Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

I Feel like Laura Ingalls

My Pinterest addiction is in high gear and I am finding all sorts of recipes, workouts, and cleaning tips.  I’m so busy pinning that I really don’t have time to cook, exercise, and clean!

Seriously, I have found lots of good stuff on Pinterest and decided to try making homemade laundry soap.  In the words of my daughter, “Now why the hell make your own detergent when you can just pour it out of a bottle?”  Good question.  I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps because I am tired of buying soap and tossing the plastic containers.  I already add Borax to the stinky loads so why not just use it as part of the soap?  It also makes me feel very Laura Ingalls.

And–it costs about 6 cents per load, the usage is 1 tablespoon per load so this will last me for YEARS!!  I have a top loader, if you have a front loader and use HE soap, this will save you even more as HE detergent is more expensive.

The original post explains it perfectly so go here: to check it out.

Here are my notes after making it.

-I was able to find all 3 ingredients at Festival Foods but I would guess these are available at pretty much any store that has cleaning supplies.

-I used Ivory soap because I wash a lot of athletic wear and I read the Fels Naptha is rough on polyesters. A Fels Naptha mix would be a few pennies less and probably better if  you have really dirty laundry.  Mine is mostly just sweaty laundry, not many stains or dirt.

-Instead of grating the Ivory soap, I used the microwave suggestion and it is SO cool!  Unwrap the bar, put it on a plate in the microwave, I hit 2 minutes but it didn’t take long at all before it turned into a “cloud.” I pulled it out when it was huge, let it cool a bit and it just flaked in my hands.  I kept putting the non-cloud portion back in the microwave until it was all flaked.  This is almost too much fun!

Ivory Soap after a minute in the microwave!

This batch was made  with 1 bar of soap and 1 cup each of the other ingredients.  It filled a 1 lb. deli tub with a little left over.  If I only use 1 tablespoon per wash load this is going to last forever.  From start to finish this took 10 minutes to make and there is absolutely no mess.  And…my hands are super clean from flaking that bar of soap.

I haven’t had a chance to use it but I am also going to add vinegar to the softener dispenser instead of liquid softener and see what happens.  Another suggestion is to throw some balled up tinfoil in the dryer to eliminate static.  I’ll report back after trying this.  If it works I will be very happy to eliminate lots of chemicals from the detergent and softener.  (and save money, too!) More info on that:


I’m not quite this much of a pioneer woman. yet…

I will not be churning my own butter any time soon, mostly because I don’t eat butter, but I might try making my own toothpaste!





Leave a comment »

It’s Getting Deep…Time to Shovel!

The snow is falling in Wisconsin so let’s shovel! 

I’m not a fan of snow, but I am a fan of shoveling.  Why?  Shoveling is both a great cardio and strength workout all in one and it counts towards my minutes of activity!

Snow shoveling should be treated like any other workout to avoid injuries.  Warm up for about 10 minutes before by either taking a walk, jumping jacks, running up and down the steps, etc. to get your blood pumping and muscles ready to work.

Once you start shoveling, use the proper technique to protect your back and shoulders. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you need to lift the snow, don’t use your back. Bend your knees, squat with your legs apart and keep your back straight. Then lift with your legs. Don’t bend at the waist. Scoop many small amounts of snow instead of a few big loads. Never throw snow over your shoulder or to the side. Walk it where it needs to go and dump it.

Pace yourself. Snow shoveling and blowing are aerobic activities. Take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids.  If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, stop shoveling/blowing and seek emergency care.
Calories burned: A 185 pound person will burn 196 calories for every 30 minutes of using a snow blower. That same person will burn 261 calories while shoveling for 30 minutes.

To see how many calories you burn for a variety of activities:

This is for the guys who will only listen if a bikini is involved. You know who you are.

Leave a comment »

Happy Bicarbonate of Soda Day!

