Love Bulk Foods and Celebrate Earth Month!

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In a little over a week, April will be here already and April is Earth Month (Earth Day is April 22). It’s a great reminder for us to do what we can to care for our environment…we can all do something, whether it’s recycling, composting, reducing waste, using environmental-friendly cleaning products…things that a lot of you probably do already! I’ve been much more conscious myself about recycling and trying to cut down on unnecessary waste these past few years. And a really simple way that anyone can help reduce paper and packaging waste is by buying natural and organic foods from bulk food bins available at various grocery stores, health food stores, and natural food co-ops. I usually buy things like peanut butter, almond butter, and different granolas from the bulk bins, but I’m realizing now that there are many other things I could be buying!

lovebulkbuttonThere’s a non-profit organization, the Bulk is Green Council (BIG), that is dedicated to promoting the environmental and economical benefits of using natural and organic bulk foods. To help celebrate Earth Month this year, the Bulk is Green Council (BIG) is challenging consumers to “Love Bulk Foods.” And they are offering you the chance to win a prize pack filled with some great products to help you start creating your own pantry of eco-friendly bulk foods. The photo above shows what’s included in the prize pack–a starter kit of popular natural and organic bulk foods that can be found in most bulk bins at natural food co-ops and grocery stores from these brands: SunRidge Farms, Frontier Natural Products Co-op, Lundberg Family Farms, and several other bulk brands…organic and natural foods like granola, whole grains, spices, trail mix…lots of yummy and healthy things! You’ll also get two really nice 100% recycled glass storage jars to keep some of your bulk foods in and a handy canvas “Love Bulk” tote to use on your shopping trips!

To enter the drawings for the prize packs: The Bulk is Green Council (BIG) will have a drawing each week in the month of April–you just need to take the pledge to Love Bulk Foods at the BIG website, agreeing to purchase natural and organic bulk foods once a week during Earth Month–and you’ll automatically be entered for the drawings! You can read more about this and take the pledge by clicking here at the Bulk is Green website.

Here’s some helpful information about the benefits of buying natural and organic bulk foods and some shopping tips:

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I had no idea so much landfill waste could be prevented by purchasing bulk foods! I know I’m going to make an extra effort to buy what I can in bulk. Earth month in April will be a great reminder for me to do that!

Do you like the idea of buying bulk foods and what kinds of foods do you buy? Do you plan on taking the pledge to “Love Bulk” in April?

I received a complimentary bulk foods prize pack to sample and write about, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Orange Vanilla Coconut Scrub

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I love orangey-scented things, so I thought I’d try making a scrub with epsom salt. Not long ago, I did a post on Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts and mentioned some of the health benefits of epsom salt. I thought they would be great to use in a body scrub, too. This scrub is thick, like a paste, and is scented with orange essential oil and pure vanilla extract. It smells so good and makes your skin really nice and soft!

ORANGE VANILLA COCONUT SCRUB by NancyCreative

  • 1 cup Epsom Salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 8 to 10 drops Orange essential oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small or medium-size bowl or other clean container, combine Epsom Salts with coconut oil using a spoon or spatula (Note: If the coconut oil gets much above 76˚ it can turn into liquid form–so if yours is liquidy, refrigerate your coconut oil until it solidifies). Add orange essential oil a few drops at a time, stirring after each addition. Add the vanilla extract last and blend everything well. Store in a shallow jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. You don’t need to refrigerate this scrub unless the temperature in your home gets much higher than 76˚ (or when you notice the coconut oil turning to liquid form), because then the mixture will be more runny. You can use this scrub 1 to 2  times a week to keep extra dry or rough skin areas smooth and soft.

When using, wet your skin all over in the shower and massage the scrub into your skin. You don’t need to use a lot–just pinch up about 1/2 teaspoon at a time from your jar or container–a little goes a long way! This is great for rough skin areas like knees and elbows. Don’t use on face or other sensitive areas. Also, be careful when using, because the oil from the scrub can make your shower or tub a little slippery. If you want to use this on your feet as a foot scrub, it would probably be safest to give your feet a separate foot scrub/bath while you’re sitting down using a small plastic tub; that way, you don’t have to worry about slipping in your bathroom tub or shower.

It’s fun making your own bath and skin care products, and so much cheaper, too! I think they work just as well as any you can buy. Have you tried making any for yourself?

