changed my life this year and I am wondering if it has made a difference in your lives? So I am going to ask a favor of you. Would you mind letting me know, via the comment section here on the blog or by posting a comment on my Facebook wall, what vinegar tip or tips had an impact on you?

For me, there are several and here they are:
  • Hair -- I love what rinsing with apple cider vinegar does for my hair. No more need for toxic dandruff shampoo. No more itchy scalp. No more dull hair.
  • Skin -- my skin responds so well to ACV -- my face is softer than it has been in years and the foot baths and regular baths with two cups of ACV added are keeping my skin soft and itch-free!
  • Stomach ulcer -- I have been taking Nexium for years to treat an ulcer. I was even up to two a day, following the flare-up I experienced from drinking green tea (which should be avoided if you have any kind of stomach problems). Now I'm happy to say I haven't taken anything for my stomach for over 60 days! Why? Because I take one to two tablespoons of Bragg's Organic Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar every day.
  • Cleaning and laundry -- it is so nice to be living in a home with fewer toxins than were here a year ago. 2010 was a transforming year as far as ridding my home of toxic substances like bleach, fabric softener, ammonia, and other caustic chemicals and replacing them all with distilled white vinegar.
  • Salads -- no more ranch dressing slathering my lettuce! Organic balsamic vinagrette has a permanent place on my table.
I will probably think of more things I love about vinegar as the day goes on, but this is a good start. Please take the time to let me know what your favorites are.

Have a blessed new year full of health, happiness, prosperity and, of course, vinegar!!

Hana

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The best kinds of gifts

Snowflake ornament by Jessica Taylor
It was so much fun opening presents this year...especially when I found products from companies I promote here on the blog, like Crimson & Clean Soap. On Monday night, I slipped into a tub of hot water infused naturally with Soothing Bath Salts, scrubbed off dead skin with Soothing Sugar Scrub and lathered up with Goats Milk Body Soap. Divine.

On Tuesday morning I threw a load of laundry into the dryer with my brand new 100%wool dryer balls from Buddha Bunz.


Magnets by Jessica Taylor

Then I reorganized my magnetic bulletin board with the new magnets my daughter, Jessica, made for me. Her creativity and talent was amazing this Christmas and I'm convinced she could get a business going for herself if she wanted to. She crafted handmade snowflakes from card stock, a necklace from an old washer, and she transformed vases into sweater-wrapped containers that cast a warm glow when you light the hand-poured candles inside them. I love the fact that the sweaters came from Goodwill!
Vase candles by Jessica Taylor

Oh, I got some other great gifts for Christmas as well, like the water cooler for my office so I can have hot and cold spring water at my disposal. What a thoughtful husband I have!

But it was the green gifts and homemade gifts that touched me the most. Next year, when you start your shopping, why not consider making some gifts or buying gifts that will help your loved ones live greener lives?

Necklace by Jessica Taylor
While others were dreaming of a white Christmas, I was dreaming of a green one...and, for the most part, I got it!

Keeping it green,

Hana


Monday, December 27, 2010

The Sabbath Experiment -- week 12

Wow. Christmas is over and the new year is quickly approaching. Did you have a good holiday? We did, aside from missing some family members who couldn't join us. Bill and I slept in, enjoyed a nice brunch and exchanged gifts before the girls and their families descended upon us late in the afternoon. Then there was constant activity until after 11 p.m. when I tucked the lovely little Lady Laura in bed. By the time I climbed under the covers, I was beat. But I loved falling asleep knowing I would be waking up to not only my beloved husband, but to my precious grandbaby as well.

Speaking of my husband, he works so hard to make sure Christmas is as perfect as it can be. And let me tell you, he bestowed more blessings on me this year than I deserved. He humbles me with his generousity and grace. He gave me a most unusual card this year -- from Hallmark's Disney Princess line. On the front is a picture of Cinderella dancing with her Prince Charming. Under the graphic are the words, "Once upon a time..." And inside there was a verse that really touched my heart:

"We found a real-life love
that's way better than
any storybook romance.

Merry Christmas
to my happy-forever-after-love."

I think he's a keeper.

On Sunday morning, I awoke before Laura and was able to get dressed for church before she woke up. I think the poor little girl was exhausted. Bill left early to go teach Sunday School and Laura and I had such a good time getting ready and eating breakfast. I must admit I didn't time things well and ended up being late for church, but the time I spent with her was precious.

The worship service was wonderful, with the sermon ending with the YouTube video of the Food Court Hallelujah chorus. Our congregation broke out in applause right along with the holiday shoppers in the video. Magnificent!

Our pastor and his wife joined us for lunch at Eat 'n Park (Laura's choice) and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. Then, since it was the Sabbath after all, Bill and I came home and took a 2 1/2 hour nap. I especially loved this whole 'rest' thing on the day after Christmas!

Admittedly, we did spend some time in the evening cleaning up the Christmas mess, which included separating the recyclable paper from the trash, folding up gift bags, saving tags and straightening out and refolding tissue paper to use again next year. We were aiming for the least amount of waste possible. But we did it in a relaxed way, while we watched a couple of Hallmark movies. We finished the evening by enjoying the Andre Rieu Live in Dublin DVD I gave Bill for Christmas (bought brand-new for $1.99 at Goodwill about six months ago). It was a lovely day and I feel rested as I start off the new week. I must say I loved the whole 'resting on the Sabbath' concept this week, which gave me 'permission' to ... well ... rest. I think that's actually the whole point of it, huh?

So what did you do with your Sabbath day? Were you snowed in somewhere? Hopefully you weren't stranded at an airport!

Now it is time to move on with the week. I have no idea what is ahead, but it should prove to be interesting. It usually is.

