Melissa Miko

Jan 032016
 

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!

 Posted by on January 3, 2016 at 8:47 pm Uncategorized
Dec 172014
 

October 2014 marked the launch of yet another social network, called Tsu.
Pronounced “sue”, Tsu at first appears to be a fly-by-night, get-rich-quick at the expense of other scheme, when it is actually the opposite!

Tsu is user-owned, just like a co-op. It works by directed advertising – collectivelly and intelligently mapping what your followers interest are, and returning a percentage – I believe 90 percent – of  advertising back to the original users – you. Sounds a little “big brother”? Guess what: that is already what has been happening, mondo style. Only you have no chance of a piece of the pie. Guess what else? People actually like shopping online! And how nice is it, that we don’t have to see endless ads for Viagra and Ashley Madison but actually get ads regarding stuff we might want?

I believe the undeserved “get rich quick” image will be their greatest barrier to entry, until people figure out the business model, and learn for themselves it’s actually like a hippie dippy co-op, a positive community and chance to be part of something mildly productive, too.

Following, I’ll describe why I decided to join, and how it’s going.

I kept seeing my friend and neighbor posting links to join Tsu, which is invite – only. I thought it sounded intriguing, and as I briefly read more about it, I decided to spend the 2 minutes it took to get the app and sign up. I love their user-friendly interface, which is both straightforward and logical. I easily linked Tsu to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so when I post on Tsu, it automatically posts to those three networks without me having to repost to share with all my friends.

So it’s true: you can make money on Tsu. Once your account reaches $100, you can request a check from the company, or spend your boku bucks with one of their advertising clients on products at a discount. Keep in mind that Tsu is relatively fresh, but has a strong backer and will only get better and more integrative with time. I personally, have made a little money, but it’s been a month for me and I’ve put only about 30 seconds of effort into inviting friends and making my stream marketable, so I haven’t hit $100 yet.

I think the BEST part of Tsu is not the likeable interface, nor the easy ability to actually make a little money, but your RIGHTS. Unlike Facebook, with Tsu, YOU own your material that you post. Totally takes the creep out of it, and my feeling is TSU has that individual, almost myspace-user-y feel to it. Like you don’t need to live in fear that our account will be banned forever because you posted a photo of you breastfeeding your child of a dog’s butt or something loco. Tsu gives you the rights, the freedom, and the ability to sustain! It is the New Hampshire of social media, and I am glad I made the move.

Shameless plug: want to join me? It’s free, and you have nothing to lose:https://www.tsu.co/missymiko

 Posted by on December 17, 2014 at 3:13 am Uncategorized
Dec 052014
 
image

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.

 Posted by on December 5, 2014 at 4:49 am Uncategorized
Dec 052014
 
image

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!

 Posted by on December 5, 2014 at 4:28 am Uncategorized
Feb 162014
 

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.

 Posted by on February 16, 2014 at 7:15 am Uncategorized
Feb 042013
 

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.

 Posted by on February 4, 2013 at 2:45 pm Healthful Living, Recipes Tagged with: , , , ,
Jan 272013
 
CFL

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

 

Jan 272013
 

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

 

 Posted by on January 27, 2013 at 2:34 am Healthful Living, Nature and Earth Tagged with: , ,
Jan 272013
 
Homemade Air Freshener

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

 

 Posted by on January 27, 2013 at 12:47 am Healthful Living, Nature and Earth, Recipes, Self-Improvement Tagged with: , ,
Jan 202013
 

Whether you’re going through hormonal hell like I am right now, or just made some really, really bad food choices, if you are reading this, my guess is that you are feeling more backed up than all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuck in a sewer.

I am not a doctor, and the following can not be construed as medical or professional advice. These are simply remedies for constipation I have personally tried and that have worked for me, and also some that I have not tried but have been recommended. Poop at your own risk!

lower gastro intestinal tract

Important tip: If you plan to try any of these “cures”, plan on staying home for the next six to eight hours.

Before you begin:

  • Make sure you have easy access to a bathroom that will not be occupied and will be free for your use over the next eight hours. If you share a bathroom with other people, let them know what is going on.  Try, “Hey, I’ve be having a hard time lately, and I’ve been miserable. I really need access to the can today. Will you help me out in making sure it is available in case I have an emergency?” If your bathroom is a long ways from where you will be waiting for your “cures” to work (your bedroom or your living room in front of the TV), try “setting up shop” on the same floor and as close as possible to the bathroom. Be sure there is nothing in the way between you and that porcelain throne: pick up the floor, open all doors, and put the toilet lid up and the seat down.
  • Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper in your bathroom. Magazines, a charged tablet, and/or lighthearted, humorous books are a bonus. Wet-Ones and a glass of water may be nice amenities too.
  • If you are trying more than one cure at once, make sure you have all the supplies. Go to the store or collect materials from around your house beforehand.
  • Have something relatively stationary to do to pass the time that will help you relax and take your mind off your situation when The End is Nigh. Some ideas: light reading, journal to write or doodle in, art supplies, a puzzle, a computer, movies, TV, knitting, paperwork, homework, organizing, high fiber foods, lots of water to drink in the meantime.

