5 Reasons You Need CryptoKitties

It was a blustery Saturday afternoon. I had just finished feeding my nubian dairy shows goats their molasses-y lunch, and made myself some jasmine tea and was flipping through my Google news feed. Among all the dismal headlines of nuclear bombs, chemical warfare, and the latest orange gorilla tyrant, I scrolled upon an article featuring pleasingly pastel felines. I got 1/3 through the article and KNEW I had found something.

Lickety-split I had CryptoKitties convincing me to “join meow”, then a Metamask account, an Ethereum Account, a Coinbase (where you can also buy and trade Bitcoin), then Etherscan and even my first Reddit (long been a lurker, never went down that rabbit hole until now). I found myself with my first Ethereum, as well.

I had been interested in Cryptocurrency since last year. Had I invested then, I would be a ten-thousandaire by now.

I always doubted myself with cryptocurrency: was it even legal? How could I ever afford to buy a BitCoin? Well, as it turns out, you don’t need $10,000 to buy your first BitCoin – it doesn’t work like that. You could buy BitCoin with, like, $5. It’s not coins like physical coins, you can have (a lot) less than one – its portions or more of a share. In any denomination, too – you choose. So really, as long as you have a bank account, you can be the proud owner of a little bit of Bitcoin!

CryptoKitties uses Ethereum, a currency with less value per 1 share, so most of your CryptoKitties transactions, as of this publishing, will be in the 0.00X range. Depending on the Gas Limit and Gas Price (which you will learn about very quickly should you choose wisely to join CryptoKitties) you choose, buying a kitty is around $2.50+ and breeding one about $0.50+. You only need two kitties to start breeding. They are hermaphroditic, so doesn’t matter who is the sire and who lays the egg and incubates the bun in the oven.

It would have been a long time to get me motivated to set up a digital wallet, set up security, a way to track myself: since everything is open and public, you see EVERYTHING and need to find yourself in there, and a long time for me to put a few dollars into cryptocurrency! The kitties did it! CryptoKitties won!

So, here are the five reasons you need CryptoKitties:

5. You will finally own cryptocurrency. Yes, the game uses Ethereum, but while you’re on CoinBase, you may as well throw some bones into BitCoin while you are there. And hey, Ethereum and maybe even LiteCoin may be worthwhile to give a serious look.

4. You will become remarkably more blockchain savvy. Understanding mining, speed of transactions, and how to manipulate your choices to work in your favor, especially on such a small scale, will REALLY be in your favor as time goes on. Better to learn it and make a $0.04 mistake now, than be trying to send someone a large sum in the future and totally botching it and not even succeeding, still at a price.

3. CryptoKitties will get you interested in investing and following market trends. Maybe something you want to get back to, or start up in the first place. This simple, kitty-as-token based game will prove insightful, and teach you strategies you can apply in other realms.

2. You will be cool. You will finally have something cutting edge, timely and interesting to talk about during all your awkward upcoming holiday parties. From your hipster nephew to old Uncle Rocco who keeps promising he is going off the grid, you are sure to drum up a refreshing lively conversation, surely better than the red and blue convo’s of recent drunken family / work / acquaintance get-togethers.

1. They are cute. That’s it. Cute and fun. That is what everyone wants, and what everyone needs, including YOU!

Be a doll and let me refer you to CoinBase (I get $10!): Melissa Miko’s Coinbase Referral

 

 

 

The Meaning Behind CryptoKitties Traits

CryptoKitties is an adorable marriage between genetics and cryptocurrency all made possible their matchmaker, madame blockchain.

As a new user / obsessed virtual-kitty breeder (I’m CatcoCat), I began to unlock some of the trait names. This list is VERY partial, but…going to start somewhere, and always a work in progress.