Keeping it restful on the Sabbath,

Hana

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's not always in the blood


Families come in all shapes and sizes. And most of them have a touch of dysfunction to them. I know ours does. After all, we are a blended family, and let me tell you … blending is never easy. But one thing I have learned is that it doesn’t take a blood connection to make a family. I am convinced that no one, and I mean no one, could love my girls the way my husband does. He only came into their lives when they were seven and five, yet you would almost swear he has memories of holding them the day they were born. You see that in his eyes.

And the grandbabies? Well, there is no way to describe his connection to them.

You see, it is not blood that makes a family. It is love.

Just look at the family Jesus started out with. I can say with certainty that Joseph looked upon Him the same way Bill looks at Bethany and Jessica. Blood doesn’t matter. Any of you who have adopted children know exactly what I am talking about.

Unfortunately, not everyone in a blended family sees it the same way. To them, blood matters most of all and loyalty issues are a constant challenge. Sometimes it is because they cannot let go of ‘what once was’ and embrace the ‘what is.’ And there is not a thing anyone can do to change their way of looking at it.

You know what else makes a family besides love? Grace and forgiveness. Without them, there is little hope for peace in a home. Love, grace and forgiveness. The model Jesus Himself gave to us. All we have to do is follow it and every one of us can let go of the past with all its pain, broken dreams and promises, and grab on to the family we have right here, right now.

Did someone in your family die? Was there a divorce? Were you abandoned? Did you have to divide your loyalties between two families instead of one? These things happen … way too often, unfortunately. But there is absolutely no reason why you have to stay stuck in the ‘what once was.’ No reason at all. Except, of course, your own desire to stay there.

Why forgive when you can choose unforgiveness?

Why offer grace when you can opt for bitterness?

Why love when you can hate?

Wow, all I can think about is a baby in a manger who did no wrong, yet was crucified three decades later. Unjustly, I might add. Yet he chose forgiveness, opted for grace and embodied love.

And you know what? He calls us to do the same.

Sharing my heart,

Hana

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Touting the benefits of turmeric

"If I had only one single herb to depend upon for all possible health and dietary needs,
I would without much hesitation choose Turmeric."

--Dr. David Frawley, Founder of the American Institute for Vedic Studies




I am in an awkward position. I really want to tell you about this amazing herb, but I'm not a doctor, pharmacist, scientist, researcher, or anything that resembles any of them. So I would never want anyone to take what I say about health benefits of something without doing some research themselves. I only know what works for me. Of course, everyone is different. But when I find something that so wonderfully improves the quality of my life, I just have to share it.

I have been suffering from EBVS (Epstein Barr Virus Syndrome) since I was sixteen-years-old. There are no cures, only treatments that may or may not help. Additionally, I developed fibromyalgia, a very painful condition which makes walking quite difficult, especially when combined with EBVS.

Years ago, I started taking St. John's Wort for my bi-polar disorder (I know...that's a lot of disorders -- did I mention diabetes and asthma as well?). Anyway, after awhile I noticed a big change in my EBVS symptoms. By accident, I discovered that St. John's Wort is often used, with success, to treat EBVS. Wonderful! A little herb that packs a powerful punch for two of my conditions. As far as the bi-polar goes, I recognize that I am blessed to be able to treat such a serious condition without medication.

A word of warning -- St. John's Wort should never be combined with an antidepressant (with a few exceptions), so do not start taking it without talking to your doctor first. In my case, I weaned myself off lithium and Prozac and waited two weeks before starting on the St. John's Wort. Like I said, I consider myself blessed that it works for me.

Well, when I sat down to write this, I had no intention of mentioning the St. John's Wort. Sorry I got sidetracked. Let's move on to the turmeric.

A few months ago I stopped by Right by Nature in downtown Pittsburgh and chatted with a woman working in the nutritional supplements section. I told her about my fibromyalgia and she immediately directed me to a product called Turmeric Formula by Organic India, telling me that people with fibro come in all the time to buy it. The ingredients in the formula are as follows:
  • Organic Turmeric rhizome (Curcuma longa) 400mg
  • Turmeric Extract -- 95% curcumimoids 100mg
  • Organic Ginger rhizome (Zingiber officinale) 50mg
The suggested dosage is one to two capsules with food and water two times a day.

I take two capsules once a day and, let me tell you, it is a miracle herb for me.

How do I know it is not just a coincidence? Well, I ran out of it and then had to go out of town. After a few days, I noticed the pain returning. After ten days, the pain was ridiculous. I took another trip downtown to Right by Nature and bought another bottle. And guess what? The pain is nearly gone again.

So this is my endorsement for this wonderful little herbal formula. However, do not even consider taking turmeric if you are pregnant, as it can cause uterine contractions.

You should avoid taking it for other reasons as well, such as if you have:
  • gallstones
  • bile obstruction
  • obstructive jaundice
  • unidentified congestive heart failure
  • toxic liver disorder
While you should always speak with your doctor before starting an herbal remedy, this is especially true if you are nursing, are trying to get pregnant, have a blood-clot disorder, or are on any type of medication.

Since the turmeric formula has worked well for my fibro, I decided to look into other benefits linked to it. The list is impressive and includes the following possible benefits:
  • Detoxifies the liver
  • Slows progress of multiple sclerosis (in mice, at least)
  • Boosts fat metabolism (yippee -- maybe I'll be skinny sometime in the next couple of decades!)
  • Kills pain naturally
  • Treats depression
  • As an anti-inflammatory, it lessens the severity of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Eases symptoms of psoriasis and some other skin conditions
  • Removes the buildup of amyloyd plaque on the brain, thus slowing the progression, and possibly preventing Alzheimer's
Remember, all these things are just possibilities, but they are based on research and studies done throughout the world. Most remarkably, to me, is what turmeric is said to do in regards to cancer, including reducing the risk of childhood leukemia, restricting metastases in various forms of cancer, preventing melanoma and killing off existing melanoma cells, preventing the spread of cancer in the breast to the lung, stopping the growth of new blood vessels in tumors, and boosting the effects of the chemo drug, Paclitaxel, and limiting its side effects. And apparently, when combined with cauliflower (go figure!), turmeric has been known to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of the tumor in existing cases. Additionally, there are ongoing studies on the positive effects of this wonder spice on pancreatic cancer and on multiple myeloma!

