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Chemical Pollution: What We Can Do

Chemical SprayingLast night while walking my dogs on the Kansas levee, I turned back early because a farmer was spraying his fields.  Even though there was very little breeze, the chemicals wafted over a large area.  I’ve been taking daily walks on the levee for 20 years, and I feel a personal kind of ownership over it.  Even though the area looks clean and green, is remote and quiet, I was reminded that it is an agricultural zone and chemicals are unfortunately part of the unseen picture.

What is the answer to so much chemical use?  Living in an agricultural state, I understand the challenges of the farmer.  It’s a darned hard business.

Still, I’m concerned about the amount of chemicals pollutants in our environment.  Even if you think you’re drinking clean water, breathing clean air, and walking on a natural path, there are unseen chemical pollutants every step along the way.

I don’t know what the ultimate solutions are, but I do know that we as individuals can make a difference in our own backyards and communities.

What YOU (and I) can do to reduce chemical pollution: 

Alice Walker Quote

  1. Buy organic produce and free-range, grass fed animal products – we need to create a strong market for clean foods so that farmers have sustainable income for their hard work.  Support farmers at farmers’ markets.
  2. Be an informed consumer and support positive efforts – ask farmers at the market how they grow their food.  Let them know you’re willing to pay more for cleaner food.
  3. Speak up – let the farmers and grocers know you want to purchase non-GMO, non-irradiated, organic, free-range, grass fed food.  And you want to buy products with minimal packaging.  We want to be able to see and feel the products we are buying and we want to minimize the tremendous waste that over packaging creates.
  4. Make your own natural household cleaners – we can make 99% of what we need with natural ingredients.  See my recent post on how to make these cleaners.  If we leave the chemical cleaners on the market shelves, the supply and demand equation will be changed in favor of reduced chemical production.
  5. Eat real food – limit or eliminate consumption of fake chemicalized foods offered at the grocery store and fast food restaurants.  We need to upset the conventional supply/demand equation that supports increasing production of toxic products.  Remember, we drive demand.  Let’s demand clean, real, safe, wholesome.
  6. Reduce, Reuse, Refuse, Recycle – again, your buying choices drive the supply/demand train.  Let’s put that train on different tracks—the sustainable track.
  7. Let your state representatives know that you want your state to be clean and green – as much as possible.  Chemicals are here to stay, but they needn’t play such a pervasive role and be so ubiquitous.  We need to wake up and speak up.

We must change the supply/demand curve and not be hypnotized by lower prices for unhealthy, chemicalized products.  We need to be willing to do a little more work and pay a little more for healthier, cleaner options.   What ideas do you have to add to the list?

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Whole House Detox: Nontoxic Homemade Cleaning Products

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spray bottleNatural  Homemade Cleaning Products (safe enough to drink!)  No need for rubber gloves (or a gas mask!)

Many people would like to make their own nontoxic cleaning products but they don’t know how.  They’re also concerned about whether they’ll clean  as well as the store-bought variety.   After reading this post, you will have all the information you’ll need to make your own natural, effective  homemade cleaners.

I’ve been using my own homemade cleaning products for years.  They’re easy and inexpensive  to make and they’re safe to use.  Don’t wait one more day without making your own!   And don’t worry about proportions of ingredients you see on the internet.  The recipes do not need to be exact to work.  In fact, you could use straight vinegar and have all the cleaning power you need for 90% of your cleaning needs.

More good news.   One all-purpose cleaner will take the place of most of the cleaning products under your bathroom and kitchen sinks so you’ll have more empty space.  The recipe I use for my all-purpose clean is the one I describe below for cleaning glass and mirrors.

Vinegar is the secret ingredient.   Vinegar is nontoxic, inexpensive, and a workhorse when it comes to degreasing, declogging, and demineralizing toilets, showers, tubs, and sinks.  Not only is it gentle on all surfaces, but it’s also a disinfectant.  What’s not to like about vinegar?  Vinegar is the king of cleaners and baking soda is the queen.

