3 Natural Ways to Keep Your Yard Mosquito Free

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So our bitterly cold and long winter didn't seem to affect our mosquito population here in Ontario.  In fact, they seem to be worse than ever.  Our new yard is full of beautiful cedars and evergreens and lots of other favorite hangouts for mosquitos.  We even have drain that runs through our property that I'm sure is like the neighbourhood gathering spot for those tiny blood suckers.

Even in broad daylight they have been eating us alive.  So much so that we haven't been able to spend time in our new backyard.  So I began my mission to find some natural ways to get rid of those bloody pests.

3 Natural Ways to Keep Your Yard Mosquito Free

Dry Things Out - Mosquitoes like to breed in standing water.  So keep your yard nice and dry to they don't have a spot to get jiggy with it.  Keep an eye out for kids toys, buckets and pots that are full of water.

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Get Lemony - those little vampires don't seem to care for Citronella and Lemon Balm.  So stock your yard full of these yummy scented plants.  Keep them in planters or put them directly in your gardens.  I just planted a line in front of our cedars and have some giant ones in pots on the deck.  You can even rub the leaves to get some of the fragrant oil  to help keep those biters away.

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Just Like Vampires - our last resort is Garlic Oil. Yup, just like how Vampires don't like garlic, apparently neither do mosquitoes.  I've purchased some pure Garlic Oil (99.3%) from our local feed store to treat our yard. You spray the perimeter, trees and bushes and the mosquitoes will hit the road.  And yes, your property may smell incredibly delicious, but the garlic smell disappears in a couple hours but it's repellent properties last much longer.  You'll have to stay tuned for my review, but I can tell you there were quite a few people in the feed store picking it up.

Have you got a favourite natural way to keep from getting eaten alive? Please share!

Sleeping With the Enemy: Is Your Pillow Toxic?

A pillow is a very personal thing that can bring you peace and comfort.  But could that cozy, squishy bedroom accessory you love so much be bad for you? Well... it might just be the enemy.

Sleeping With the Enemy: 
3 Toxins in Your Pillow 

  1. Petroleum Products - if you have a  foam or poly-fill pillow you could be breathing in chemical fumes, or be exposed to synthetic dyes and other toxins. Poly-fill and other synthetic materials, like polyurethane foam, are often made from petroleum derivatives.  Mmm, nothing like snuggling up with some oil-based foam to lull you to sleep
  2. Fire Retardants - so that poly-fill pillow is made from petroleum products, which is essentially oil and that means it's flammable! Yup, burst-into-flames in bed kind of thing.  So those pillows need to be doused in fire retardants.  So they're treated  with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) or other brominated fire retardants to keep them from catching fire. But those chemicals can accumulate in your body, and can cause liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity. Well, isn't that just lovely?!
  3. Dust Mites - they may be natural, but they're still quite disgusting.  This little microscopic critters love a nice warm pillow too. Did you know 10% of the weight of a  2yr old pillow can be made up of dead mites and their droppings? Gah! And they love warm, moist places....like your bed and pillow.  Think you have a never-ending cold or maybe even asthma? It could just be those dust mites causing your grief.      

So now what?  Well, you don't have to go without a pillow.  There's lots of other, natural and healthier pillow options out there now.  There are ones made from Natural Latex, Wool, Cotton, Feathers, Kapok, Buckwheat and Millet.  Check out this great comparison to help you decide what's best for your homestead. I just adore my Buckwheat pillow!

What's on your bed?

Cheers,

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Wake Up Energized with 3 Simple Steps

If you're like most people, you don't feel terribly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when your alarm goes off.  Sometimes I  feel ready to take on the world, but most mornings, after a less than restful sleep, I find myself reaching for the coffee pot in hopes of feeling somewhat awake.  But I have discovered a few easy things to keep me feeling energized without the caffeine.  Try these 3 things each morning and I'm certain you'll be skipping the coffee and getting your groove on in no time!

Wake Up Energized with 3 Simple Steps

Yoga in Bed - don't jump out of bed and run to the shower. Instead take just a couple minutes to allow your body and mind to slowly wake up and get ready for your day.  Try some very simple yoga moves right in your bed to get your blood flowing and awaken your body & spirit.

Warm Lemon Water - before reaching for your coffee or tea, start your day with a large glass of warm lemon water.  Why? Well, firstly, it's a natural energizer! It hydrates and oxygenates and helps nourish your brain and nerve cells with it's potassium content. Lemon water taken early in the morning helps flush out toxins from your body.  The citric acid helps maximize enzyme function, which stimulates the liver and aids in detoxification.  Need more reasons to add this drink to your daily routine? Check out more benefits HERE.