Whether you decide to take turmeric in capsule form, like I do, or find new spice up your cooking with it, I strongly recommend adding it to your diet in one way or another (unless you fall in any of the avoid-taking-this categories listed above).

I am so glad someone directed me to this little bottle on the shelf. Merry Christmas to me!

Keeping it healthy,

Hana



Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sabbath Experiment -- week 11

The lovely little Lady Laura with Santa in '09
Well, we're off to another busy week, right? After all, doesn't busyness define this time of year?

Of course, the busy bug bit me, too. I am not even close to being ready for Christmas, which is now a mere five (gasp!) days away. Oh my goodness. I don't think I even realized that until I typed it. Wow.

I switched things a bit this week and chose not to work on Saturday...but, c'mon, it was the Saturday before Christmas, so I didn't exactly sit around the house and knit (not that I ever sit around and knit, but you get the picture). No, I chose to shop instead.

If you follow the blog, you know that I was sick on Friday. I had the worst sore throat and was convinced it was strep. So I headed off to the doctor in the morning. He suspected strep as well, until the test came back negative. I came home without a trusty Z-Pack to make me feel better and I headed straight to the kitchen cabinet and pulled out two ingredients. I bet you can guess what one of them was -- apple cider vinegar! And honey.

I poured a bit of each into a teacup and throughout the day took a tablespoon of the tangy concoction. By the end of the day, I felt fine. No sore throat. No need to cancel my plans to watch the lovely little Lady Laura overnight so her mommy could get some Christmas stuff of her own done. The incomparable ACV did it again! I guess I could have written Vinegar Friday after all!

So my two-year-old grandbaby had a sleepover at Grandma and Pap Pap's house and was here Saturday morning to go outside in her blanket sleeper and coat to see Santa ride by on a firetruck (a yearly tradition in my neighborhood). She was a bit frightened as Pap Pap held her, but she did appreciate the candy that was tossed her way (even though the only thing she could have was the lollipop).

After we got dressed, we headed to one of our favorite little restaurants for breakfast with Santa. Laura was all about breakfast, but eating with Santa...not so much. The big guy frightens the little one. That's fine. He frightens me sometimes, too! You never know who's lurking underneath that furry red suit!

My daughter met us at the restaurant so she could pick up Laura and free us up to spend the day shopping, which we did. And you know what? It was a really pleasant day. You would think that the Saturday before Christmas would be a madhouse, but we found that not to be the case. From the customers to the clerks, we were shocked at how friendly everyone was! And, for the most part, we found what we were looking for, including signs hanging above the registers at Target that read "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays!" We were looking for the word "Christmas" in the store and were quite pleased.

Instead of coming home stressed and tired, we came home feeling pretty good about our day. We popped some frozen lasagna in the oven (it was my Sabbath, remember?!) so I didn't have to cook and we settled down in front of the fire to watch some movies.

I must say that the Hallmark premiere on Saturday night was lame and disappointing (Battle of the Bulbs), but the Lifetime movie we watched after that was amazing. If you ever get the opportunity to see Still Small Voices starring Catherine Bell (who deserved an Emmy nod for this one), take the time to watch it. Excellent.

So that was the day. Not bad...although not completely restful. But let's face it -- this is the time of year, more than any, that makes resting, while essential, a bit more difficult.

May you find the time to experience the delights of the Christmas season this week. Sit down, rest a bit and prepare to celebrate the birth of the King!

Keeping it as restful as possible,

Hana

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vinegar Friday

TGIVF!

Can you believe Christmas Eve is one week away? Where did this year go?

As I deal with the busyness of the season, a sudden surge in work (hallelujah), a backed up sewer in the basement and a sore throat, headache and exhaustion, I quite honestly cannot think of a single thing to write about vinegar. Call it writer's block, blogger's block or simply a I-feel-like-crap-and-want-to-go-to-bed block...the label doesn't matter. But the content I would force out does. And it would simply stink at this point.

So I'll spare you that and ask that you just revisit a Vinegar Fridays Past. There's some good stuff there...guaranteed. Just scroll down to the search bar and type in "Vinegar Friday" and then take your pick. It's kind of like my Christmas gift to you...or not.

Heading to bed with a heated up corn bag,

Hana

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A versatile and inexpensive must-have for every bathroom

Recently, a friend sent me an email about the wonders of hydrogen peroxide and I have to tell you -- I haven't been this excited about an environmentally-friendly product since I started discovering the wonders of vinegar!

Hydrogen peroxide comes in different grades, starting with 3.5% pharmaceutical grade, which is the stuff you buy in the grocery store, and working its way up to 90%. What's the difference? Well, the low grade stuff can be used to whiten your teeth. However, I wouldn't recommend the 90% grade for that, considering that is what is used as an oxygen source for rocket fuel! Now that is what I call a versatile substance! It has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-yeast properties.

So, do you want a cheap and safe alternative to the expensive teeth whitening products out there? Grab a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and pour a capful into your mouth once a day, keeping it there for about 10 minutes. Since I, myself, have not tried this yet, I cannot vouch for its effectiveness...or the ease of doing this. But supposedly it works. Let me know if you give it a try and what you think. Oh, and from what I read, this is a perfect remedy for toothaches as well.