 

Backgrounds:

Mintgreen – minty green

Strawberry – baby pink

Chestnut – light tan

Bubblegum – bright pink

Topaz – blue green

Limegreen –  yellowy spring green

Gold – yellow

 

Body Colors:

Salmon – pinkish brown

Orangesoda – orange

Shadowgrey – grey / gray

Mauveover – lavender

Cloudwhite – white

Aquarmarine – greyish blue

Greymatter – light grey / gray

 

Tummy Colors:

Kittencream – cream

Granitegrey –  dark grey / gray

Peach – pink

Emeraldgreen – lime green

 

Tails:

Sphinx – smooth, skinny tail

Munchkin – medium fluffy tail

Laperm – very fluffy tail

 

Whisker Styles:

Dali – moustache

Munchkin – short

Soserious – medium whiskers

 

Hair Do’s:

Ragamuffin – a little fluff on top

Chartreux – super tall hair

 

Fur Patterns:

Calicool – tri-color calico spots

Luckystripe – tabby stripes

Jaguar – leopard spots

Tigerpunk – tri-color stripes

Spock – points (like a Siamese)

 

Fur pattern colors for stripes and spots:

Coffee – dark brown

Chocolate – medium brown

Bloodred – red

Swampgreen – green

Skyblue – light blue

Barkbrown – brown

Royalpurple – purple / violet

Cerulean – gunmetal blue

Scarlet – brick red

Lemonade – yellow

 

Eye Shapes:

Fabulous – almond-shaped eyes

Simple – normal eyees

Otaku – giant glistening eyes

Crazy – eyes looking in different directions, buggy like a pug

 

Eyes Colors:

Sizzurp – purple

Limegreen – green

brown

red

 

Mouths:

Pouty – small mouth

Tongue – visible tongue with crooked smile

Saycheese – teeth sticking out

regular, medium mouth

 

Eyebrows:

Raised Brow – one eyebrow raised, one not

Thicccbrows – sad, thick eyebrows

 

Cheek fur:

Cymric – one fluff

Himalayan – two fluffs

 

Other:

 

Beard

Duck – duck body

Sailor – sailor outfit, big smile and tattoo

 

In Progress:

Happygokitty –

Totesbasic –

3 Reasons Why Cranky the Crane is My Favorite on Thomas and Friends

I never thought my life would come to this: appreciating the humour of a grumpy, anthropomorphic piece of dockage equipment…on TV, no less! Even when I started buying and collecting Thomas the Train wooden railway parts, pieces, and trains for my little guy, I never imagined I’d give the series any screen time, or be able to name most of the characters. I have to say, a favorite character has grown on me, and it’s Cranky the Crane! Cranky is a stationary crane who works down at Thomas’s local docks. As his co-worker /  “friend?” Salty states, he is indeed “Cranky by name, and cranky by nature.” So what’s so fabulous about this guy?

1. Cutest face. Cranky is the cutest character in the Thomas the Tank Engine world, where everyone has a distinct, gray round or square face. Check out the faces; decide for yourself. I think Cranky is the cutest, hands down.

2. Most realistic personality. This guy is pretty grumpy. Cranky rolls his eyes, bosses the trains around, and is never without a snide or sarcastic comment. As an adult watching Cranky in action, this makes for some very comedic moments in an otherwise tame children’s program. His reactions are very applicable to what one might encounter in the real world. Cranky is just what one would expect from a gruff, middle-aged guy who works down at the docks. Under-paid and over-worked, full of one-liners, Cranky is probably a little too skilled and a little too smart for the job he’s stuck in. Because literally, Cranky is stuck at Brendam Docks; he is screwed into the ground as a permanent installation.

And now, a poem:

“Cranky
By R. Schuyler Hook

Off the train,
Onto the ship,
The crates and barrels
Must not slip.

Off the ship,
Onto the train,
In the sun,
The snow,
The rain.

Back
And forth
And to
And fro.
He has no wheels-
He cannot go.

Day in,
Day out,
The whole year through.
Wouldn’t you
Be cranky, too?”

I feel I could have a real conversation with Cranky, although it would probably turn into an amicable gripefest. This is in stark contrast to, for example, a train engine like Percy. Despite being an “adult” train tasked with delivering postal mail all over an island, Percy believes in monsters, has issues identifying friendship, and generally acts like a flighty six year-old. Cranky may be crabby, but he doesn’t have some of the other psychoses or personality flaws of many of the other characters.

3. Killer Toy: The Thomas Wooden Railway toys, or whatever you want to call them (action figures?) are AWESOME. Having kids is a great excuse to have the time of your life collecting some really awesome and cute characters, and pretty detailed buildings and quality train tracks. This isn’t a kid’s pursuit; Thomas’s Wooden Railway is an adult-driven passion. Any sum of lunch money or birthday checks from Grandma won’t get you very far in this world. This stuff is pricey!