Did you know the little yellow box in your frig has its own day?  Why?  Because baking soda is AWESOME!  Here are just a few things that can be done with baking soda:

>Keep a box of baking soda near the stove in case of grease or electrical fires.  Sprinkle liberally to put out the fire.

>Keep a container in the garage to put out engine fires without causing any additional damage

>Clean fruits and vegetables with baking soda. Sprinkle in the water, soak, and rinse.

>Clean your refrigerator and freezer with dry soda on a damp cloth. Scrub and rinse.  No chemicals needed

>Clean formica countertops with baking soda on a damp cloth. Much gentler than other cleansers.

>Wash  your musty thermos or other containers with hot water and baking soda to remove the smell

>Stinky workout clothes?  Add 1/2 cup of baking soda with your detergent. Stinky shoes?  Sprinkle some baking soda in them!

>Sprinkle soda on a greasy garage floor, let stand, and rinse.  This also works well to degrease the BBQ grill

>Reduce odor buildup in your dishwasher by sprinkling baking soda in the bottom

>Oops!  You burned dinner…to remove the burnt on food, pour a thick layer of soda to cover and sprinkle with just enough water to moisten.  let sit over night and scrub it clean the next day.

>Clean the bathroom with dry soda on a damp sponge.  Showers, tubs, sinks, faucets, etc.  Cheaper and no harsh chemical fumes

>While you’re at it, soak your shower curtain in baking soda and water.

>Keep your drains flowing by putting 4 tablespoons of soda in each week.  Flush the drain with hot water.

>Used as a mouthwash, baking soda and warm water will relieve canker sore pain.

>Bug bites and bee stings- make a poultice of baking soda and water.

>Out of deodorant?  Yep- dust your pits with baking soda!

>Have you ever melted the bread wrapper to the toaster? Dampen a cloth and use baking soda to make a mild abrasive to scrub the plastic off the toaster.

Finally- it can be used to quell hangover queasiness.  Add 1 tablespoon to a cup of water and enjoy.  Cheaper than Alka- Seltzer! (check the label, alka seltzer contains….bicarbonate of soda!

WHEW!  See- Baking Soda is awesome. There are many, many more uses, instead of the little yellow box this stuff should be sold in 10 lb bags.

Take some time to appreciated Bicarbonate of Soda today!


How Clean Are Your Sheets?

Sleep is a big part of being healthy and your sheets can play a big part in how well you sleep! I asked a few people around the office how often they change the sheets and heard anything from every couple days to every couple months.  I did some research and learned all kinds of stuff and some of it is fairly disgusting!

>Normal average adults should change their sheets every week.  We shed like snakes, particularly when sleeping.  The combination of sweat and skin builds up and needs to be washed away on a regular basis.  
>Making the bed immediately after you get up traps heat and moisture which is a great environment for germs and crawlies. Wait at least ½ hour to let it dry out.  Or…just don’t make the bed, it’s actually healthierJ
>Blankets and mattress protectors should be washed every two weeks.
>If you have allergies, you will probably want to change your sheets every few days to help keep the bed mite population down. No matter how clean you keep your house, you still have dust mites sharing your bed and furniture with you.
>If eating and/or sex are regular occurrences in your bed (good for you!) it is best to wash bedding after each such activity, since food and bodily fluids attract outside germs and also create their own.  
>If you sleep nude, you should change your sheets twice a week.
>What about pillows? Ideally, you should change your pillow case every couple of days.  Hair, sweat, flaking skin, and drool can really mess with your face.  Pillows should be washed on a regular basis and replaced at least every 2 years.   
Leave a comment »

The Deadliest Animal on Earth

The list of the Top Ten deadliest animals contains a few that are obvious such as the polar bear, cobra, great white shark, and crocodile- but the number one spot is held by the tiny little mosquito. 

Due to malaria carrying parasites transferred by the mosquito, it is responsible for the deaths of more than two million people per year. In addition, mosquitoes are estimated to transfer diseases to more than 70 million people per year. Even in countries where the more temperate climate has reduced mosquito bites to mostly an annoyance, they still cause some deaths every year.