Soaking your toothbrushes in hydrogen peroxide will help keep them fresh and germ-free.

As an alternative to cleaning with vinegar, a 50/50 solution of peroxide and water in a spray bottle is another good way to keep your bathroom clean and disinfected.

A half bottle dumped into your bath water will help eliminate fungus, boils, and a variety of skin infections.

Want a streak-free mirror. Moisten a cloth with peroxide and wipe.

I simply love these bathroom tips! Thanks to my friend, Jesse, for sending them to me and thanks to Becky Ransey of Indiana for compiling them. Now I think I'll head up to the bathroom and grab that little brown bottle. I will be sure to share more tips for using this versatile liquid in the coming weeks.

Keeping it green with hydrogen peroxide,

Hana

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside!



Brrrrrrr. Here in Western Pennsylvania, it is downright chilly!! As I hear the furnace kick on, all I can think of is the astronomical heating bill that will be heading my way come January! Ouch.

While looking up ideas to cut back the heating bill, I came across the idea of zone heating. Zone heating involves turning the thermostat back to 55 degrees (double brrrr!) and using space heaters in the rooms you spend your time in. According to 10-Minute Energy-Saving Secrets by Jerri Farris, "Zone heating works best in homes where only one or two people are living. If there are more people in the house, you could be heating so many rooms at once that you'd be better off using the main system."

Well, Bill and I add up to two people living in this big ol' house. During the day, I spend my time almost exclusively in my second floor office. So I'm thinking it might be wise to use supplemental heat in here while it is just me at home. If I switch the direction of the ceiling fan blades so they turn clockwise, then I can redirect the hot air (that naturally rises) back down toward the floor, keeping my tootsies toasty. This just might be the answer to lowering my heating bills in a somewhat eco-friendly way.

Of course, the issue now becomes what type of space heater will I use. According to Farris, the most efficient type of supplemental heat would be a radiant heater with a thermostat that will power the unit down when the desired temperature is met. I wonder if it would take into account my occasional hot flashes? That would be dandy!

So here's my advice: turn down the heat a bit and plug in a space heater when needed. However, my advice comes with a warning. Please, please, please protect your little ones! If the heater gets hot on the surface, keep it safely away from your toddlers! But make sure you do not place it too close to drapes, furniture, papers, etc. Look for heaters that automatically shut down when tipped. Safety has to be the primary issue here!! And, for goodness sake, stay away from kerosene heaters (quite popular back in the 70s and 80s) and old electric heaters that use more energy than they're worth.

One final bit of advice here -- when you're not using the heater, unplug it!!!! As a matter of fact, you should unplug anything that heats up when not in use. This includes coffee makers, toasters, curling irons, hair dryers, etc. They are fire hazards when plugged in and unattended. And let me tell you, nothing feels colder than standing outside in the snow watching your house burn down.

Wishing your warmth while keeping it safe and green,

Hana

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The gift of a thank you note


Whatever happened to kids writing thank you notes? When is the last time you received one? Do you make your children write them?

In an era of emails, FB posts, tweets and texts, the art of the written note has fallen by the wayside. Why not change that this year? With Christmas less than two weeks away, I want to challenge you to start preparing your children for the gift of 'thank you.' Gift? Yes, gift. After Timmy tears open his gifts and rushes off to the gameroom to start playing with them, it is important to make him pause at some point to not only say thank you, but to sit down and write out a note to Aunt Nancy to let her know her thoughtfulness really was appreciated.

You can start preparing your kids by talking about it now. Take them along to the store to pick out their own thank you cards, or let them design their own. A lot of Christmas cards can be repurposed by cutting off the front of the card and using this to design stationery. Small images on the card can be cut out and pasted on card stock or construction paper. Stickers can be used to further show your child's creativity. By making the process fun, your kids will actually look forward to this tradition.

The text of the note does not have to be eloquent or lengthy. A simple "Thank you for ______. I'm enjoying it already," or "It's exactly what I wanted" is enough. And receiving it will be a gift to Grandma and Grandpap, who remember what it was like to exchange these kind of notes on a regular basis in their earlier years.

One tip someone shared with me that might not go over so well with the kiddos, but isn't a bad idea, is to make a rule that no gifts can be played with or worn until after the note is written. Personally, I would hold off on this one until your kids are ten or older.  You do not want them to look at this as a chore or, in some ways, a punishment.

When to start? As early as they can write their name. You can write a short note for them and have them sign their name. Precious.

One more benefit of establishing the habit of writing thank you notes is the fostering of an attitude of gratitude. And that is something you will reap the benefits of for years to come. After all, who doesn't love a grateful kid?

Grateful for all of you,

Hana

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sabbath Experiment -- week 10

Wow. It's been ten weeks already. Hmm. I must say that the craziness of my life (trips back and forth to my mother's, etc.) has tainted my original intent somewhat. I'm thinking that a more accurate evaluation will start in January, barring any family emergencies, when life in general slows down some. Let's face it -- the five or six weeks preceeding Christmas are busy times.

Yesterday, I started off the day with worship band practice and a wonderful worship service. Then the kids and grandkids came over (with takeout Chinese) to watch the Steeler game. This didn't sit particularly well with my husband, who is definitely caught up in the busyness of the season. But we made plans while he was in an elders' meeting after church. Sorry, Bill. His plan was to head outside (in the pouring rain) and finish the outdoor decorating. Don't get me wrong -- Bill loves spending time with the kids and grandkids...nothing makes him happier. But not having everything he thinks should be done stresses him too much to enjoy much of anything. Haven't we all been there? Where busyness crowds out everything else?