My natural cleaner go-to person is Annie B. Bond.  She’s an authority on natural homemade cleaners and has written several books and articles on the subject.  You’ll find a lot of great information on her website.

Vinegar is the new smell of clean.  We’ve been trained to think that clean smells like chemicals.  Did you ever notice when you walk down the cleaning aisle that you sneeze or get a runny nose?  I either hold my breath on that aisle or avoid it altogether because I don’t want to inhale the toxic fumes .  When buying vinegar, Annie recommends Heinz white distilled vinegar because it is made of vegetables, not petroleum.

Conventional cleaning products no longer smell like clean to me.  They smell like what they are—chemicals masked by lemon scents.  While you’re getting used to the smell of vinegar-based cleaners, know that the smell dissipates quickly.  If the smell of vinegar bothers you, hang in there while you change your paradigm about what clean should smell like.  Again, it smells like vinegar!

At one point I thought I’d have to buy a new toilet because mine looked so disgusting and wouldn’t come clean.  Then I remembered that vinegar is the best at removing mineral deposits.

Vinegar Cleaning Recipes

Revitalize an old, mineral stained toilet,  sink, shower, or tub with virtually no effort.  Here’s how.

  • For the toilet:  Pour 1 cup of vinegar into the toilet and let sit overnight. Add a few tablespoons of baking soda for extra whitening power.  In the morning, scrub with a scrubbie or toilet brush, then flush.  What could be easier than that!   If the mineral deposits are thick, you may need to do this for a few nights, but you will be amazed that your toilet will look like new.  Vinegar naturally deodorizes and kills germs too!
  • For the sink or tub:  You can partially fill the sink or tub and add vinegar or you can soak a wash cloth in vinegar and place it over any places you want to demineralize.

Unclog the sink or tub drain:   Pour ½ cup of baking soda down a clogged drain.  Then pour ½ cup of vinegar into the drain and cover for a few minutes until the fizzing stops.  Then pour a liter or two of boiling water into the drain.  For very clogged drains, you may need to “snake” the drain and repeat the process.

Clean Mirrors or Glass (also for an all-purpose cleaner):   Combine 2 cups water, ¼ cup vinegar and ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle to make a fantastic natural window cleaner.   For a streak-free mirror or window, use a microfiber cloth.   I also use this recipe for my all-purpose cleaner. 

Disinfect Surfaces. Vinegar is your go-to natural disinfectant for use in the bathroom or kitchen. Mix 1 part vinegar with four parts water for an all-purpose cleaning solution that will disinfect anything from shower stalls to tubs to counter tops to doorknobs.

Greasy Kitchen Surfaces:  Dip a sponge in vinegar and wipe down the greasy surfaces (stove, countertop, pots and pans, and fan covers).

Be sure to label your spray bottles of homemade cleaning solutions.  I always think I’ll remember what’s in the bottle, but I never do.

So have I sold you on the idea that vinegar is one of the very best cleaners around?  If you’re eager to read more, here’s an article about the top 10 uses for vinegar.

Learn to love the smell of vinegar in your home – it says clean and disinfected!  Clear out the toxic cleaners under your bathroom and kitchen sinks and make way for one or two  spray bottles of cleaners–so safe you can drink them!

Please Comment:  Do you make natural cleaners?  What are your recipes and cleaning secrets?



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Whole House Detox: How to Declutter, Organize, & Clean the Bathroom

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Bathroomclick to enlarge images

After a thorough decluttering, organizing, and cleaning, my bathroom doesn’t look much different than it did before I started the clean out….until you open one of the drawers or cabinet.  You’ll see what I mean with the before and after pictures below.  Big difference.

Don’t expect perfect photos like you’d find in Real Simple because real people live here and we actually use all these things.  The point of this Whole House Detox blog series isn’t to showcase a designer home.  It’s to show how the average person can clean, organize, and declutter every room in their home.

I always start projects with a vision for what I want to achieve.  In this case I wanted my bathroom to have these attributes:  clean, decluttered, and organized.  I wanted to have a spa feeling when I entered the room.

