Category Archives: Nature
Spring is here, the flowers are in bloom, and it’s a beautiful sight, except for those who suffer from allergies. Allergens such as pollen can cause all sorts of symptoms for allergy sufferers, such as itchy eyes, congestion, and sneezing. Many people take prescribed or over-the-counter medicines that help allergy symptoms, but some of these medicines can cause side effects that are worse than the original problem. For a more natural solution to ease mild, spring-time allergy suffering, here is a list of 10 home remedies that may be helpful:
- It’s hard enough to avoid allergens outdoors, so try not to bring them into your home, too. Keeping windows and doors shut during allergy season can help keep pollen out of your house. Eliminate any cross breeze by shutting off fans that circulate air in and out of the house. Indoor air purifiers/HEPA filters are a great added step to keep your house as allergen-free as possible.
- While being outdoors it is difficult to avoid allergens, so one great step is to wear eye protection. Wearing sunglasses (with side shields) or goggles while outside will keep pollen and other allergens from landing in your eyes and causing swelling or itching.
- Taking a steaming-hot shower has two major benefits for allergy sufferers: First, the steam soothes sinuses and clears nasal passages. The second benefit is that the shower washes away pollen and allergens from the skin and hair, preventing the spread of contaminants into your home.
- Peppermint tea has essential oils that act as an anti-inflammatory, decongestant, and mild antibacterial. A nice warm mug of peppermint tea can help alleviate irritated nasal passages and a sore throat.
- For those who don’t want to take a shower every time they feel congested, a steam bowl is a simpler way to get similar results. Fill a large bowl with steaming water (add eucalyptus oil for added relief), place a towel over your head, and take deep breathes of the eucalyptus steam.
- Another way to clear your nasal passages is to use a saline nasal rinse. There are many different methods of delivering the solution into your nasal cavity, but the basic concept is to flush out the congestion and keep the passages dry.
- For those who can handle spicy foods, wasabi and horseradish are great for clearing your sinuses. Allyl isothiocyanate is the ingredient in these two foods that activates your sinus and tear ducts to promote mucus flow. Also foods like walnuts, flaxseed, and cold-water fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, are great for fighting inflammation when eaten regularly.
- There are a variety of herbs and supplements which have been studied for allergy relief, such as spirulina, goldenseal, and eyebright. The plant extract butterbur has had strong results with reducing airway inflammation, as well as bromelain, which is an enzyme found in pineapple. The stinging nettle is a plant with natural antihistamines, which can be extracted, consumed through tea, or absorbed a variety of other ways.
- Consuming locally produced honey on a regular basis is thought to build up your body’s immunity to local pollens. When bees transfer pollen from your region into honey and you eat it frequently, it can slowly inoculate you against regional pollens.
- Since you spend a third of your life in bed sleeping, it is important to protect yourself from allergens in your bedroom. Dust mites are microscopic pests that live in warm, humid environments and feed on discarded human skin cells, therefore your mattress and pillow are an ideal location for them to live and thrive in. The excrement and buildup of dead dust mites can be the cause of allergic sensitivity. To protect yourself from being exposed to dust mites and bed bugs, consider purchasing OMI’s certified-organic cotton Bed-Bug and Dust-Mite Pillow and Mattress Barrier Covers. The tight micron weave prevents these pests from invading your mattress and multiplying, giving you peace of mind and a healthier night’s sleep. Here is a link to view more information about our barrier covers:
Spring is finally here! After an unusually bizarre winter with the “polar vortex” swirling around the east and the dry skies in the west, we’re all ready to enjoy the pleasures of springtime. The sun is shining, maybe a little rain is still falling, but warm weather is here, hopefully to stay!
Here is a list of 10 things to do, get outside… enjoy the weather and your family and friends.