So how do we avoid being bitten?  You need to hide from the little bugger!  It’s not so much that we want to repel them, we don’t want them to find us in the first place.

One of the most effective ways to keep mosquitoes at bay is a spray that contains DEET. 

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers compared several types of mosquito repellents head-to-head in laboratory tests. 
“OFF! Deep Woods” repellent, a product containing about 24% DEET, fared the best. Its protection lasted an average of five hours. The least effective products were wristbands treated with DEET or citronella, which offered almost no protection. According to the researchers, this wasn’t a surprise. It’s known that mosquito repellent only works on the surface to which it’s applied directly. Mosquitoes are happy to bite skin only four centimeters away from the repellent slick.
I had always thought that DEET was unsafe, but it does have an excellent safety record.  N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide doesn’t sound like something you’d want to spray on your skin, and and maybe it reminds people of DDT, a very dangerouss and banned chemical, but they are nothing alike. 
The Environmental Protection Agency must approve all pesticides used in the U.S., and although DEET isn’t a pesticide by definition because it does not kill insects,  the EPA does test it. DEET is safe WHEN USED CORRECTLY- read the label and follow all directions. DEET is also safe for children 2 months and older but do not allow youngsters to apply it themselves.
If you are looking for a natural alternative, many people swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft.  However, studies show that it is effective for about 10 minutes.  Other natural products such as soybean oil sprays and lotions last about 90 minutes.
What about the gadgets?
Citronella candles have been used since 1882 as a means of drawing mosquitoes away from people, but one study shows that they’re not much more effective than plain candles, which also give off heat, carbon dioxide, and moisture.
And unplug the bug zapper- it doesn’t work on mosquitoes and will kill beneficial bugs in your yard.
The best way to keep swarms of mosquitoes from descending on your backyard barbecue is to get rid of standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs.
Some mosquito species lay eggs directly in stagnant water. Others lay eggs in containers — a tree hollow, a birdbath, a kiddie pool, etc. — above the water line. Then, when it rains, the eggs are submerged and they hatch. In order to get rid of the eggs, you need to scrub the container, whether it is a bird bath or kiddie pool- just dumping the water does not dislodge the eggs. 
So- how do you relieve the itch if that mosquito feasts on you?  Here are a few  unusual tips to try!
Leave a comment »

Are You a Mosquito Magnet?

My husband is a mosquito magnet, so is my daughter.  I do have a few bites now and then but not really that bad. Why do some people seem to attract mosquitoes and some rarely get bitten? 
The two most important reasons a mosquito is attracted to you have to do with sight and smell. About 20 percent of people are high attractor types.
Mosquitoes are highly visual, especially later in the afternoon, and their first mode of search for humans is through vision. People dressed in dark colors — black, navy blue, red — stand out to mosquitoes and movement also attracts them.
Once the mosquito spots you,  she (and it’s always “she” — only the ladies bite) then picks up on your smell. The main attractor is your rate of carbon dioxide production with every exhale you take. The heavier you breathe, the better the chance that she will find you.
Those with higher metabolic rates produce more carbon dioxide, as do larger people and pregnant women. Although carbon dioxide is the primary attractant, other secondary smells coming from your skin or breath mark you as a good landing spot.
Lactic acid (given off while exercising), acetone (a chemical released in your breath), and estradiol (a breakdown product of estrogen) can all be released at varying concentrations and lure in mosquitoes. Your body temperature, or warmth, can also make a difference. Mosquitoes may flock to pregnant women because of their extra body heat.
 Studies show that it could be that individuals who get less bites produce chemicals on their skin that make them more repellent and cover up smells that mosquitoes find attractive. So, if you are a magnet, it might not be that you are  more attractive, you are just less repellent than the others around  you!
Mosquitoes don’t bite you for food, since they feed off plant nectar.  Females suck your blood to get a protein needed to develop their eggs, which can then send more pesky insects into the world to annoy you.
 Keep this in mind when you’re outdoors this summer: Mosquitoes are more attracted to people after they drink a 12-ounce beer. It could be that people breathe a little harder after a brew or their skin is a little warmer. 
Here are more fun facts about mosquitoes and bites provided by the experts:
  • Eating bananas will not attract mosquitoes and taking vitamin B-12 will not repel them; these are old wives’ tales.
  • Some mosquito species are leg and ankle biters; they cue into the stinky smell of bacteria on your feet.
  • Other species prefer the head, neck and arms perhaps because of the warmth, smells emitted by your skin, and closeness to carbon dioxide released by your mouth. 
  • The size of a mosquito bite welt has nothing to do with the amount of blood taken and everything to do with how your immune system responds to the saliva introduced by the mosquito into your skin.
  • The more times you get bitten by a particular species of mosquito, the less most people react to that species over time. The bad news? There’s more than 3.000 species worldwide.