Cranky himself goes for about $45 as of this writing, and he is worth every bit of it. He has a surprisingly pleasant expression on his face, and two controls that spin him and raise and lower his magnetic crane hook. An adorable addition to your train table, your life won’t be complete without a cranky “doll”. Score one of these, and it’s a slippery slope toward getting lost in the world of Thomas the Train, with all of its kooky characters and quality toys. Enjoy!

Turkey Feathers (Naturally Shed)

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Narragansett heritage turkey feathers striped black white

Available wing and tail turkey feathers for $3.50 each. Free shipping within U.S. (contact me for international rates).

Naturally lost by our Narragansett  tom heritage variety turkey named Gary. Collected by me or someone on the homestead.

Add a touch of heritage to your home, also great for projects, smudge sticks, fishing lures, hair decorations, or adding realistic movement to a “scare owl” decoy/deterent.

Payable by PayPal, cash, or check. Email melissa.miko@gmail.com and specify size from 6″ – 15″, quantity, and preference for wing or tail feathers.

Duck Eggs and Turkey Eggs

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Duck turkey Eggs

Local to East Lyme, Connecticut?

Swang by and try some mondo eggs from these Loco birds! Fresh and clean, our yolks are rich and size is Mega.

Our birds all have names (and personalities, believe me), are loved, and are fed greens, fruits, and species – appropriate proteins.

Contact me for your dozen!

23andMe and You

Late last year there was a lot of hub bub over the issue regarding the FDA deciding to try to regulate interpretations of physiological data gained from genetic testing.
Specifically, the FDA attacked company 23andMe for offering low-cost, direct-to-consumer (via online data to you) genetic tests and interpretations for several thousand gene SNPs. (SNPs, pronounced “snips”, are our little weirdnesses or uniquenesses that make us special, but not too special. To be a SNP rather than a genetic anomaly, at least 1% of the population must share it.)
The FDA claimed the results are “medical data” and should be tested for and discussed with a doctor. I believe that’s a load of malarchy stemming from lobbying by insurance companies and the medical field. This is the Age of Information, and now anyone can know everything. You can figure out how to perform heart surgery on YouTube (for the record, please don’t), and that intimidates a lot of people. The fact is, DNA is not a medical condition; it is you. We all have it, we own it.
Think of it this way: if you were blind, and paid someone to tell you what color hair you have, is that really medical data? Does an organization long-known for outdated, unethical standards and decisions, as well as caving in to big pharma lobbyist efforts, really in a position to decide what you can and cannot know about your own body?
Plus, we are finding out more and more that DNA can be changed. Yes, it is you, the essense of you, but, it can change. Got that? The study of epigenetics and genetic therapies are a testament to this. So whether you think you want to plan a designer baby or you fear you carry a genetic dis-ease, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It really is going to come down to a new culture of ethics: helping those that need it, and not tampering with what ain’t broke.
What the FDA claims is that they fear people are going to take these $99 test interpretations seriously and act rashly.
For example, a big benefit of this test is that it tests for a number of BCRA genes, the same that Angelina Jolie had. However, the FDA is worried tgat if a person carries one or more of the nine SNPs linked to breast cancer, they might precede in taking the same action…but how, or by who, without medical advice? And couldn’t that be lifesaving anyways? And whose business is it what a person chooses for their body? Not some big government organization, I’d agree. I would I think more likely, a person would waste no time in bringing their results to a doctor to discuss further.
What is ironic is that many doctors would never randomly test for these genes in the first place, (its not yet routine) unless pressed AND if the person is a female AND has a family history with at least more than one person afflicted with breast cancer. And for $99 and a little initiative on your part, this new technology, this new availability of information could be saving your life and have the power to enlighten, perhaps, your offspring or other family who may carry the gene so they can be proactive. That is probably the most important heatwrenching examples. But, the FDA, claiming our “best interests”, put a stop to that, at least commercially.
Should the FDA outlaw psychics, too? Because although this genetc data is in us, and can be interpreted, there is so much we don’t know or understand about the results. I think making this type of information available to the educated, healthful-minded, positive initiative-taking customers of direct-to-consumer DNA tests is another step closer to preventative health.
Luckily, with 23andMe as well as a few other ancestry-related companies, you get a file of your raw data. And with that, and a $10 donation, open source community project Promethease will compare your raw results to thousands of published research journal articles to provide you with essentially the same enlightening information.
I submitted my spit to 23andMe, then uploaded my raw data to Promethease, and it was one of the coolest, most important things I have ever done. I found it motivated me to take better care of my health through diet and exercise. For example, my data revealed that I may have an increased risk of stomach problems like bleeding from taking NSAIDs. So before I pop a Tylenol, I will instead hydrate with some good old water and try some pressure point therapy instead.
I believe the more you know, the better your decisions will be, and the higher your quality of life will be. I highly recommend researching whether genetic testing is something you’re interested in, and if so, taking the next step.