1. Read outside on a blanket in the sun
2. Go fishing with your buddies
4. Make these beautiful spring centerpieces, using simple glass jars and lemons for a touch of color!
6. Plan a “staycation” with these cool ideas
7. Take pictures of wildflowers
10. Make a fairy garden like this one!
All the fruits and veggies that I love are out and ready for hand picking or picking up from the local farmers market. My most loved, however, are blackberries. It just so happens that my grandparents and my best friend have a few acres of roaming wild organic blackberries that pop up every summer, this year the season came a bit earlier than usual and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
Yesterday afternoon my husband, a few of our closest friends and I headed out in our sturdiest clothes and picked some of the most juicy, beautiful berries I have seen. I am excited for homemade jam, blackberry ice cream, blackberry syrup, and most importantly, blackberry cobbler.
Make your own cobbler with this delicious recipe from www.bunsinmyoven.com.
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose organic flour
1/2 cup raw organic sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
9 tablespoons cold organic butter
1/3 cup boiling water
For the filling:
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon organic fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 cups fresh organic blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
For the dough, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Pour in the boiling water and stir together well so that all of the dough is wet. Set aside.
For the berries, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice, berries, and sugar. Mix together well. Transfer berries to a 10 inch cast iron pan.
Heat mixture over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
Drop spoonfuls of dough over the berry mixture and place the cast iron pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the berries are thick and bubbly.
(If you don’t have a cast iron pan, bring to a boil in a sauce pan and bake in a 9×9 baking dish.)
Summer weather is finally here, and with the days staying lighter longer it gives us more time for fun activities. Planning those activities can feel daunting at times, however here are some ideas that will help you create great summer memories while being eco-friendly.
- Take a Hike
Connect with nature by taking a walk in local park or nature trail. Take time to check out the trees, wildflowers and birds. Allow the kids to get exercise while enjoying the beauty of nature.
Biking is a great exercise, and can be really enjoyable, especially in the evening after dinner. Work off that meal you ate while peddling along with your family and friends.
Search for hidden treasures at street fairs, or find great locally grown produce to incorporate into your menus for the week.
- Plant a Garden
Work on making a small garden for some fresh homegrown treats. Gardens come in all sizes from window box gardens to large producing gardens. Find an area for your garden and plant some of your favorite produce.
- Host a Potluck Dinner
Invite friends over for an evening of fun. Potlucks allow guests to bring a dish, so this cuts back on energy used for cooking. Pick a theme for the dinner, such as Italian, finger foods, etc. The themes will keep your dinner options varied and allow for some creative cooking.
- Cool Off
Escape the summer heat by visiting a local lake or community pool.
Find a local organization such as a local food banks or animal shelter, and offer some help. These organizations are always in need of a few extra hands.
Just because you can’t get a whole week off this summer does not mean you can’t take a mini vacation. Plan a weekend trip to an area within driving distance and enjoy being away from home. You don’t have to stay at an expensive hotel, but you can camp in a campground by a lake or river. Just give yourself time to relax and “unplug.”
Whatever you decide to do this summer, remember to have fun, make some great memories, and as always, think about what you can do to keep your summer eco-friendly.
Staying cool in the summer months is hard to do sometimes, especially when trying to stay hydrated. Rather than reaching for those sugary drinks or just plain old water, here are a few recipes to spice up your drinking options in a healthy way!
Nectarine and Thyme Sun-Brewed Iced Tea
What you will need:
Large beverage dispenser or pitcher
Organic loose leaf tea or 6 black tea bags, more or less depending on how strong you like your tea
1 gallon water
4 organic nectarines, sliced
5 medium sprigs fresh organic thyme
Put the water, tea bags, and thyme in the beverage dispenser and place in direct sunlight for 3 hours. Add nectarines and ice for a cold, refreshing drink.
Fruit and Herbal-Infused Water
One of the best things about infused water is that you can take just about any form of fruit, and herbs from your garden or local farmers market and give your water a boost in flavor.
Feeling simple? Drop a few raspberries and a sprig of rosemary in a glass of iced water.
Feeling adventurous? Toss mint, strawberries, lemons, limes, cucumbers, and raspberries in a pitcher of iced water for your next outdoor BBQ.