For me, it’s also helpful to tune into the biggest challenges with a project.  In this case, the challenges were too much stuff in a small space and too many abandoned health and beauty products creating a jumbled mess.  Even an organized bathroom can get disorganized and crowded over time.  Periodic decluttering is the solution.  It was definitely time!

My Detoxing Process

Here a simple process I always use to declutter, organize, and clean something–no matter the space.  It works beautifully in every room, cabinet, drawer and closet.

messy cabinetStep 1:  Take everything out.  It’s always amazing how much stuff is behind closed doors and drawers.  Utterly amazing.  Here’s a picture of my bathroom cabinet before I detoxed it!

The benefit of creating an empty space is that it’s much easier to envision organizing things in a different, more efficient way when you have a clean “canvas” so to speak.  My middle name is efficiency, so I love this step.

Step 2:  Clean all surfaces: shelves, cabinet doors and all other woodwork, walls, floor, ceiling, baseboards, mirror and windows.  I use a soft scrubby for challenging dirt and my natural homemade all-purpose cleaner.   Here are the recipes for the natural homemade cleaners I use.

Because the bathroom is a small room, I like to experience the feeling of cleaning on my hands and knees.  It’s a great way to stretch while I get up close and personal with all the surfaces.

Containers and ZonesStep 3:  Set up zones in your drawers and cabinets and gather containers so you can containerize everything.  I divide my stuff into conventional OTC products, dogs, heat/cold/ace Band-Aids stuff, natural medicines, soaps, spa stuff, teeth, lotion, etc.

Obviously the size of the container is determined by the number of items I’m putting into it.  For containers you can use bins (plastic, woven, wood) repurposed dishes, short glasses/mugs, or colorful boxes.

organizing OTC productsAs you can see from the pictures, I use containers of all sizes.  Inside the tub for conventional medicine, I separate over-the-counter medications for colds, allergies, wounds, etc. with plastic baggies so I don’t have to dig through everything to find what I want.  You could also use short glasses or jelly jars for this.

Step 4:  After gathering your containers, put back only the essentials—this is a key element because we tend to want to keep everything.  Resist that temptation.

organized drawerGive the items you use most often prime real estate.  Follow the one-move retrieval rule in every drawer or cabinet.  In other words don’t put anything in front of or on top of anything else.  For the most efficient organization, you should be able to retrieve what you want with one movement–no need to move anything out of the way before getting what you need.

Be sure to leave empty space in all drawers and cabinets.  There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to put something away when there’s no space.  Make space by getting rid of the nonessentials–the things you don’t really use.

What to do with the excess:

Do not flush medication.  It’s toxic to our water supply.  See if your city has a toxic waste disposal day.

Bite the bullet and let go of health and beauty products you tried, thought you’d like, but don’t use—even if they were expensive.  They take up valuable space in your cabinet.  Give them away to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter,, or friend who might enjoy using them.

Consider not purchasing any more toxic household cleaners (which includes almost everything in the cleaning aisle of your super market).  You can make your own cleaners, and you can use the all-purpose cleaner on almost everything so you won’t need as many different kinds of cleaners.  Natural cleaners are safe, inexpensive, and easy to make.

I gradually made the shift to natural homemade cleaners, and it pleases me a great deal to know that there are no toxic cleaners in the cabinet under my sink. 

My next post will go into detail about making your own natural cleaners to clean, deodorize, disinfect, and unclog slow drains.

Please leave a comment.  What are your challenges or secrets for a clean, well-organized bathroom?

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Whole House Detox: Building a Spring Garden

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What does a garden have to do with a Whole House Detox?  Good question.  Let me make something up….  Ah, yes, a garden is part of the yard and the yard needs to be spiffed up along with the house.  A garden is also a part of detoxing my diet so I don’t have to eat vegetables sprayed with chemicals.