Aha! Wasn't that one of my primary goals of The Sabbath Experiment? To take a day, despite all that is left undone, and simply rest and enjoy all the blessings God has bestowed on us. I guess that is easier said than done in some cases. Like in the case of my husband who works fulltime and has had weather, health and my absence to contend with over the past month. He simply has too much to do. My solution? Skip the outside decorating. His response to that -- depression. He loves having the front and back lawns lit up to celebrate the birth of our Savior. It makes him happy. And, after all, this is my Sabbath Experiment, not his.

So what did I do? I left the gang watching the Steeler game and headed to the mall with my two-year-old angel. We had such fun! Since it was raining, I didn't feel like struggling with a stroller, so the lovely little Lady Laura simply strut her stuff to the oohs and ahhs of busy shoppers. What a cutie.

In the evening, Bill and I went to play Pinochle at the home of some new friends. Good food, good conversation and fun. I think my day went well. But I am looking forward to Sabbath days of rest come January.

Keeping it somewhat restful,

Hana

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A broader concern


"I believe in my heart that faith in Jesus Christ
can and will lead us beyond an exclusive concern
for the well-being of other human beings
to the broader concern for the well-being
of the birds in our backyards,
the fish in our rivers,
and every living creature on the face of the earth."

-- John Wesley (1701-91)


Friday, December 10, 2010

Vinegar Friday

TGIVF!!

One of the things bad about Vinegar Friday rolling around so quickly again is that it means Christmas is even closer and I, for one, am nowhere close to being ready. Although the indoor decorating is done and right now I am really enjoying it.

Currently I am sitting in my living room with a fire burning, easy-listening music playing (is that grandmotherly enough for you?), a jar candle casting off a luscious scent, my Christmas lights lit (even though it's morning), a cup of coffee on a tray beside me and the sight of snow dancing whimsically outside my window. What a glorious day.

This morning I spent some time with Jodi Picoult (via my House Rules audio book) as I made breakfast, and with Jesus as I studied His Word and lifted up others to Him in prayer.

Now it is time to think about vinegar. Easy enough this morning since I'm sitting her scratching my itchy scalp and thinking it is time to hop in the shower and give myself a good ol' ACV rinse.

It's that time of year, isn't it? That dry-itchy-skin time of year. That God for vinegar! While others are reaching for expensive, and often toxic, solutions to their dry skin and scalp problems, I'm reaching for the apple cider vinegar!

That's not to say I don't enjoy the occasional organic and natural lotion bars, but for an economical solution, nothing beats ACV! So I thought it was time to share some of my tips for the winter months ahead. Of course, there are some here I have shared before, but I wanted to clump them together and remind you of how wonderful they are!

Scalp -- I decided to start here, since scratching mine started this whole train of thought! Awhile back I began rinsing my hair in apple cider vinegar and loved how it made my hair feel. Then I ran out of the "cheap" stuff and haven't done it since. Somehow I keep forgetting to pick up a gallon at the grocery store. I use the raw, organic, unfiltered ACV for health reasons, but see no reason to bathe or rinse with the costly stuff. However, today, as I sit here scratching, I'm going to make an exception.

For bad cases of dandruff or itchy scalp, you can pour undiluted ACV on your hair after you shampoo. Follow with conditioner and rinse it all out.

Or...and this is what I do...simply add 1/2 cup of ACV to 2 cups of warm water and use it as a final rinse.

Moving down, ACV is a wonderful astringent for your face, although you will want to keep it away from your sensitive undereye and eyelid areas. The acidity in vinegar helps to restore the natural acidity in your skin, especially if you use any soaps or lotions that have any harsh chemicals in them.

Apply some ACV to a soft cloth, or organic cottonball, and apply to your face after cleansing. Your skin will softer and smoother in just days.

For dry patches on your skin, just dab some ACV on the spots. Again, the purpose is to restore your skin's natural acidity. If you have areas on your body that are extremely dry and itchy, a paste of cornstarch and ACV (50/50 blend) applied daily can bring the relief you need. Just keep the paste on until the itching stops and reapply as needed.

Of course, you don't want to walk around all pasty if your entire body is itchy! In that case, dump 2 or 3 cups of ACV into a warm bath and soak 20 - 30 minutes. Make sure you don't undo the benefits of this by slathering on some toxic body lotion afterwards!

Athlete's foot is often a problem during the winter months. And, of course, apple cider vinegar is the answer to that, as well! Like I have said before, ACV is a natural antiseptic and has antifungal properties which will help eliminate any harmful germs and irritants. Grab a bucket, or a foot bath, and soak your feet in a quart of vinegar for a half an hour or so. Not only will this cure your athlete's foot, but it will give you the softest feet ever. Love foot massages? Well then, make your feet irresistibly soft with a vinegar foot bath!

On a side note to those of you who suffer from SFS (stinky feet syndrome) -- soaking in ACV could help your situation as well, as the vinegar will kill the bacteria that could be the cause of the problem! Of course, I'm not naming names here -- you know who you are!

Now here is a more sensitive subject -- rectal itching. Again, ACV is the answer. Just dab some on gently and go about your day. No need to talk about it.

I'll let you sit on that one (sorry, couldn't resist) and I think I'll go hop in the shower for the ACV rinse I was telling you about.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Keeping it green and healthy with vinegar,

Hana

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quick tip

You know how you hate getting all those forwarded emails? Me, too. Especially when you scroll to the bottom and are told that you have to send them to x amount of people so that you will have
  1. an answer to your prayer
  2. good luck
  3. increased wealth
  4. ...well, you get the picture.
I really hate the ones that try to guilt me into forwarding them to my friends...the ones that tell me God will be ashamed of me if I don't forward them, because by not sending the email off, I have proven that I am actually ashamed of Him! Find a Scripture to support that theory and I will comply without hesitation! But the bottom line is -- if there is anything at the end of the email that stresses the necessity to forward, chances are pretty darn good, I will be hitting the delete button...even if the content of the email was good. I simply do not like being manipulated. You know what I mean?