Bite An Apple - yes, you remember your Mother saying: 'an apple a day....' Well, there's some truth to that. The benefits of eating an apple are pretty awesome. It contains fructose which is a natural sugar that can wake you up naturally and help keep you going. They're full of fiber and that energy boost is long and slow so it won't give you a big crash, like your cup of coffee.  They are perfect for a quick breakfast or an on the go boost!

So now your set to tackle your day; here's to feeling awake and awesome!
Wake up and BE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

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Tip Tuesday: Do You Know What's in Your Non-Stick Pans?

Usually a cook's favourite kitchen item; non-stick pots & pans.  They heat up fast and clean like a dream.  But did you ever wonder how those magical pans work?  And what do they use to make them non-stick?  Well, you might be surprised!

PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) is a synthetic compound with many applications, the most well know is Teflon.  So what's the worry?  Well at low temperatures, Teflon is stable and nonreactive.  But when you heat it up toxic fumes are released at high temperatures.  These fumes can kill pet birds and can even cause flu-like symptoms in people!

The non-stick coating is made with PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) which is a carcinogenic chemical.  And when heated it too can emit toxic fumes while you cook.

What's considered 'high heat' you ask? Well, here's what they say: “At temperatures above 500ºF, the breakdown begins and smaller chemical fragments are released,” explains Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center. DuPont, inventor and manufacturer of Teflon, agrees that 500 degrees is the recommended maximum for cooking.

Now, you say you don't cook at that high heat, so I must be OK, right? Well check out this little test that Good Housekeeping did comparing a lightweight, medium weight and  heavier non-stick pans under various cooking conditions.  You might be surprised by the results, I sure was!


SAFE RISKY
Scrambled eggs 218° F
Cooked on medium for 3 minutes in a lightweight pan
Empty pan, preheated 507° F
Heated on high for 1 3/4 minutes in a lightweight pan
Chicken-and-pepper stir-fry 318° F
Cooked on high for 5 1/4 minutes in a lightweight pan
Pan preheated with 2 Tbsp. oil 514° F
Heated on high for 2 1/2 minutes in a lightweight pan
Bacon 465° F
Cooked on high for 5 1/2 minutes in a medium-weight pan
Hamburgers 577° F
Cooked on high for 8 1/2 minutes in a heavyweight pan
Steak 656° F
Cooked on high for 10 minutes in a lightweight pan

Click HERE to read the full article.

So, I now must confess....I do (did) have non-stick pans in my kitchen!  AHHH!  But I'm happy to report they are now gone!  There's enough toxic things in the world that I don't need to be inhaling nasty chemicals while I'm making dinner.

Forget convenience, I say ditch the non-stick and scrub those pans!  Use your stainless steel fry pan or a cast iron one.  And yes, if you can't live without non-stick, why not check out some safer alternatives?  We just picked up some Original Green Pans - which are ceramic coated and still non-stick.  Stay tuned for my review on my new Green Pans next week.

Do you use non-stick pots & pans?  What's your favourite pan to cook with?  

Cheers,

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Tip Tuesday: Keeping Holiday Indulgence in Check

It's Christmas Eve and everyone is loosening their belts for all the festive treats & feasts.  Turkey & gravy and pies and tarts and all other kinds of delicious foods will be flowing over the next few days.  I love all the wonderful homemade goodies this time of year, but it's easy to overdo it.  Want to avoid the Festive 5? (as in the 5lbs we inevitably gain over the next week) 

Here's a few tips to help keep your pants comfortable while still enjoying a little holiday cheer!

 How to Avoid the Festive 5
  1. It's not a Free-for-All - it's easy to forget your healthy eating habits during the holidays.  Surrounded by sweet treats and rich dishes it's hard to stay on track.  But remember, just because it's Christmas you don't have to eat everything in sight.  Would you eat like that during the rest of the year? Probably not.  So pace yourself and be responsible.
  2.  Veg it Up - with all the temptations, try filling up with vegetables first.  When the appetizers start rolling out, fill your plate with veggies and some lighter fare.  Once you're almost full, then treat yourself to something a little special.  Same thing for the big dinner.  Fill your plate mostly with greens and vegetables.  Go easy on the the meat, starches and breads.  Your body will thank you!
  3. Water, Water, Everywhere - it's always important to stay hydrated, but even more so during your holiday meals.  Start off with a large glass of water before hitting the snack table and before the turkey.  It will help curb your appetite but also it will also aid you body in flushing out all those not so nice things you're about to eat.
  4. Just Say No - when you're laying on the couch post-dinner, and someone comes around with the cookie tray, just say no. When you're groaning in discomfort that should be a sign that you've eaten too much.  Better yet, don't let it get to that point.  Avoid seconds & thirds and enjoy the rest of the day with your family.
  5. Doggie Bag It - Are your relatives insisting that your try the famous dish or indulge in their unbelievable dessert? Don't succumb to the peer pressure.  Rather than offending your family, and stuffing yourself beyond capacity, take home some treats instead.  Grab a container and take a couple treats or some left overs to enjoy the next day.  That way everyone wins!