My personal favorite is orange water! Just slice up an orange and place it in a mason jar full iced water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the flavors of the orange with your water, and ta-da! A delicious cold, not-so-boring beverage!
Another great way to add a bit of color and flavor to iced beverages is to take an ice-cube tray, fill it with water (I have even seen them filled with tea!!!), and add some organic blueberries, lemons, or mint sprigs!
What’s great about these recipes is that they are not just “two cups of this or that.” You can experiment with different fruits and flavors to get your own unique delicious drink!
Summer is (almost)here, along with all of those pesky critters that seem to have been hibernating over the winter– ncluding my least favorite, the mosquito.
This year, I went on a hunt for a natural remedy that is less toxic and harsh than store-bought bug spray that usually includes DEET (http://www.nrdc.org/thisgreenlife/1006.asp). There are so many great remedies out there (some that I already knew about), and others that I am definitely going to try see which ones work for me.
Here are the top 9 ways I’ve found to keep from getting eaten this summer:
1. Know where they are. You may notice that there are a lot more mosquitoes around water. Lakes, pools, ponds, and any place there is standing water will attract the pests. If you know you are going to be around water, be sure to plan ahead and carry your natural repellant with you.
2. Don’t smell too good. Mosquitoes are attracted to floral and sweet smells, like perfume and body lotion. Reducing these as much as you can may help lessen your attractiveness to them.
3. Spritz yourself with vanilla. Simply dilute pure vanilla extract in water and spray it on.
4. Wear light clothing. Mosquitoes are drawn to darker clothing and colors. Wearing light colored clothing can be your first line of defense against these insects.
5. Make a garlic paste. This is not something I can see people doing everyday, but it is definitely great for repelling those little critters. Make a paste with garlic powder and water and apply to pulse points, behind the knees, on shoes and ankles, and a bit on your cheeks or somewhere on your face and neck. (Keep it out of your eyes, it will sting!) You can also spray garlic powder and water around your yard and bushes for an extra preventative measure. (Rumor has it it will also keep away unwanted vampires.)
6. Dab on a little Eau de Vinegar: If you don’t mind the smell of vinegar (and neither do those around you), dabbing on a little vinegar is a great way to repel mosquitoes. Put a little bit on exposed areas, or dilute with water and use as a spray. Many people swear by this one!
7. Use essential oils. Citronella, lavender, catnip, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, tansy, basil, thyme, cedar, tea tree, peppermint, and lemongrass will all help keep the mosquitoes at bay. Mix with rubbing alcohol, witch hazel or water, (just one or any combination), shake well, and spritz on your body. You can also add a few drops to baby oil or olive oil and rub onto your skin, avoiding the mouth and eye areas.
8. Eat up! Certain foods we eat are rumored to repel the bugs. B1 vitamins, brewers yeast, lemon and, of course, garlic have all been thought to deter mosquitoes because of the smell that comes out of your pores after eating them.
9. Exercise your green thumb. Potted plants, such as lemon thyme, citronella, lavender, basil, catnip, pennyroyal, tansy, and marigolds, will help keep mosquitoes out of your yard. Place them around your porch or patio, and when you need a little more protection, break off a leaf and rub it on your clothes and skin. You can also infuse the leaves in water and use as a spray.
Everyone has a different body chemistry that may make different methods work better than others. Try them out and let us know which of these natural remedies worked for you!
When the sun is shining and the signs of spring are all around enjoy the day outside with Mother Nature. Pick your favorite local area such as a park, river or lake and enjoy the day with your friends and family. Here are some ideas of Earth-friendly activities that you can enjoy on Earth Day:
Pack a delicious lunch of locally grown food and keep it natural by using biodegradable or reusable tableware.
After your lunch spend an hour picking up trash around your favorite area to keep it clean and enjoyable for all.
Enjoy a leisurely walk or hike to explore the wildlife. Bring along a field guide so you can learn about the different plants, tree and animals in the area.