Homemade All Natural Sugar and Salt Scrubs for the Bath

There is nothing like the feeling of giving a loved one a thoughtful, homemade gift that turned out nicely.

(For homemade gifts that didn’t turn out nicely: browse, giggle, and shudder at Craftastrophe.)

It’s even better when you know the gift is safe, healthful, purposeful, and you have enough left over to keep some for yourself!

Enter, the Sugar Scrub. Or Salt Scrub.

Both sugar and salt are soluble in water, so they provide just the right amount of exfoliation, and wash away easily. Whether you use sugar or salt depends on what you have on hand, and “marketing” your product. A Sugar and Vanilla Scrub sounds luxurious, but salt and vanilla just sounds gross. Likewise, a Lemon and Sea Salt Scrub for Kitchen Hands is incredibly appealing, but a lemon and sugar scrub sounds like either you just came from Candyland, or you need some vodka to go with that.

I based this recipe off one I found at WellnessMama’s, amended it a bit for my purposes, and the scrubs came out great! I’d love to share it with you.

Homemade All-Natural Bath Scrub

Materials:

  • Clean workspace that you can get messy, like a kitchen counter or table
  • Work clothes (you are working with oils)
  • One or more containers for the final product (I like 1/2 pint mason jars for this product)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Stirring spoon
  • Cleaning cloths

Natural Beauty Products Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 12 Tablespoons sugar or salt or a mixture. Be creative! Try brown sugar or Epsom (magnesium sulfate) salt, too.
  • 6 Tablespoons oil. The eating type, not motor oil or “baby” oil, which is a nasty petroleum product. More on oil choices later.
  • 20 – 40 drops essential oil or extract of your choice.
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp Tocopherol (vitamin E oil): either squeeze out supplement capsules or use liquid beauty product.

This amount fills one 1/2 pint mason jar. These are pretty cheap, hold just the right amount of bath scrub, and are easy to use. They can be found online, at Walmart, or at most hardware stores.

ball-half-pint-mason-jars

I made six different scents with three different oils and three different exfoliates the first time I tried this recipe, so I made each jar’s contents one by one so I could test what worked best. It may be easier to multiply this recipe based on how much you need. Always make a little extra!

A half pint = 1 cup = 16 Tablespoons.

Because you aren’t pressure canning, you don’t need to leave air space at the top of the jar. Fill them up so it doesn’t look like you are skimping!

Instructions:

1. In a separate bowl, measure out 12 level Tablespoons of sugar. If the sugar is stuck together, use your mixing spoon to break it up. I tried putting it through a sieve as I would with flour. That took way too long. And do use a separate bowl, because if you try to mix this in your final container, it will make a mess and make everything oily and not presentable.

2. Add 6 Tablespoons of oil.

I bought a cheap olive oil especially for this project, but it turned out to be “Robust”, or very dark with a heavy olive oil scent. While dark oils may work for heavier, thicker scents like vanilla, it did not work for lighter, complex scents. Unless you want to smell like you came from a food fight at Olive Garden, choose a less pungent oil.

I went to my pantry and sniffed all my other oils. What I found was “vegetable oil” and cheap “canola oil” (rapeseed oil) smells absolutely awful. Do not use this. I wouldn’t go with corn oil either. I use flax-seed oil to season my cast iron. I am so “over” the smell from using it frequently, there was no way I was using this. Almond oil is a really nice choice, although it is expensive and hard to find in large quantities. Super high-quality canola oil (rapeseed oil) may be acceptable if you have no other use for it. I have Spectrum Organic Canola, but I didn’t have enough and it’s too pricey to justify using it in my opinion. If I was going to spend such a price, I’d opt for almond oil. Soybean oil might turn out ok, and it’s pretty cheap. Coconut oil will need to be melted, but it has a wonderful, light smell and will make your product hard: harder to scoop out and use, but possibly safer to mail. I mixed light olive oil and coconut oil with success. Mainly, I opted for the light-colored olive oil.