Now I'm not saying don't enjoy your Christmas dinner, but try and be reasonable.  Keeping things in perspective will help you to truly enjoy those special holiday treats while keeping your waistline in check.

Cheers,
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Tip Tuesday: 7 Holiday Shopping Survival Tips

I'm not a big fan of shopping or the mall, period.  Add in Christmas and the thought of venturing to a mall puts me into a state of panic. I thought it only fitting with only 14 shopping days left until Christmas that I share a couple holiday shopping tips.

7 Holiday Shopping Survival Tips
  1. Be prepared.  Have a detailed list of items and the stores you'll need to visit.  This will keep you trip short and sweet and on budget.
  2. Avoid shopping  in the evenings and weekends.  Most people work during the day so the stores are bound to be packed after dinner and on the weekends.  Why not hit a few stores before work on a Tuesday or late night after the kids go to bed?  A lot of shops have extended shopping hours in  December so take full advantage and avoid the crowds.
  3. Pack some supplies.  If you're doing a marathon shop, make sure to be prepared.  Bring a bottle of water and some snacks.  Nothing makes you Scroogier than waiting in line with your blood-sugar plummeting.  Bring some nuts or dried fruit to keep you going.  And an added bonus, you'll save time and money by skipping the food court.
  4. Dress comfortably.  Shopping doesn't have to be a fashion show.  Ditch the heels and put on your runners.  Leave your coat in the car and just bring your purse.  You'll keep your holiday spirit by staying cool and comfortable.
  5. Go hands free.  Leave the fancy purse at home and opt for a cross-body bag.  It will hold your provisions nicely, but also allow you to use both hand when grabbing gifts or pushing the cart.
  6. Schedule your shop.  If you don't have time, then don't go shopping.  You'll be rushed and irritated as you're stuck behind some slow-walkers in the mall.  Make sure to allot a chunk of time where you don't have to rush to an appointment or grab the kids.  You're shopping experience will be much more enjoyable when you aren't staring at your watch.
  7. Smile & enjoy! Don't look at it as a chore.  If you view your shopping trip as a nice outing you'll actually have a good time.  And nothing helps chase away those Bah Humbugs like a smile.  So spread a little cheer and flash those pearly whites!
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Tip Tuesday: DIY Holiday Urns

'Tis the season to dress up your home for the holidays.  And just about everywhere you go you will see stores selling gorgeous arrangements of greenery.  For the past number of years I've been making my own and thought I'd share this season's creation.

We have quite a few cedars and evergreens on our property and that's usually what I use for my Christmas pots, but this year I tried a little something different.  Nothing green, just branches and wood from our yard.  I'm going the the Rustic Minimalist look you could say!

So Stella and I hunted around the yard for things we could use.

In my cast iron urns are some logs from a tree we had taken down last year.  Then I painted some dead cedar branches in white and silver.  The grasses you see are actually the dried stems from my Hostas.
The start of the urns, but  I wasn't feeling the bow.

A little holiday sparkle!
I did hit the Dollar Store for the ornaments and painted pine cones.  
Both urns ended up costing me a total of $8.00! Sweet!

The only thing missing is some snow!



So why not grab the kids and do a little scavenger hunt in your own yard to make your festive pots?  No yard? Take a walk in the woods and see what treasures you can find.
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Tip Tuesday: No Eggs? No Problem...bake away!