Stay tuned…tomorrow I will compare repellents and other gadgets to help keep you itch free!

Leave a comment »

Give Your Produce a Good Bath!

Blueberries were on sale last week so I bought buying 6 pints a day to stock up for winter!  They freeze well and are much cheaper than buying them out of season.  I used to just give them a quick rinse until I read that blueberries have the highest levels of organophosphates, followed by strawberries and celery.

What’s an organophosphate?   It is a man-made pesticide that is sprayed onto fruits and vegetables to keep insects away. While once thought harmless, some now argue children are sensitive to these pesticides.  At a young age, the brain is rapidly developing, and kids possibly consume more due to their smaller body weight and size. Experts believe that these chemicals have led to a variety of childhood issues including ADHD.

To minimize your exposure to chemicals, buy local and organic but you should still give everything a thorough washing.

There are commercial produce washes like “FIT” available in the supermarket but there is a less expensive alternative that you can make at home. Add one cup of vinegar to three cups of water in a spray bottle, shake well and spray your produce until it is completely covered.  Rinse with cold water to remove the vinegar taste and wash away any chemical residue.

Tests prove that the vinegar solution removes 98% of all bacteria or pesticides, compared to 80% when washing with a water and brush. Take a few minutes when you get home from the store or Farmers Market to wash all your fruits and veggies- your body and brain will appreciate it!

Oh- and freezing blueberries is easy.
Wash and rinse.  Put 1 layer on a cookie sheet and place in freezer for at least an hour.  Put frozen blueberries into freezer safe bag or container. Doing it this way keeps them from clumping together.

Enjoy this amazing super fruit all year long!
Leave a comment »

Hurray for Pets!

Tally, 8. She was supposed to be with us temporarily. That was 4 years ago!

Lucy, 15, she is a cuddly girl but she sheds like crazy!
While growing up, we always had pets in the house as I tended to pick up strays or somehow they just found us.  My motto was “feed them and they will move along” but this never seemed to work!  At one point we had our chihuahua, 4 adult cats and several kittens living with us.  That might almost be too much, but studies show that it is very beneficial to your health to have a pet- or pets!  Now I have 3 wonderful cats, which is also bordering on too many, but they are a constant source of entertainment and I can’t imagine life without them.


“While most pet owners are clear about the immediate joys that come with sharing their lives with companion animals, many remain unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that can also accompany the pleasure of playing with or snuggling up to a furry friend.” It’s only recently that studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond. Studies have found that:

▪ Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
▪ People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
▪ Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
▪ Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
▪ Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
▪ Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
▪ A pet doesn’t have to be a dog or a cat. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate.

“One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and some pets are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost mood.”

My baby, Blossom, 13.  I got her for $1 at a Farmers Market.  She’s worth every penny!
Leave a comment »

Do you like the smell of Burning Money?

Why are we talking about money on a Healthy Living Blog?  Because financial health is just as necessary as physical health!  Budgeting your money and living within your means can remove alot of stress and will help you get a good nights sleep. Even if you area a good saver, here are a few ways that you might be throwing away your money.