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Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

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I’ve seen lots of recipes for homemade laundry detergent, especially on Pinterest. And then a friend of mine told me she had made some herself and really liked it. Making your own is supposed to be much cheaper than buying it, and I’m always looking for ways to save money…so I told myself that as soon as I used up the laundry detergent I had on hand, I would try making my own. I decided I would do powdered detergent because it seemed a little easier and less messy to make. I looked at quite a few “recipes” and many were very similar. Most of them had these ingredients–Borax, Super Washing Soda, and Fels-Naptha. I decided to add some baking soda to mine because that’s such a good cleaner. I also decided to use a bar of Ivory Soap along with the Fels-Naptha–I’ve read that you could use either, so I thought I’d try one bar of each (I forgot to add the Ivory soap to the photo below!).

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You start out by grating the soap bars, which you can either do by hand or in your food processor. I grated mine by hand–I bought a separate grater just to use for soap, and the Ivory soap grated easily…the Fels-Naptha takes a little longer if you’re grating it by hand. One of my readers, Barbara, mentioned in a comment that she found it much easier to use her long Microplane grater that she normally uses for Parmesan cheese–so that’s another option, too. Here’s what the soaps look like when they’re grated–I used the smaller grating side of my hand  grater:

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Then you just mix the grated soap with the other powdered ingredients, and you have your very own homemade laundry detergent! You don’t even need to scent this with anything because it has such a wonderful fresh-smelling scent of its’ own! This is a low-sudsing detergent, so don’t expect a lot of suds! But I thought it did a good job of cleaning.

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You can store your detergent in a container with a tight-fitting lid–I used this glass jar I bought at Wal-Mart and made a tag for it, which I attached with a ribbon at the neck of the jar. You can also use a plastic container, which may be a safer option.

Here’s the “recipe” for my homemade detergent…

HOMEMADE POWDERED LAUNDRY DETERGENT by NancyCreative

  • 1 (5.5-oz.) Fels-Naptha soap bar (or you can substitute similar sizes of Kirk’s Hardwater Castile or Zote bars*)
  • 1 (4.5-oz.) Ivory soap bar
  • 2 cups Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 1 1/2 cups Borax
  • 1 cup Baking Soda

Grate soap with a hand-held grater or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered (if you grate by hand, your soap will be coarser, but that’s okay–the soap can be either finely or coarsely grated; I grated mine by hand using the smaller grating side).

Put grated soap in a large bowl or small bucket (you can line the bucket with a plastic bag if you like) and add the washing soda, borax, and baking soda, mixing everything together well. Store in an airtight container.

This makes about 7 1/2 cups of powdered detergent (this detergent is low-sudsing, but it still works great). For a light load, use 1 1/2 Tablespoons of detergent; for a heavy load or heavily soiled load, use 2 or 2 1/2 Tablespoons of detergent. Depending on what size loads you have, this makes enough for about 60-80 loads. I’m estimating that the cost for making this comes to about $4.20 per batch, which is pretty good for that many loads!

Some of you have asked if this detergent can be used with HE washers, and I don’t know the answer to that–it’s best if you check directly with the manufacturer of your washer.

*Note on soap bars: It’s best to stick with the brands listed; do not use heavily perfumed or moisturizing soaps–the oils in these kinds of soaps can create spots on your clothes.

For a lemon scent to your laundry, add 1/2 to 1 cup of lemon juice to each load. The lemon juice will not only give your laundry a light lemony scent, it also adds extra whitening power!

Have you tried making homemade laundry detergent yet? What did you think of it?

Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts and 25 Other Uses for Epsom Salt

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There’s nothing like a relaxing soak in the tub with bath salts to make you feel revived and refreshed! The challenge is finding the time to do it! I decided a few months ago to start making time, at least once every few weeks, and it is something I really look forward to. It really feels wonderful to take time out and pamper yourself this way.

I thought it would be fun to make my own bath salts and came up with these Peppermint Tea Tree Bath Salts. They are very easy to make…you just need some Epsom Salt, Peppermint Essential Oil, and Tea Tree Essential Oil (you can find essential oils at your local health food store). I did not add any food coloring to the salts, but you can add a drop or two if you want–I prefer to just keep them the natural white. The peppermint scent is really refreshing, and the tea tree oil is good for your skin, so these two oils make a great combination!