Recently I've learned that I'm allergic to eggs along with a host of some of my other favourite foods.  Yes, I liked eggs; scrambled, poached, fried etc.  As a main dish it wasn't so hard to give up, but I did find it more difficult to remove them from recipes. So I thought I would share some easy egg substitutions to get through the holiday baking season.  I've tried a few and surprisingly they work quite well.  Who knew?
  1. Flax Egg - yes ground flax can be used as an egg substitute. I've used it in more savoury dishes as opposed to the sweet.  Simply mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 3 tablespoons of water an let sit for about 20 minutes = 1 egg. The mixture will thicken up and then can be added to your recipe.
  2. Chia Egg - pretty much the same as the flax egg.  However, the chia is pretty much tasteless so I find it can be used in sweet and less savoury items.  I've used it in pancakes & muffins and it worked like a dream.  Plus you get the added health benefits too! So 1 tablespoon of whole chia seeds  + 3 tablespoons of water = 1 egg.  Let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes until it's like jelly.  Mix occasionally while you wait.
  3. Applesauce - it's fantastic in brownies, muffins and cakes.  Adds lots of moisture and some nice flavour too! 1/3 cup of applesauce = 1 egg or  1/4 cup of applesauce + 1tsp baking powder = 1egg. 
  4. Cornstarch - it may seem a little strange but I've done it and it works.  Check out my post on cookies.  Great for puddings & cookies! 1 tablespoon of cornstarch + 2 tablespoons of water = 1 egg.
  5. Bananas - you may already know this one.  I used to use them all the time, but alas, I am allergic to bananas.  They work great in muffins, breads, brownies and cakes. 1/2 pureed banana = 1 egg (about 1/4 cup)
There are numerous other egg substitutes out there.  From tofu to yogurt to water to flour and everything else in between.

So whether you're vegan or just ran out of eggs in the middle of your baking marathon, don't worry...you'll likely have something in your pantry to get you through your recipe.

Check out Chef in You for lots of great egg substitutes.  Got a fave egg-less tip? Please share.

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Tip Tuesday: Keep Calm and Compost On!

We've just had our first true snowfall here at the homestead and I thought it would be a great time to confer about compost.  Now many people compost through the Spring & Summer but think it's completely ridiculous to continue through the cold winter months.

Why would anyone want to trudge through the snow to through their coffee grounds in a big frozen compost bin?

So here's a few tidbits to get you through the cold compost season:
  1. Frozen compost = less stinky compost.  Without the blistering heat of the summer your compost pile will stay fairly funk free and you won't have to battle with flies or critters either.  No smell means no animal compost divers.
  2. The freeze/cycle of the winter actually helps breakdown all your scraps.  So once the Spring arrives all your winter contributions will breakdown into beautiful black earth much more quickly.
  3.  Don't don your skis for every eggshell and carrot top.  Have your kitchen scrap bucket but also have a larger pre-compost bucket strategically located closer to your house.  A large pail with a lid or garbage can works well.  Then you only have to hike through the snow drifts once in a while to toss your scraps onto the compost pile
  4. Because your house is usually cooler in the winter, your indoor bin is less likely to be a breeding ground for fruit flies and other unsavoury characters.  But be wary of bananas.  Those peels are a paradise for fruit flies so chuck them into the outside pre-compost bin ASAP to help to ensure a bug free home.
  5. Don't toss all your yard waste.  Keep your leaves, pumpkins and mums and add them to your compost heap.  If you have the space take some off your neighbours hands too! You'll be in for a treat come the Spring with lots of lovely compost for the gardens!
 So don't let the snow scare you aware from the composter; your yard and the environment will thank you!

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Tip Tuesday: 5 Reasons Why You Should Leave Your Leaves Alone

The leaves have been falling in our yard for about a month now. We have a wide variety of trees in our backyard and in our neighbours yards and it seems as though they all fall at different times. Butternut, Hickory, Oak and many others have already shed their beautiful colour. The last are the hearty maples. They only just started dropping their gold & auburn leaves in the past 2 days now that the temperature has dipped below zero.

I have already raked my fair share of leaves so far but I'm going to leave the rest alone.  Here's a few reasons why you should leave your leaves alone:
  1.  Let the leaves fall where they may - leaving them on the ground provides great homes for useful insects, amphibians and critters and helps to insulate those tree roots.
  2. Cover your gardens - use the leaves as free insulation to cover your plants for the winter. In the Spring you can simply turn the leaves into your soil for natural fertilizer.
  3. Mow & Mulch - instead of raking and bagging - simply mow your leaves with a mulching mower.  The broken down leaves will provide great nutrients to your lawn and help keep weeds down.
  4. Compost - keep your leaves to yourself and toss them in your compost bin.  By the time Spring comes around you'll have some great mulch for your gardens
  5. Pile them high - nothing says Autumn like jumping into a giant pile of leaves!  But you can also leave that pile over the winter and you'll have some awesome mulch.  Leave that pile for a year and you'll end up with some amazing black leaf mulch for potting and gardens.
So don't get rid of those leaves.  They are fantastic for your homestead and there's a multitude of things you can do with them.  Aside from gardening, why not make some wonderful Fall decor items or dress up your table for Thanksgiving!

And the best part...they're FREE & GREEN!
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