After cleaning up the back porch I decided to work on paperwork so I can get my taxes prepared.   I was working away and then spring happened!  Our weather is unusually warm so it’s time to get the garden ready.  One of my lovely subscribers informed me that our city is giving away compost tomorrow so I quickly had to shift gears to get a raised bed up and ready to accept the new soil.  The first garden handiman fell through so I went to Home Depot, selected the lumber and other needed materials and drove home wondering….now what?

I called my regular handiman with my fingers crossed that he could help at the last minute.  He sent over a couple of guys that had the raised bed in place in about an hour.  How’s that for right timing?  Everything is coming together so well.

And tomorrow Nora (my yard helper) and I are going to drive the borrowed truck to pick up compost and mix it into the soil.  As you can see from the stones, bricks, and weeds, there will be some work to do to get everything in place.

Then because the yard is an important part of the detox project, we’ll weed and whack and wake up the yard after its winter slumber.  The paperwork will have to wait….but it can’t wait too long because I need to have everything to the tax woman by April 2.

It takes a village to take care of a home.  And thankfully I have that village in place.  Over the years I have developed great relationships with people who help me live in this wonderful little bungalow–a handiman, weeder, plumber, painter, and electrician.  People are the best!  I don’t know what I’d do without people.


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Soup – A Perfect Food

Chicken Veggie StewI have made a different kind of soup twice a week for the past 6 weeks and I never get tired of it.  That is, I don’t get tired of making it, and I don’t get tired of eating it.  I make enough for about 4 servings–sometimes 6 servings.

Soup is one of the easiest (and fastest) things to make.  In my basic recipe I start by sauteeing onions and garic.  Next I add a box of broth, toss in some veggies and meat or other protein.  In a quick 30 minutes you have dinne!  It’s so much faster than driving to McDonalds or any other restaurant.

You can add any veggies you like (fresh or frozen).  I highly recommend that you use up whatever’s in your refrigerator (or freezer).  When the carrots and celery start to wilt, make a pot of soup.  Carrots, celery and onions are considered the soup trio (they make any soup taste great).  They also make a great broth if you want to boil ’em up before they get too limp to salvage.

Here’s a “recipe” for the Chicken Veggie Stew I made for dinner tonight.  It was done in 30 minutes….and so was the cornbread.

  1. Sautee a whole onion (chopped) (Note:  I sauteed it in a small amount of the chicken broth)
  2. Add a box of broth (chicken or vegetable)
  3. Add a small potato or two (I peel them if they get a green tinge and dice them in large chunks)
  4. Add a bag of frozen veggies (mine included carrots, green beans, peas, and corn)
  5. Rough chop some greens (I used curly kale)

For Variety

I’ve made so many brothy soups recently I wanted this one to seem different so I thickened it a bit to make it more like a stew.  To thicken the broth, use a small jar with a tight fitting lid.  Add about 1/2 – 3/4 cup liquid (broth, water, or milk, etc.) and about two tablespoons of flour or corn starch (I used whole wheat pastry flour because that’s what I had on hand).  Shake the jar to fully mix the flour and water and pour it into the bubbling soup.  Let it cook another 5 minutes or so. 

That’s just one kind of soup.  Change up the protein and veggies to make endless modifications.

Bonuses:  Your house will smell fantastic as this cooks, you’ll use up produce in your fridge, you’ll eat a light but satisfying meal, and you’ll be loaded to the brim with nutrients to help you stay healthy.  Not only is soup incredibly fast to make, but it’s incredibly satisfying and nutrient dense.  It’s also great for weight loss. 

Cheryl’s Soup Kitchen Cheryl's Soup Kitchen

For more soup ideas, check out my ebook Cheryl’s Soup Kitchen.  I include recipes not only for many kinds of soups, but I also give recipes for side dishes to fill out the meal.  And I provide tips on ways to streamline your kitchen for fast food preparation.  Check it out here:

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Celebrating Earth Day

coffeemugsIn Lawrence, KS the earth is enjoying a gentle rain.  And I’m enjoying relaxing into the day with a slower pace than usual–expanding into the delight of a day off.