There’s no need to spring for premium fuel if the manufacturer says regular is just fine. You should also check to make sure your tires are optimally inflated to get the best gas mileage. And are you still paying for an oil change every 3,000 miles?  Then stop it! Almost all of today’s cars can last 5,000 to 7,000 miles between changes.  Check your manual and follow the recomendations.

Are you still indoor tanning?  There is now a 10% tax on indoor tanning services but the true cost of tanning, which the World Health Organization lists among the worst cancer causing practices, is higher than just the money- it could kill you.  It is healthier and less expensive to use a self tanning moisturizer. 

Brand name is not necessarily better than store brand. Having worked in a supermarket for so many years, I have learned that most fancy name brand and generic products come off the same production line, only the label has changed.  Marketers get paid alot to tell you their fancy packaging means there is a better product inside.  Nope, it usually isn’t true.

Buying beverages one at a time.  This is another tip from working in a supermarket. If you buy bottled water, coffee-by-the-cup or vending-machine soda, you are wasting alot of money.
 Water– buy a  reusable container and fill with tap water, use a filter if you don’t like the taste. 
  Coffee-Brew your own pot of coffee.  Coffee prices are expected to go throgh the roof so stock up! 
Soda- Buy your soda in 12 or 24 packs and bring it to work rather than hitting the vending machine.  OR- better yet- drop the soda habit and drink water for free! 

Paying for things your rarely or never use. Do you watch all those cable channels? Do you need those extra features on your phone? Are you getting your money’s worth out of your gym membership? Are you taking full advantage of your Netflix, and magazine subscriptions? Take a look at what your family actually uses, then trim accordingly.

Eating out frequently. Spending $10, $20, $30 per person for dinner can be a huge drain on your wallet. Throw in a $6 sandwich for lunch every day and you are spending far too much on food. Learning to cook and bringing your lunch from home can save a couple hundred bucks each month. I used to spend $5-$6 dollars a day in the deli for my lunch, not only was it expensive, it was unhealthy.  When you do go out, don’t order appetizers or dessert and watch the alcohol- all these things not only add unnecessary calories, but dollars as well.

That is just a few tips to get you started.  Take a serious look at your spending habits and decide where you can make some changes.  Change your choices-change your life!

Leave a comment »

Towel Time!

From a sign at the YMCA:
You can throw in the towel or use that towel to wipe the sweat off your face! 
While I really like this inspirational quote- it got me thinking about towels and how often they need to be washed.  At our house, my rule has always been hang it up to use the next day because I am not washing loads of towels each week.  I did some research to see if that was ok and, YES, it is! 

According to Doctor Oz ( he’s the best!), the towel you use should be changed after every 3 uses.  Hang it up to dry between uses as bacteria likes to hide in wet places.  If your towel has an odor, change it. Towels should be washed in  hot water with oxidizing stain remover.

How often should you wash other common items?
Bacteria and mold can be found in many items that you use each day and can cause of variety of skin rashes and infections. These were a real eye opener:

Makeup brushes should be rinsed in hot water every day and washed in shampoo once a week.

Shower sponges or loofahs can collect a lot of dead skin that bacteria can grow on so they should be cleaned once per week.  Do this by soaking in 2 parts water to one part white vinegar and drying right away. Otherwise  you can put it in the washing machine and dry it right away before bacteria can grow again.  You should also dry it using your hair dryer after each use.  (Really? that seems like alot of work!) Loofahs should be replaced every 3-4 weeks, synthetic sponges need to be tossed every 6-8 weeks.  If you use a washcloth, use a clean one every day.  At least wash cloths take up less space in the washing machine!

Cell phones should be wiped down with antibacterial wipes EVERY DAY! 

I guess I have to get up earlier so I have time to dry my shower sponge, clean my makeup sponges and wipe down my cell phone!

Is your skin crawling yet?  Let’s not even talk about door knobs and shopping carts!

Leave a comment »