Well, a few hours ago I got one of those emails. It was a bunch of helpful tips and, to my surprise, I actually learned a few tips I plan to implement.

There was one in particular that I am anxious to try. The next time I get a splinter, I'm planning on slathering the finger (or wherever the splinter has taken up residence) with Elmer's glue. Once dry, the glue easily peels off and voila!, no more splinter! I just love that tip and cannot help wondering why I wasn't ever smart enough to come up with that on my own. After all, I know all about the process of peeling dried glue off my hands.

Many years ago, my sister, relying on my gullibility, coated her own hands with Elmer's glue. After the glue had dried, she came to me, visibly upset, and told me she had a fatal disease and that it involved the peeling of the skin. She said that the disease was advanced when you got to that point and there was nothing that could be done to save a person once the skin started peeling. Then she slowly started stripping her skin of the dried glue! It was a cruel big sister trick that has remained with me to this day. I just can't figure out why it never occurred to me that this would be a good way to remove a splinter! It sure beats digging around the skin with tweezers!

Anyway, that is my tip for today. A simple splinter-removing tip. And that is all I have to say for now. The Christmas season is underway, complete with its busyness. So with that said, I will close. Have a joyful day.

Keeping it simple,

Hana

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My indulgence


Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil


Get ready -- I'm about to announce a not-so-green habit of mine. Hot baths. Lots and lots of hot baths. Very few things beat a hot bath in my book. I love taking baths. I take baths to get warm when I catch a chill. I take baths when I am tense and need to relax. I take baths to escape the stresses of the day. I take baths in the morning, when I wake up feeling cold. I take baths when I want to spend time with a novel (currently it's Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner). I add Epsom Salts or apple cider vinegar. I light candles. I spend hours and hours in the tub.

Of course, it helps that I live in the city of three rivers where we do not have a shortage of water. But still, as Green Grandma, my bath habit, which has become more and more frequent as the temperatures have dropped, isn't exactly green.

So....after giving this some thought, I came up with a solution of sorts and decided to pass this idea on to the rest of you. Here is how my baths are becoming eco-friendly -- instead of draining the tub when I am done, we are dumping the water into the toilet. With a bucket conveniently placed under the sink, we just scoop up the water and pour it into the toilet, as needed, thus eliminating the need to flush!

This serves three purposes -- an ecological one, an economical one and a psychological one. By not using additional water to flush the toilet, we should see our water and sewage bills go down and I don't feel guilty filling the tub simply to relax or warm up.

Now, while I do think this is a good way to repurpose tub water, I do not recommend it for families with young children. The last thing I need is for one of my tips to result in the drowning of one of your precious little ones!

So, that is how I solved one of my un-green issues. How about you? Any ideas to share? I'd love to hear them.

Trying to keep it green,

Hana

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What I wish I'd known before I had kids

Yesterday I mentioned the audio book I am listening to -- House Rules by Jodi Picoult. For any of you who may know someone who has a child with Asperger's Syndrome, I highly recommend this book. It is a window into the life of a parent who deals with the syndrome every day -- in this case, a single mom. It also delves into the emotions and thoughts of the sibling, as well as painting a portrait of the Asperger's child from his own point of view. I feel I have gained an enormous amount of understanding by listening to this book, and I trust that Picoult did her research and has given this fictional family an honest portrayal.

That said, I wanted to share a list from the book. The mom in the book writes an advice column and I especially liked this one:

What I Know Now That I Wish I'd Known Before I Had Kids
  1. If you stick a piece of bread in a VCR, it will not come back intact.
  2. Garbage bags don't work as parachutes.
  3. Childproofing is a relative term.
  4. A tantrum is like a magnet -- Eyes cannot help but lock onto you and your child when it happens.
  5. Legos are not absorbed by the digestive tract.
  6. Snow is a food group.
  7. Kids know when you're not listening to them.
  8. A brussel sprout covered in cheese is still a brussel sprout.
  9. The best place to cry is in a mother's arms.
  10. You'll never be as good a mother as you want to be.
                                                                -- Emma in House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Isn't that a wonderful list? I personally love it, even if it is a list a fictional character created for a fictional parenting advice column!

So here's my challenge to you -- If you were to write a list with the same title, what would you include in your lineup? Post a comment here or on Facebook and let me know! I'll compile a list of my favorite 10 responses and post it.

Keeping it real,

Hana



Monday, December 6, 2010

The Sabbath Experiment -- week 9

Yesterday was another unusual Sunday for me. After spending several days caring for my mother, who lives 250 miles from me, I was able to return home yesterday.

Perhaps traveling on the Pennsylvania turnpike may not sound like Sabbath-type activity, but for me, the drive was relaxing. At least, most of the time. I wouldn't say driving through the snowy conditions as I traveled over the mountains was exactly restful, but the solitude was nice.

When I heard the weather forecast and shared it with my mother, she practically shoved me out the door! I didn't mind. I was anxious to get home. So I loaded up my wonderful Honda Insight Hybrid (that's just fun to say!) and hit the road, accompanied by a superior cast of voice over talents reading Jodi Picoult's House Rules. This is a book that really holds my interest, as most of Picoult's do, and the hours flew by.

Safely ensconced in my husband's arms by late afternoon, my body relaxed and my spirit rejoiced. Home! I love being home.