Robust Olive Oil and Light Olive Oil
Robust Olive Oil and Light Olive Oil

3. Add your scent! The amount you use will be based upon how strong your oil smells, and how strong you want your product to smell, as well as how much product you are using. Plan to use less oil or extract for stronger scents, and more for milder fragrances. For my half pints, I used about 1/2 teaspoon of alcohol-based extracts, and 30-50 drops of essential oils.

For scents, I tried:

  • Vanilla extract. Use the baking kind and make sure it’s the real stuff. This turned out beautifully, even with the Robust olive oil.
  • Lavender extract. Don’t make this mistake. Be sure to get lavender essential oil. The extract is more expensive and made with alcohol. It doesn’t smell strong enough and doesn’t mix well with the oils. I ended up mixing in a Tablespoon and a half of actual dried lavender flowers into each 1/2 pint which subtly tinted the light oil and smelled so much better. I also made a few with coconut oil, which are perfect for sending through the mail, as they are unlikely to leak.
  • Lavender and Vanilla combined did not work for me. The vanilla strongly overpowered the lavender, even when I switched to a lighter olive oil and barely added any vanilla. I think it would have worked if I had lavender essential oil and not extract. I ended up just calling these vanilla.
  • Almond extract, which was my favorite.
  • Eucalyptus essential oil. I thought this was a “manlier” option for people who didn’t like the girlier scents. I also ran out of old sugar so I used some salt with this too, and it came out smooth and wonderful. Very therapeutic if you are feeling ill, I would imagine.
  • Lemon essential oil. I mixed in light olive oil and Epsom salts and put it in an open ramekin near my kitchen sink. I am just in love with how clean it smells and how soft it leaves my hands.

4. Decide how long you are planning for this product to last. There is no water in it, just oil, so it will last until the oil goes rancid. You are not eating this product, just smelling it. I’m pretty sure rancid oils are only bad for your health if you consume them internally. Check out the “best by” date, if there is one, on the container of oil you are using. That refers to the date on which it is still in good condition if it is not opened. Rancidity occurs when a fat breaks down due to exposure to light, air, and time. I have never experienced rancid oils or nuts, and i’ve eaten and sniffed a lot of old ones, so I think you’re going to be fine. Just don’t plan on making a ton of Bath Scrub for your bomb shelter and expecting it to be in perfect condition in 40 years.

An option to possibly increase shelf life is to add a “natural” preservative. Read this article about Parabens and Preservatives, and as with everything, take it with a grain of salt.

If you choose to use tocopherol (vitamin E oil), add 1/2 teaspoon. In my experience, these awesome beauty products you are making won’t last long enough to warrant any additional preservatives past an essential oil or salt. What I have heard is 1/2 teaspoon of supplementary or beauty tocopherol per measured cup “works” to prolong your product’s shelf life. I don’t really think it matters what kind, whether its mixed-tocopherols or a specific one, or if its tocopherol acetate or any other form. If you have some in your home, use that. Don’t buy an expensive one. I suppose opt for one with the  most IUs (International Units) you can obtain.

While you’re at it, read the Vitamin E wiki. Turns out it’s really not good to take internally, although externally, it won’t hurt you.

I didn’t include grapefruit seed oil as a natural preservative after I did a little research. I don’t know of any natural, unadulterated sources of grapefruit seed oil so I don’t feel comfortable listing that as an option here. Read Grapefruit Seed Extract: What You Need to Know.

5. Stir! Mix everything together.

6. Carefully pour your scrub into your container. If your container has a lid, put the lid on.

7. Label your container for safety. List what the product is, the ingredients, and the “born on” date.

I used some old origami paper with a handwritten label and affixed it to my lids with clear packing tape. If this is too rustic for you, you could design and print out labels on your computer. Just remember the lid is going to get wet, so seal your label with something waterproof, like clear packing tape or possibly an earth-friendly sealer similar to Mod-Podge. Perhaps beeswax? It might get nicked and look crummy. Or, you could find some oak tag, pinking shears, calligraphy pen, hole punch, and raffia and tie a pretty label on. I recommend permanently affixing the label to the product, for safety’s sake, however. You never know whose babies might eat it and your recipient will need to give the information to poison control.

8. Some oils are sensitive to light, especially higher quality olive oils, so consider storing them in a dark or shady place.