Discuss ways you can lessen your impact on Earth and make a list of resolutions that you would like to incorporate into your everyday routine, such as recycling, energy use, volunteering, cleaning up litter, shopping locally, buying organic, and more. For a list of possible green resolutions see our previous blog, “Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Green Year’s Resolutions.”
However you spend your Earth Day, be sure to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Earth.
It’s that time of year again when we all get out the cleaning supplies and start our spring cleaning. Rather than using harsh chemical cleaners, here are some more eco-friendly options that I use for my deep spring clean.
1. Make Your Own Surface Cleaner
Surface cleaner comes in handy all around the house, and is super easy to make. Combine 1 cup rubbing alcohol, 1 cup water, and 1 tablespoon white vinegar in a spray bottle. This natural all-purpose cleaner quickly kills germs and evaporates, making for a clean and clear finish.
2. Lift Stains with Lemons
Getting that tomato sauce stain off your countertop or cabinet is easier than you think. Simply wet the stain with lemon juice, let sit for 30 minutes or so, and then sprinkle baking soda on the abrasive side of an all-purpose kitchen sponge and scrub the discolored area. Most stains will vanish, and your kitchen will smell fresher.
3. Clean Your Kitchen Drains Without Harsh Chemicals
Not all drain cleaners need to be made of toxic chemicals. The chemistry between baking soda and vinegar is so powerful that this combo can flush grease out of kitchen drains. Just pour ½ cup baking soda into a clogged drain and follow it with ½ cup white vinegar. Cover the drain for a few minutes as the chemical reaction dissolves the grease — then flush the drain with warm water.
4. Clean Windows Without Leaving Streaks
To make those windows and mirrors shine without awful streaks, use newspaper! The paper leaves behind virtually zero lint. Just spray the glass with a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar, rub the glass with a dry cloth, then go over the surface with a piece of newspaper.
5. Freshen Up the Air Naturally
Even the worst odors can be eliminated with fresh lemons. To get rid of strong odors such as garlic, fish and other tough smells use half a cut lemon or some fresh-squeezed lemon juice. To freshen indoor air, simmer lemon peel on the stovetop, adding water as needed.
6. Eliminate Smells in Your Fridge
There are many different and unexpected uses for coffee, but one of my favorites is to absorb odors in the refrigerator. If you have some stale coffee grounds just place them in a bowl in the fridge for a day or so.
7. Clean Your Oven Without Killing Your Arms
Ovens can be the worst mess to clean, but with this trick you can clean your oven without having to scrub until your arms feel like they’re going to fall off! Baking soda makes it as easy as it gets, and your next batch of cookies won’t taste like chemical cleaners. Sprinkle it liberally all over the floor of the oven, spray it with water until it’s well dampened, and leave it for a few hours. Then just wipe out the mess and use vinegar to remove the film of baking-soda residue left behind.
8. Use a Little Lemon and Water to Clean the Microwave
Microwaves can be a pain to clean with all the stuck-on food residue, but the citric acid in lemon juice can loosen even the crustiest food. Place lemon wedges in a small bowl of water and microwave for two to three minutes. Leave the door closed and let sit for approximately 10 minutes, then wipe out the inside. If there are any odors or food residue left behind, use a paste of baking soda and water to scrub it right out.
9. Polish Your Wood with Olive Oil
Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a quarter cup of lemon juice for a non-toxic, gentle furniture polish that will remove dust and bring wood surfaces to a brilliant shine. Due to its natural ingredients, this furniture polish will not build up a dull finish.
10. Turn Your Mismatched Socks and Old Towels Into Rags
If you lose the battle of the socks to your dryer like I do, then you probably have a few unmatched socks gathering. There’s no need to throw them away these socks can be used for cleaning! Put one over your hand like a glove and use it to dust surfaces around the house. If you don’t have any mismatched socks, towels that are no longer soft can provide you with a dozen or more new, totally free cleaning rags. Just cut the towels up and you’ll have a whole new supply. This is a far better option for the planet than using disposable paper towels.