I also discovered that soaking in Epsom Salt has health benefits because it’s rich in both magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium plays an important role in many bodily functions like muscle control, energy production, and the elimination of harmful toxins. Sulfate plays an important part in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins, and also helps detoxify the body of environmental toxins. So, soaking in an Epsom salt bath is an easy way to increase your body’s levels of magnesium and sulfate. No wonder it’s so refreshing! Your body and muscles will be relaxed, toxins will be flushed out, and the salts also help reduce the swelling of sprains.

Here’s how I make my bath salts…

PEPPERMINT TEA TREE BATH SALTS by NancyCreative

Makes enough for one bath (I multiply this recipe by 4 and keep it in a large jar)

  • 2 cups Epsom Salt
  • 5 to 7 drops Peppermint Essential Oil (depending on how strong of a scent you want)
  • 3 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 1 gallon-size zip-loc freezer bag (I like using freezer bags because they’re thicker than regular storage bags)

Put Epsom Salt in zip-loc bag and add the drops of Peppermint and Tea Tree essential oils; mix oils into the Epsom Salt by squishing ingredients together in the closed bag for several minutes. You can use it right away or store salts in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. To use, add 2 cups of the bath salts under the running warm or hot water in your tub. To get the maximum benefit from this Epsom Salt bath, you should soak for at least 12 minutes. And you can do this 3 times weekly, if you have the time! :)

I like to make larger batches and keep it in a jar in my bathroom; that way I don’t have to make it so often. These bath salts make a great homemade gift, too–you can make a double batch and put it in a jar tied with a pretty ribbon.

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Here are some other uses I found for Epsom Salt, if you’re interested in trying some of these out. The first one I try will probably be the skin cleanser. If you try any of these out, let me know!