9. Enjoy!

Lemon Epsom Salt Scrub

Tips:

  • Clean your area before you begin. This is a light-colored product so you don’t want dirt, debris, or cat hair getting into your batch.
  • Be careful not to cross-contaminate scents. Thoroughly wash your mixing bowl and spoon if you are making more than one scent.
  • Test some out on yourself before giving it away as a gift to make sure it’s not too oily or to dry or too strong-smelling.
  • Keep your receipts so you can total up how much these cost you to make. If you are prudent, the savings are huge over any commercial and less healthful product!

Did you try my Sugar (or Salt) Scrub recipe? How did it go for you? If you have any recommendations or insight on what worked well for you, email me.

How to Save Big Money on your Electricity Bill

Wise and progressive people are both environmentally-friendly as well as frugal. I suppose because these two concepts marry the ideas of recycling, reducing, and re-purposing.

At each rental property I have lived in, one of the first things I did was switch all the old incandescent bulbs the place “came with” to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

It made me feel confident that my electric bill would be about a third the price of what it would have been if I didn’t switch bulbs, and it also made me feel good knowing that when I left the place, I’d leave the new tenants with money-saving, environmentally-friendly light bulbs. Compact fluorscents last 9-16 years, but I hope that someday if a bulb goes out, the next “owner” will be more likely to replace it with the same thing.

When I visited my parents home around Christmas, I noticed how many lights were left on in rooms people were not in, as well as the sheer volume of bulbs in that house. And, my parents always raised us kids on “always turn out the light when you leave a room.” I guess that idealism has slipped a bit in their empty nest.

Slightly miffed, (energy-sucking hypocrites!) I went around the house and counted the number and type of bulbs. This included lamps, overhead lights, oven, refrigerator, and garage door opener lights, as well as bulbs in the attic, basement, closets, and outdoors.

I did not count lights that were not in use, like old, unplugged lamps, holiday decorations, or lights in other buildings, like the cabana, gazebo, and pool pump house.

I approached my parents separately and asked them to guess how many lights they have in their house, and how many were currently on.

My mom guessed 49 lights total, with five on.

My dad guessed 30 lights with three on.

They have 121 light bulbs plugged in and available for use in their house. 67 are normal bulbs, 34 are “flame” bulbs (they like their colonial charm), 12 are indoor recessed lighting spotlights,  5 are outdoor floodlights, 2 are small bulbs and they have just 1 mini-flame.

At the time, 19 light bulbs were on.

This is sick!

So, I knew then and there just what they were getting for Christmas.

Santa came with loads of presents: for my parents. Boxes and boxes begged to be opened, their contents yearning to be played with. Usually, they enjoy watching my sister and I open our gifts, but this year, the spotlight was on them. Santa brought them thirteen boxes of compact fluorescent light bulbs, amounting to 64 “regular” CFL bulbs. Because nothing says “I care about your carbon footprint” like the gift of Compact Fluorescents. Previously, I had bought them a pack of CFL spotlights since a few went out, unnoticed. But this would be a sea-change, a huge hit, replacing almost all the regular bulbs.

Because this was my idea, I spent a good portion of Christmas afternoon unscrewing and screwing in bulbs until my wrist ached.

“Save the old ones in case these go out,” my dad suggested. Bull-shit I will. Those things went straight to the recycling bin.

Even with a freezing January, necessitating the use both of the furnace as well as multiple space heaters and much more indoor activity, the savings to their following  bill was immense.

Besides the “green factor” and the long life of CFLs, my favorite thing about these fancy bulbs is that you can put as bright a bulb as you want in any socket. This is because the 19 Watt CFLs are comparable in lumens to a 100 watt incandescent. There is almost no way you can put too high a wattage CFL bulb in, because the watts just don’t go that high. You can make your home as bright as you like.

I also love that there are different “color temperatures” offered. Go to Home Depot and check out the live display. You can get cool, bluish lights or very warm, yellowy lights, depending on the mood you want to create.

Additionally, these bulbs are very safe around children because they don’t get hot like incandescents. They get a little warm, but you can absolutely touch them while they are on.

I vividly remember the first time I touched an incandescent! I was about six or seven and touched a peach-colored crayon to the bulb of the lamp on my nightstand. When I attempted to wipe off the melted way, boy, did my finger turn pink then white fast. It was a bad burn that I will never forget. I am glad my future spawn will never have to learn that lesson.