Despite the fact that the last thing he wanted to do was go out, Bill didn't hesitate to say yes when I asked him to take me out for dinner. I just wanted to be waited on for a meal and he knew why. After we came home, he went back to stringing lights on the Christmas tree and I headed upstairs for a long, hot bath. The Sabbath. A day of rest. Believe me, when I slipped into that tub, rest is exactly what happened.

I woke up to not-so-hot water and, while I had hoped I would be revived somewhat, the truth is, I was exhausted and I headed to bed.

So my Sabbath day included some travel, some fiction, some tenderness from my husband, a good meal, a hot bath and sleep. What it did not include was attending worship service, and I missed that. But all-in-all, it was restful.

Usually, one of the first things I do when I get up on Monday mornings is blog about my Sabbath Experiment. Today, I opted for some grandbaby time instead. Laura and I spent a lovely day together, singing and laughing and cuddling. So now, I'm feeling even more rested...which is a good thing, since I'll now to work late into the evening!

Anyway, that was my experience this week. What was yours? Have you started your own Sabbath experiment? I would love to hear your stories!

Sharing my day of rest,

Hana

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shabbat

Photo courtesty of Bobby Mikul
"Each individual creature is deemed good and everything together is pronounced very good, but the whole of creation at rest on Shabbat is called holy. A day of utter rest and peace, a day apart, Shabbat offers a profound and necessary respite for humans and all of creation...The workweek encourages an active stance in the world, but Shabbat is reserved for simply 'being' and celebrating in the delight of creation."

                                                                 -- Ellen Bernstein
                                                                     Creation Theology: A Jewish Perspective

Friday, December 3, 2010

Vinegar Friday


Photo courtesy of Andrew Schmidt

 TGIVF!

This week finds me in my hometown of Manheim, Pennsylvania; a small town in picturesque Lancaster County. Since I am here to help my mom as she recovers from knee replacement surgery, I have limited time to work or blog. So today's post is going to be short, but relevant. It has to do with fireplaces...after all, it is that time of year to get our fireplaces ready for the man in the red velvet suit, right?

Speaking of which, how do (or did) you handle the whole Santa thing with your kids? I'd love to hear your stories!

As a side note that has absolutely nothing to do with Vinegar Friday, let me tell you how I handled it.

One day, when my daughter was about four-years-old, I found her praying to Santa Claus. When I told her we pray to Jesus, not Santa, she replied, "But Mommy, I asked Jesus for _____ (I don't remember exactly what it was she asked for) and he didn't answer my prayer. But when I asked Santa for an umbrella, I got it. So I'd rather pray to him."

As logical as that sounded, I had to shine some light on it. So I decided to tell her the truth about Santa, but with a twist. I told her that grownups loved to pretend there really is a Santa Claus, so that's what we were going to do from then on. Pretend. Oddly enough, that satisfied her and we continued to pretend for several more years. After all, kids should have a bit of magic and make believe in their lives, don't you think?

Now, on to the purpose of the VF post -- vinegar!

Did you know that distilled white vinegar mixed with some water (1:2 ratio) can be sprayed on the glass doors of your fireplace for sparkling results? Spray it on, wipe it off. Bye-bye soot and dust...hello shine!

Speaking of soot -- undiluted vinegar is the answer here -- just pour it on and use a scrub brush to scrub it off. Use an towel or rags to sop up the dirt.

If you plan on painting the cement hearth, make sure you clean it well with undiluted vinegar, allowing it to dry before you hit it with the paintbrush. If you find that someone failed to clean the brush properly the last time it was used, don't worry about it. You can clean the hardened paint off by simply filling a pan with distilled white vinegar and letting the paintbrush soak for about an hour or so before turning on the heat. Simmer for a few minutes and then thoroughly rinse the brush. Once dried, it will be good as new!

There you have it...now you can prepare your fireplace to welcome jolly ol' St. Nick. Ah, the wonderful world of make believe...and vinegar!

Keeping it green and clean with vinegar,

Hana

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas and the single parent

Yesterday was Pay it Forward Day and Jill Wirth of the amazing Green Baby Clothing Company posted something on her Facebook wall asking for ideas. I thought about it. What would be a good thing to do on Pay it Forward Day? I wondered.

I came up with some of the usual things I already like to do -- give candy to the person taking tolls on the Turnpike (which I'll do later today as I travel to my mother's in Manheim, PA), give flowers to the cashier at the grocery store, offer to load groceries in the trunk of an elderly shopper's car, etc. Then I thought about single moms. What would they like during the holiday season? A free babysitter, of course! After all, Santa's not making many house calls these days and someone has to do the shopping. So that was my suggestion and a single mom "liked" it.

Have you ever thought about what it is like for single parents during the holidays? Maybe you should.

 Twenty-one years ago, I spent my first Christmas as a single mom. As many of you know, my husband died in September of that year, leaving me to raise two small children alone. I lived 250 miles from my closest relative, so I had to rely heavily on my friends and church family for help. I was blessed because they really came through for me. But some single parents aren't quite as lucky as I was. They are "going it" alone, and that, my friends, should not be the case.

The single mom who "liked" my FB comment was Tanya Curtis. She and I struck up a "conversation" via FB's messages and I asked her to share her story with me, which she graciously did. Now I'd like to share it with you.


Tanya and Rylan Curtis

Tanya is the 28-year-old single mother of Rylan, an adorable three-and-a-half-year-old boy. They live in Newfoundland, Canada. Tanya has never been married and Rylan does not have a daddy. His father left his mother when she was five months pregnant.

That would be enough to make one bitter, don't you think? Well, Tanya is not. She recognizes that her former boyfriend gave her the most precious gift and now she is relieved to be able to raise Rylan on her own, without the negative influence of his father's lifestyle affecting him.