  1. Skin Exfoliator–Add a drop of essential oil (or a Tablespoon of olive oil) to a handful of Epsom salt and massage over wet skin. Or just use the Epsom salt by itself. Rinse thoroughly. Makes your skin smooth and silky. Can be used on face as well as the whole body.
  2. Olive Oil Epsom Salt Scrub–Mix 1/2 cup Epsom salt with 1/4 cup olive oil; scrub skin in the shower and rinse thoroughly for soft, smooth skin.
  3. Skin Cleanser–Mix 1/2 teaspoon Epsom salt with your regular cleansing cream. Massage into skin and rinse with cold water.
  4. Bath Crystals–Mix 2 cups Epsom salt with a few drops of fragrance or 1/2 teaspoon glycerin. Store in airtight container until ready to use.
  5. Blackhead Remover–Add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 3 drops of iodine into 1/2 cup boiling water. Apply mixture to blackheads with a cotton ball.
  6. Hand Wash–Mix  equal parts of Epsom salt and baby oil; put in a dispenser by your sink to clean and soften hands.
  7. Hair Volumizer–Combine equal parts deep conditioner and Epsom salt and warm in a pan. Work the warm mixture through your hair and leave on 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
  8. Remove Hairspray Buildup–Combine 1 gallon of water, 1 cup lemon juice, and 1 cup Epsom salt. cover mixture and let set for 24 hours. The next day, pour mixture onto dry hair; leave on for 20 minutes, then shampoo.
  9. Itchy Skin Remedy I–Mix 1 Tablespoon Epsom salt into 1/2 cup of water until completely dissolved. Spritz on itchy skin or bug bites with a spray bottle, or dab on with a cotton ball to help relieve itching. Or use as a compress on the skin area. Can also use on minor sunburns.
  10. Itchy Skin Remedy II–For mosquito bites, bee stings, mild sunburn and poison ivy, make compresses by soaking a cotton washcloth in cold water that has been mixed with Epsom salt (2 Tablespoons per cup). Then apply to skin.
  11. Foot Soak–Mix 1/2 cup  to 1 cup Epsom salt in a large pan or plastic tub of warm water and soak feet for 10 to 20 minutes–soothes achy feet, softens skin, smooths calluses and removes foot odor.
  12. Epsom Salt Pedicure–Mix 1/2 cup of Epsom salt with warm, soapy water; soak feet to soften skin; remove polish, cut and file nails and calluses; then soak feet in an Epsom salt bath for 5 minutes (use another 1/2 cup of Epsom salt in a large pan of water).
  13. Toenail Fungus Treatment–Soak affected toes in hot water mixed with a handful of Epsom salt three times a day.
  14. Splinter Remover–soak area in concentrated Epsom salt water to draw out splinter. Or, add enough water to 1/8 cup of Epsom salt to form a paste. Apply mixture to injured area and let sit for 10 minutes. The magnesium sulfate in this paste works to gently pull the splinter to the surface so you can pull it out easily.
  15. Bathroom Tile/Grout Cleaner–Mix equal parts Epsom salt and liquid dish soap; apply on dirty tiles and grout; scrub and rinse well.
  16. Slug Remover–Sprinkle Epsom salt on areas where you have a slug problem–on floors, patios, or garden beds–the salts will help deter slugs. It’s supposed to help keep raccoons away, too, if you have a problem with them!
  17. Fertilizer for House Plants–Add 2 Tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water and stir to dissolve. Fill a spray bottle with mixture and use this to feed plants once a month.
  18. Keep Lawn Green–Use same mixture as above, 2 Tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water, and sprinkle on your lawn to keep grass healthy and green. Or another tip says you can use 3 pounds of Epsom salt for every 1,250 square feet. Apply with a spreader or dilute the Epsom salt in water and use a sprayer.
  19. Natural Insecticide–Mix 2 Tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water and spray onto your plants to safely and naturally get rid of insects like cabbage worms and spider mites. For roses, just use 1 Tablespoon per gallon of water to help discourage pests.
  20. Prep Garden Soil–Sprinkle up to 1 cup Epsom salt per 100 square feet, then work it into the soil before seeding or planting. This helps seeds to germinate better and helps mature plants transition when replanted. Note: If you’re growing the herb Sage, do not do this–sage does not like Epsom salt!
  21. For Tomato Plants–Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Epsom salt per hole before planting your tomato seeds or small plants. As plants mature, work in 1 Tablespoon per foot of plant height around the base of the tomato plant every 2 weeks.
  22. For Fruit– Mix Epsom salt with water at a ratio of about a quarter-cup of Epsom salt per 500 square feet when you irrigate your plants. Epsom salt supposedly reduces the amount of fertilizers you need and makes the fertilizers you use more effective in growing fruit.
  23. For Rose Bushes–Soak unplanted rose bushes in a mixture of 1/2 cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water before planting to help roots get stronger. When planting, add 1 Tablespoon of Epsom Salt per hole before planting each rose bush. After planting, you can spray the bushes each month with the same liquid mixture (1/2 cup per gallon of water), or work into the soil at the base of each plant 1 Tablespoon of Epsom salt per foot (in height) of each plant. Another tip says to add 1 Tablespoon Epsom salt diluted in a gallon of water per foot of plant height every 2 weeks.
  24. For Trees–Work in 2 Tablespoons per 9 square feet into the soil over the root zone (or dilute in water and apply) three or four times a year, at the beginning of each season–this helps prepare the trees for the change in weather.
  25. For Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron)–Work in 1 Tablespoon per 9 square feet into the soil over the root zone every 2 to 4 weeks (or dilute the same amount of Epsom salt in water and apply).

The name Epsom comes from a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England. It’s not actually salt, but a natural pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.

I think I’ll be using Epsom Salt a lot more now that I know about the benefits it has…have you used Epsom salt for any of your beauty, household, or garden needs? Do you have any tips of your own for how to use it?

Sources: Epsom Salt Council and several other sites linked to within the post.

Linked to Inspire Me Monday, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Create and Inspire.

Decorating with Fall Foliage: Part 2

I have found so many creative Thanksgiving and autumn decorating ideas on the web and posted some of those yesterday. This is a continuation of some of the inspiring things I found. The ideas and photos I’m posting today are from Better Homes and Gardens. You just may get motivated to try out some of these really easy projects for Thanksgiving!

Here are some ideas using a variety of vases and containers (you can click on an image if you’d like to see it larger)…

Row 1: (1) Display pears, apples, or other autumn fruit in a large apothecary jar; (2) Fill vases with branches of colorful leaves and bittersweet berries; (3) For larger open spaces, fill tall vases with long stems of colorful foliage…a great idea for an entry way!

Row 2: (1) Display cattails in several tall glass vases, anchored with nuts or acorns; (2) Display cattails or branches of leaves in a vase filled with birdseed to give them support…tie some raffia around the vase to add to the natural look; (3) Use a butternut squash as a vase by cutting off the top of the squash, scooping out the flesh, and filling with water and colorful autumn flowers.