See if your state is running any special funding or promotions for compact fluorescent light bulbs. Recently the Connecticut Energy commission had a grant where light bulbs at Walmart were deeply discounted. Yes, I know how bad it is to shop there, but this was worth it: a pack of four 19 watt (comparable to 100 watt brightness) were $3.78, and four 14 watt bulbs (as bright as a 60 watt) were $0.76! Often, just one CFL bulb cost $9-$15, so if you have a program like this, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity and load up while you can.

Have you switched your home or office to CFLs? How much did you save? Have you had one burn out yet? I’d love to hear about your experiences: Missy@melissamiko.com

 

How to Make an Air Filter for Central Air Vents

My concerns about indoor air quality led me to investigate a number of natural, healthy options to clean up my air.

Read: Homemade Air Freshener.

Because I am scared of changing the furnace filter, I considered making filters to put inside the central air ducting vents in rooms I use the most.

In my research, I learned that baking soda really does work for absorbing odors.

Natural fabrics such as cotton and wool (think: using an old wool sweater) are also pretty good passive air filters. Activated carbon is different from grilling charcoal.

Activated carbon has been oxidized and is clean (you can eat it) giving it an immense surface area that attracts and captures impurities. Charcoal is not oxidized, processed with pretty toxic chemicals (unless you buy the natural stuff or make it yourself), and just makes a mess. It won’t do the trick.

HEPA means High-Efficiency Particulate Air, and is a medical-grade filter that has extremely small “holes”, capturing impurities by not allowing them to pass through.

I did end up purchasing a HEPA air purifier. I chose the Honeywell 17000 and I love it.

A note on Air Purifiers: actually measure and calculate the square footage of the room you plan to put it in. Don’t estimate. Buy one that can handle a little more square footage. Be sure to buy one with a HEPA filter. The box should say “True HEPA”. If it says “HEPA-Type”, you will be wasting your money. Might as well turn on a fan.

Anyway, much to my delight, my air purifier came with an activated carbon/charcoal pre-filter that the new owner must install. I think this is because the activated carbon must be changed every month or so, while the main HEPA filter lasts 1-3 years, so they want to make sure you can and will actually remember to do it.

So the activated carbon filter had quite an overlap, which inspired me to make my own air filter for a central air vent. Even though I have the air purifier, I hope this will work doubly good as well as save energy so I can run my purifier less, and also extend the main filter’s life.

The activated carbon pre-filter is a black, clean by charcoal-y long rectangle that is meant to be wrapped around the outsider of the cylindrical main filter. Mine overlapped by about 14 inches. My central air vent is 4 x 12 inches, so I cut it down to just the size I need.

You can easily buy these activated carbon filters at Sear’s, Lowe’s, or Home Depot. Mine happens to be Honeywell Pre-filter “A”, but I’m sure any comparable product will work.

Commercial vent filters like the one I am making actually exist, but this good fortune occurred before I had the chance to run to Home Depot to look for such a product. Twelve Cheapie Vent Register Filters & Nine Feet of Pricey Vent Filter.

So, I’ve got my 4 x 12 inch activated carbon pre-filter. I considered sewing a two pocketed sack with two layers being cotton and the top wool, and putting the activated carbon sheet in the “bottom” pocket and loading some baking soda in the “top” pocket.

Homemade central air filter diagram

I didn’t end up going all the way, but I bet this would work great.

What I did do was take an “allergen filtration” vacuum bag I found and cut a 4 x 12 rectangle out of it.

Make Vent Air Filter

Now, considering how a vacuum works and which side the sucking and filtering would need to be on, and which side the clean air blowing out would be on, I layered my activated Carbon pre-filter on “top”, so it would be the first thing the furnace air hits. Then I put the vacuum bag “in-side” up, so that the direction the air is blowing is the same as it would be in a vacuum.

Homemade Central Air Vent Filter

The pieces were just a little larger than the vent hole, which was perfect because I could “catch” the edges of the carbon filter and vacuum bag when I screwed the vent back on so any air coming out of the vent would be forced through.

 Homemade Central Air Vent Filter

This filter is working great so far! All I smell is fresh air coming out of my vent. The heat still blows in just as effectively, too.

Now, I’m a big advocate of using what you have on hand. If you have vacuum bags that don’t fit any of your working vacuums, this is a perfect way to re-purpose them.