You see, that is what many single parents face -- bad influences, or different values, coming from the other parent and his or her family. It is certainly something to think about when considering a divorce. The whole idea of having to release custody of your children for days on end while they experience things you have no control over. Scary.

Anyway, back to Tanya's story: Rylan is her life, and that's exactly how she wants it. While it sometimes breaks her heart for her child not to have a daddy, she realizes it is simply better that way. And she and her son are fortunate to have her dad, who has overcome some serious medical issues, as a strong father-figure for Rylan.

While some single parents are focused on finding a partner to help share the parenting duties (I admit I was one of them), Tanya is not looking for a relationship at this point. As a matter of fact, she is not even dating. As a stay-at-home-mom, her focus is on her son.

"If there is a man meant to be a part of our lives," she tells me, "he will come when the time is right. Right now, my focus is to raise my child the best I can on my own."

Good for you, Tanya!

"Being a single parent is definitely challenging and perhaps harder than a two-parent family. But it's very rewarding to know that all the impact on my child's life is from me. He's not being tossed between two worlds full of different people who have different values and views on things. He has me and my family and he gets so much love from us alone!"

Of that, I somehow have no doubt.

"He has always been a very happy little boy," she continues, "and I'm sure will always continue to be that way. I love my son with all I have to give. I sacrifice everything for his well being while he's little and will continue to do so until he doesn't need me so much."

Tanya concludes, "I love being a mom and I love being a single mom!"

Does that mean she would turn down an offer of free babysitting so she could give Santa a hand with the shopping for little Rylan? Somehow I think the answer to that is no.

So that is my challenge to those of you in the Green Grandma community. Offer your help to a single parent in your church, neighborhood, workplace or family. What better gift could you give during this season of giving?

God bless you, Tanya...and all your fellow single parents out there who are simply doing their best every day in every possible way.

You are heroes.

Hana

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sharing Stinky Gifts and Granola

Remember when I asked for suggestions for greener gift giving for the holidays? Well, one member of the community responded and shared her ideas with me. I asked her to blog for me and she graciously agreed.

Our guest blogger today is part of my Writers at Work group. Recently, Jane published an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review about another WAW friend and novelist, Sharon Donovan, who many of you have been praying for following her massive heart attack and stroke several months ago. It is a fascinating article and can be accessed here.

Jane Miller, along with her dog, Sadie, has a website and blog that all you parents and grandparents of young children should check out. I especially like Jane's tagline: Put a leash on Technology: Read, SPEAK, Listen and Write. Go to The Ruff Writers site and order Rememberings, ($15, includes shipping) a kit to share with a special child to create your own book of memories connected to 9 library books. The kit includes jokes, recipes, and cutting and pasting the old-fashioned way -- just like Grandma and Grandpa remember! It’s a “paw-fect” gift for a grandparent--or special aunt or uncle--to help them stay closely connected with the remarkable children in their lives.

Thank you Jane, for willingly sharing the following Christmas gift recipe!




Sharing Stinky Gifts and Granola

One of the holiday foods that gave our family the greatest glee was a jar of much ripened limburger cheese. It was the least expensive gift ever, and it brought the greatest joy. Oh, we never ate it! We passed it back and forth, across the PA and Ohio state line, for 17 years in various disguises included a fishing pole (the cheese was the reel) and a super soaker squirt gun. It was always a much discussed and hands-on family project.

When my uncle died—on the same day as our youngest child was born on 11/11/97—I wrote a newspaper story about our beloved tradition. My Aunt Lou carried the aged clipping everywhere in her purse, and I realized the importance of stories that are gifts that give back for generations. And I have learned that stories inspire other stories, and this can be one of the most valuable gifts we give to each other.

One of our family’s gifts of stories happened during my father’s final year while he was living with us. For nearly a year, reading children’s books with my 83-year-old father and seven-year-old daughter, was a significant experience, as Pa shared story after story with us.

My favorite was Beatrice’s Goat.

“Oh, I’ve heard that one!” said our daughter.

Pa was listening with his eyes closed. I continued reading and then a delicious thing happened. My daughter lifted my arm and snuggled in as we read, and my father opened his eyes wide to see the beautiful illustrations on each page.

Jan West Schrock and Rosa
It was like a story we were creating in our own heads and hearts as we shared the true tale of a girl in Uganda who could only achieve her dream of going to school because of Heifer International’s gift of a goat.

Later I learned that Beatrice’s Goat, inspired Give a Goat by Jan West Schrock, who received the 2009 International School Librarian’s Award. Give a Goat is about a fifth grade class in Maine that read Beatrice’s Goat and decided to make a difference in their community by selling granola. Their small efforts transformed a school community.

Okay, so making granola isn’t as memorable as jazzing up a jar of limburger, but everyone who receives this granola absolutely loves it. It is similar to the granola Mrs. Rowell’s class made with lots of good-for-you ingredients that children can help measure. Children can also help by cutting the apricots with blunt scissors.

Happy holiday reading, ‘riting and remembering using facts and fiction. Or as Sadie would say, “RUFF!”

Our dog Sadie does not eat granola, but she helped give it this name:

Kibble for People

4 cups Quaker Old-fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup Carnation Nonfat Dry Milk
½ cup almonds
1 cup dried apricots (Cut with kitchen shears or sterilized blunt kids' scissors)
½ cup wheat germ (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup water (or a little less)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine oats, dry milk, apricots, wheat germ, almonds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Heat brown sugar and water to a full boil. Cool for 10 minutes. Stir in oil and vanilla. Pour mixture over dry ingredients. Mix with hands. Spread on an ungreased, large cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 2 to 2 ½ hours or until dry, stirring every 45 minutes. Cool. Store in an airtight container.

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