Row 3: (1) Arrange autumn flowers and berries in glass jars or vases and fill with water…for a pretty centerpiece, line up a variety of these along the middle of your oval or oblong table (or cluster them if your table is round); (2) Arrange small pumpkins in a rustic basket, tie a bow on the handle and use as a centerpiece or decoration in your living room; (3) Put freshly fallen or pressed leaves in small glass vases (old lab beakers are used in this photo)…put around your home or arrange them together as a centerpiece.

Note: an easy way to press leaves is to place them between layers of newspaper, under a heavy stack of books. Let leaves dry for a few days. To enhance the color of the leaves, iron them between pieces of waxed paper–use a cloth in-between the iron and waxed paper to keep wax off the iron.

Hope you get to try some of these out! You’ll find many more ideas at www.bhg.com!

Decorating with Fall Foliage: Part 1

I love the season of autumn, but when it comes to decorating my home, I really don’t have many store-bought fall accessories to work with. I have a wreath for my door and some autumn candle holders, but that’s about it. I really don’t want to buy a lot, though, because then I’d have the problem of storing it…and I just don’t have the space! Besides, I really like using elements from nature when I can, like pretty fall flowers, gourds and pumpkins, apples and pears, and rich, colorful leaves. And when you use natural things, you don’t have to worry about storing them…you can just put them in your compost bin! The other benefit is that many of the natural things you can decorate with are inexpensive or free–you can find pretty leaves, dramatic branches, and acorns or other nuts on a walk in your neighborhood or local park.

I’ve seen so many great natural decorating ideas for Thanksgiving and fall on the websites of some of my favorite magazines, so I thought I’d share some with you. Even though we’re pretty well into fall, you may find a few things you want to try from now through Thanksgiving.

Here are some creative tips (and photos) I found at MarthaSewart.com. I love this autumn planter (pictured above)…just use one of your unused flower planters from summer, and fill with gourds, small pumpkins, Indian corn…and fill in any extra spaces with leaves, moss, or other natural filler.

These gourd vases are another great idea…

I actually still have a few daisies blooming in my garden, so I could use them for this! Just cut the tops off of the pumpkins, squashes, or gourds you want to use and scoop away the inside pulp with a spoon; then fill with fall flowers (mums would work great) and add water…these natural “vases” should be watertight for about a week. Or you can use dried flowers, which won’t need any water.

There was a similar idea to this over at RealSimple.com…for their pumpkin centerpiece, they suggest arranging fresh flowers in a water-filled jar (instead of putting water in the pumpkin itself), and placing the jar inside the pumpkin. That sounds like it would work really well. Here’s their photo…

And another RealSimple idea and photo…use a wooden salad bowl as an autumn “vase.”  Place a shallow glass or plastic container in the wooden bowl, fill with water, and arrange cut carnations, mums, or other autumn flowers in the container. The stems only need to be about 3 or 4 inches long.

The richness of the wooden bowl makes it perfect for a fall centerpiece!

I’ll post more natural fall and Thanksgiving decorating ideas soon…stay tuned for Part 2! :)

Linked to Favorite Things Saturday.

A Surprise in my Garden

Now that we’re well into fall, I’ve been getting the garden ready for winter little by little. As I have time, I trim and clear the flower beds of dried stems and leaves so they’ll look a little neater over winter. As I was clearing one bed recently, I saw what looked like part of a cantaloupe under the leaves of another bushy plant. How would a cantaloupe get in my flower bed? I wondered. When I cleared away some of the growth covering this strange object, I discovered that it was indeed a nice round little cantaloupe still attached to the vine! I didn’t plant any cantaloupe seeds in my garden-I actually have tried to grow melons before, but with no success. So it must have grown from seeds in my compost pile. All year long, I continue to add coffee grounds, fresh fruit and vegetable scraps (including seeds), and plant clippings to the compost pile in my yard. This spring, I had a nice amount of rich, moist compost to spread around my flower beds. And without me realizing it, this cantaloupe vine had started growing in one of the beds, mostly hidden by other bigger plants. What a fun surprise! I felt a little sense of accomplishment as I picked the melon off the vine in my garden, even though I hadn’t really done anything to cause it to grow. So, I am resolving next year to try growing melons again!