Likewise, perhaps you have leftover clean aquarium filter medium or activated charcoal supplement capsules lying around. I’d say, make or find a little sack and dump some in!

Did you try making an air filter? How did it go for you? Did you incorporate any other ideas I didn’t include here? Tell me: Missy@melissa.miko.com

 

How to Make Homemade Air Freshener Spray

First, here’s my story that led me on my Odyssey to clean household air: I spend a lot of time at home; naturally, since I work here and live here.

January in Connecticut can get very cold, and in single digit weather plus wind chill, opening a window for fresh air isn’t an option.

Someone in my domicile has taken to smoking his cigars in the basement while making fishing lures (man-crafts), rather than outdoors or at the marina as is the norm in warmer weather. Also housed in the basement is our furnace. The central air system we have recycles some of the heated air through intake vents from various areas of the house, but also uses filtered basement air, in addition to humidifying the air from down there. Well, that furnace filter hasn’t been changed yet this year, and the furnace scares me too much to try it myself yet (I feel like the kid from home alone when faced with that thing).

scary furnace from home alone

So here I have cigar-scent coming through the central air. Normally, I don’t mind the smell of a good cigar. I’ve been known to partake myself. But it’s not what I want to constantly smell every evening and weekend; not in my home.

Due to health concerns, I have sworn off commercial chemical air fresheners. I threw out my Febreeze, my peony-scented spray that sits upon my porcelain throne, my favorite woodsy pine spray, my Italian linen fabric freshener and even my L’Occitane home scent collection.

I have also dumped all commercial, scented candles. Donated my Yankee Candle jars, candley gifts I’ve accumulated over the years, and almost all chemically-scented candles. I say almost, because I know I haven’t found them all. I’ve only kept unscented tea lights, a natural soy candle from my friend’s old business, the remnants of commercial lamp oil still in my hurricane lamps (I’m switching to olive oil), and of course, my natural, beeswax candles.

So my options in clearing up this dreadful pollution in my home are limited. This was when I came across some recipes for natural air fresheners.

Following, are my tried and true favorites to eliminate that musty, smokey smell.

Homemade Spray Air Freshener

Assemble the following:

  • Spray bottle
  • Distilled water, RO water, or tap water boiled for an hour to evaporate the chlorine. If you are in a pinch, use spring water, or even regular old tap water.
  • Essential oil of your choice. I found “sharp” scents most effective, such as lemon or fir essential oil. Other good choices are lavender, tea tree, grapefruit, orange or peppermint. Note: the peppermint actually repels fleas. And people, if your mixture is too strong! Alternately, use whatever oil you have on hand or even a natural massage oil. You cold grate the peel of a citrus fruit into your bottle or use lemon or grapefruit juice, but use it within four days or it will get gross. I haven’t tried it, but you could also use pure vanilla extract, just don’t spray it directly on light fabrics as it could spot them.

Instructions:

1. Decide how much air spritzer you want. If you have a large 32 ounce bottle, just make a little bit. If you have a tiny bottle, plan to fill it almost to the top, leaving room for the sprayer straw and assembly. This  may seem obvious, but this is an important consideration due to the cost and amount of essential oil you may have on hand, and I know how hard it is to think straight when you are overwhelmed by nausea due to an awful smell.

2. Fill your bottle up with 3 parts water.

3. Add 1 part chosen essential oil or scent.

Optional: I have found recipes that also add 1 part distilled white vinegar to this. Unless you love the smell of vinegar, skip this. It works, maybe even adds some efficacy, but you can definitely smell the vinegar for longer than you will smell the pleasant essential oil. Do not try any vinegar except the distilled white vinegar used for cleaning and coloring Easter eggs, or you will have an even worse smell on your hands.

4. Label your bottle for safety: what it is (Air Freshener) and what is in it (3 parts distilled water and 1 part lemon essential oil).

5. Shake the bottle vigorously, now and before every use, especially if you are mixing oil and water.

6. Spray liberally, high in the air. Again, don’t douse fabric with this; it does contain oil. A tiny bit or falling airborne droplets will absolutely not hurt or stain anything. The scent lasts 15-20 minutes, but it leaves the air fresher for much longer afterwards.

Did you try this recipe? How did it work for you? Got a recipe or ingredients of your own you’d like me to post? Let me know: Missy@MelissaMiko.com