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day today? 

For a peek into how you can have sustainable Earth-friendly habits, check out an interview Christine Metz from the Lawrence Journal World did with me last night.  Find out why these red coffee mugs are in this picture. 

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Let’s Talk About Having Fun!

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a bit serious about life—I could use more fun in my life.   But what?  How? Let's Talk About Healthy Happy LivingWe’re kicking off our Let’s Talk About Healthy, Happy living series talking about fun.   

Here’s who needs to come to the call, Tue. Feb 15:

• You, if you’re good at having fun (we need to hear your secrets)

• You, if you seldom have fun (we want to inspire and expand your world)

• You, if you are in the middle like me (we want to tip you onto the fun end of the spectrum)

Come to the first call in the series this Tuesday, February 15 and share your take on fun (Do you know how to have fun? Are you fun-deficient? Do you have suggestions for having more fun?)

More info about the series and signup:

When you sign up, you’ll receive an email with the call-in details.  If you’re not sure whether you have signed up for this series yet, go ahead and sign up.  You’ll get just one notice (unless you use a different email). 

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FREE Series: Let’s Talk About Healthy, Happy Living

Let's Talk About Healthy, Happy Living

You’re invited to join me for a free conversation series (twice a month) about health and wellness topics ranging from getting good sleep, to healthy snacking, to personal development, to eating organic, to decluttering, to healthy aging and more.  All you need is a phone. 


Here’s how to join in the conversation:

First and Third Tuesdays every month
5-6pm PST | 6-7pm MST | 7-8pm CST | 8-9 EST

More info:

We’ll have folks from all over joining in on the discussion—from all walks of life and full of varying perspectives. Imagine the energy and wisdom! 

Everyone is invited to join in or just listen.  All you need is a telephone to participate.

If you’re longing for lively, engaging conversation about health and well-being, visit this link to find out more:

You can participate in any or all calls, and you can opt out of the series at any time.

Don’t miss it!

Please invite your friends,  family, and colleagues to participate:

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I Feel Like a Pioneer Woman

Warning to vegetarians – this post involves a roasted chicken.

With the cooler weather I have been baking, roasting, and stewing more.  After baking a whole chicken and eating it for a couple of days, I peeled everything off the bone and made chicken noodle (vegetable) soup. 

The pioneer part comes in here – I boiled the carcass and  used that for the soup broth.  How many people do that any more? Many Kansans and other Midwesterner’s do.   My mom (a Kansan) made us do that when we were kids.  We hated it because we burned our fingers.  Why we didn’t let it cool…I have no idea.  As an adult, I’ve been happy I learned that cooking skill.  Waste not, want not.

The pioneer woman in me feels good that I’m using up every drop of food/nutrients.  In the “good old days,” people didn’t waste food like we do now.  So I am feeling a bit virtuous and happy to have a lovely soup for Sunday.

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Summer Evening Walk – Where Do Dragonflies Come From?

Tonight there were at least 1,000 dragonflies on the levee – a sure sign of summer.  The hotter it gets, the more of them I see.  I’d never seen so many before, though.  Maybe it’s their last hoorah before the end of summer.  It occurred to me that I don’t know much about the life cycle of dragonflies.  How long do they live, what do they eat, how do they reproduce?  Where are they all going to go once it gets cold?  Do they just die and resurface next summer? 

I’m a city person – love nature – but don’t really know that much about the specifics.  I really appreciate the flora and the fauna and study it when I get curious – like now.  I see a Google search in my near future.  And the future is now.

I had no idea dragonflies started out in the water – and kind of ugly at that.  But fascinating.  Now to find out where they go before they die … to start the life cycle over again…..

Are there any insect experts out there who can add to the description provided in this short video?  Click the comment link below.

If you cannot see the video below, your work place is blocking it—I hope you can watch it at home or convince IT to allow this feature (a long shot but worth a try).  Once you click the arrow to watch, you will need to click the link to watch it on youtube – but it’s worth it.

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