In case you’re wondering what those other cuttings are in the basket, they are blooms from my garlic chive plants that are in the process of drying out. In the fall, I collect the seeds from the dried chive blooms. I plant these the following spring to grow more chive plants and also give the seeds to friends who plant them in their yards. Chives are so easy to grow and it’s great to have them growing all summer long so you can use them fresh when you cook and bake things! Finely chopped chives are also good mixed in cream cheese or scrambled eggs. Here’s a close-up of the chive bloom–those little black rounded shapes in the upper right of the photo are the seeds…

I haven’t cut open the cantaloupe yet…I want to admire it a little longer before I do! :)

The Amazing Cucumber

I found out some pretty interesting things about cucumbers from a blog called Stir, Laugh, Repeat. For instance, did you know that cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day? One cuke contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Zinc!

It’s amazing how good cucumbers are for you and all the different things you can use them for–and now when cucumbers are in such abundance, it’s a great time to try these tips:

FOR PERSONAL USE:

  • If you’re feeling tired in the afternoon, snack on a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and carbohydrates that can provide a quick pick-me-up. They’re also a good snack if you are having the “munchies”–a cucumber will help curb your appetite until mealtime.
  • To help reduce stress, cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water. The chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber react with the boiling water and are released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma.
  • For reducing the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite, rub a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes–the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite and wrinkles.
  • If you’ve had a spicy meal and are out of mints, take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath–the phytochemcials in the cucmber kill the bacteria in your mouth that cause it.

USES FOR YOUR HOME:

  • To keep your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a shower, rub a cucumber slice along the mirror to eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
  • Use cucumbers to polish your shoes! Rub a freshly–cut cucumber over your shoes; you’ll have a quick and durable shine that also repels water.
  • If grubs and slugs are ruining your planting beds, place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans, but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.
  • If you’re out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge, just take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge–the squeak will be gone!
  • Here’s a “green” way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel: take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean. It will remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but it won’t leave streaks and won’t harm your fingers or fingernails while you clean.
  • If you’re using a pen and make a mistake, take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing. You can also use this on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls. :)

Hope you find these tips helpful! I’ll need to add a few more cucumbers to my shopping list!

Starbucks: Grounds for Your Garden

I’ve known about Starbucks’ Grounds for Your Garden for about three years now. But a lot of people don’t know about it, so I thought I’d mention it because it’s such a great idea! Starbucks actually started this program back in 1995, offering customers complimentary five-pound bags of used coffee grounds that they could use for their gardens, as part of their corporate effort to recycle and reduce waste. And they’ve continued doing this each year since…when spring comes around, you’ll notice bins filled with free packages of used coffee grounds in most Starbucks coffee shops. Each bag of grounds has a sticker attached that gives directions on how to use them–either by adding directly in the garden or in a compost pile.

Coffee grounds add valuable nutrients like nitrogen and potassium to your garden (other nutrients include phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and copper). You can mix coffee grounds into the soil or sprinkle them around any flowers in your garden as an extra fertilizer; they work well especially with acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, and magnolias. Or you can sprinkle lightly around vegetables in your garden. Don’t apply too thickly; the grounds applied directly to the soil should be less than 1/4″ thick to avoid the growth of certain fungus.

I read on the About.com website that coffee grounds can help control some bugs. They say that, supposedly, ants hate coffee–so you can try spreading the grounds where you have ant problems.

If you want to start composting at home, you can fill a wooden or plastic bin in your yard with a mixture of leaves and other yard trimmings; then mix in coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables (do not add any scraps from animal products–that will contaminate your compost pile). Keep the materials in the bin moist and mix every so often to encourage the composting process. The compost will be ready to use in your garden when it fully decomposes into a dark rich soil-like material. You can layer on compost about 1/2 thick in your garden beds–it’s a great fertilizer and it discourages weeds and helps keeps plants moist, so you don’t need to water as often.

So try using some used coffee grounds in your garden–your plants will love it, and it’s a great way to help the recycling effort! It’s also a good excuse to stop by Starbucks and treat yourself to a yummy Frappuccino® this summer!

(Frappuccinos® pictured above are from the Starbucks website)

Linked to Anything Related Tuesday and Outdoor Wednesday.