Cures and Quick Fixes:

1. Dulcolax. This is a commercial over-the-counter drug available at the pharmacy, grocery store, and maybe even gas station (haha…gas). Dulcolax is specifically for this purpose. As far as dosing, three is the magic number for me, and usually produces a fine gem within two hours.  This is a great one-time cure, and certainly a product to have on hand in your medicine cabinet for you or your loved ones before disaster strikes. However, it is not recommended for continuous or long-term use. So if there is no end in sight to your suffering, try this or one of these quick fix cures, and get busy on long-term solutions (below).

dulcolax box

2. Senna. It sounds like a beautiful girl’s name, but senna is actually a plant, that, when processed into capsules or tablets, creates a product should get your colon back on track. Senna is natural, and for me it works equally as well as Dulcolax, which really makes it an attractive option. Again however, it is great for the occasional bout of constipation, but not intended for long-term use.

box of senna tablets for constipation

3. Coffee (caffeine). If you are not a coffee drinker, you can buy caffeine pills at your pharmacy (NoDoz or similar), try your hand at brewing a cup, or go to a coffee house such as Coffee Bean, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or where ever a cup of java is to be found. Make sure you make or purchase real, caffeinated coffee. Not powdery coffee-flavored mix, not mocha-chocolate-whip-whatever, not decaffeinated coffee. You need real, plain, actual, caffeinated coffee. Sure, you can add sugar and milk or whatever, but make sure you are drinking coffee and not some commercial, chemically-flavored drink. It is the caffeine that stimulates you to go to the bathroom, so obviously make sure you don’t order decaf. If you are a coffee drinker, time to bump up the dose! Try a shot or more of espresso. Make sure you drink plenty of water as well to stay hydrated. For maximum results, skip the whip, and substitute soy or rice milk for cream or cow’s milk, since dairy can contribute to constipation.

cup of coffee

4. Oil. This one can get messy, but it will work if done correctly. I tried it for a cleanse, and it worked in three hours. Really worked. I was totally cleansed out. Get some kind of quality, edible oil such as olive oil or walnut oil. Get some saltine crackers. Get your clock out. Every half hour, drink 1/4 cup of oil, or a little more if you can  bear it. Chase it with a few crackers. Ginger chews, which are candies made with real ginger or candied ginger, which is slabs of dried ginger coated in sugar, might also help make this remedy easier to stomach. These are available at most health food stores. Side note for tummy troubles: 99% of store-bought ginger ales don’t actually contain ginger, and if they do, it is such a tiny amount nowadays, this Old Wive’s remedy is sadly outdated. In total, drink 1 1/2 – 2 cups of oil. You can eat saltines and ginger in between your oil-drinking. Once you commit, follow through, because you don’t want your oil-drinking efforts to be in vain. Maybe it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be, but it’s one of the more heavy-duty options.

bottle of california walnut oil

5. Salt Water. This remedy originates from The Master Cleanse. Get a pint glass, fill it with spring water or reverse osmosis water (basically just quality water, not city water or treated tap water). Heat it up until it is a little hotter than you take your tea. For me, this is barely boiling on the stove, or two and a half minutes in the microwave. Be careful not to burn yourself! Next, stir in two heaping Tablespoons of salt. Table salt works best, iodized or not. If you have sea salt, you are going to want the salt to dissolve in the hot water, so grind it perhaps, or just stir really well. When it reaches a temperature comfortable to drink, drink it as fast as possible. Now realize, that as fast as possible might mean within half an hour. Just do your best. If you have high blood pressure or other salt-related issues, obviously skip this remedy. For me, this worked within the hour.

pint glass with I  Pooped Today logo

6. Psyllium fiber or Metamucil. Both Psyllium and Metamucil work in the same way, the difference is that psyllium, a plant fiber, is more natural but may be trickier to find (Trader Joe’s has a great product for a low price), and Metamucil is a commercial product complete with “drug” facts and dye, but is easily attainable at the 24-hour Walmart or local corner store. Either follow the directions liberally, or try my ratios. Mix two tablespoons of psyllium fiber in half a pint glass of your favorite juice. Pick a juice you can drink fast, because this stuff is going to gel up and expand in a few minutes. That’s how the magic happens. Orange juice or apple juice are good choices. Prune juice would be wise. Grapefruit juice or cranberry juice (not that cocktail crap) might be a little harsh to chug,  but suit yourself. Once you drink that, take a  breather, and when you can, 10, 20, 30  minutes later, repeat. The reason I am recommending that you mix up small doses and drink that before mixing up more is because once it absorbs the juice and gels up, it gets pretty gnarly to drink. You want that action to happen in your stomach or intestines, not your mouth. Metamucil is usually flavored, so it is meant to be added to water. Again, use a quality water that will be easy on your stomach, nothing chemically treated. Metamucil takes longer to gel and expand, so you can add three heaping tablespoons to half a pint glass of water and drink it as fast as possible. You may want to repeat this two or three more times with the Metamucil. This might take 5 or more hours, but it will help.

  trader-joes-psyllium-fiber-husk-digestive-supplement                            metamucil bottle

7. Light exercise. Go for a 20 – 30 minute brisk walk, or do 25 – 75 crunches. Stretch. Don’t overdo it, because exercising too much elicits your fight or flight response and shuts down your digestive system temporarily.

pretty young woman power walking with maltese dog in a hip pouch carrier

8. Indulge in the slightest urge. Get to the bathroom at the slightest feeling that you might actually go. Constipation can result in habitually holding it, so you need to retrain your body, even if temporarily, that it will have it’s golden opportunity when nature comes a callin’.

stormtrooper on toilet

9. A stool for stool. Get a small step stool, or a similar little box you can put your feet on when you’re on the pot. For some reason, planting your feet on a box that is six to eight inches higher than the ground when you are on the toilet really puts your body in an optimal position to poop. It sounds silly, but it makes a world of difference! A child’s step stool, old printer, or stack of books, small Rubbermaid bin, or anything in similar size can mean the difference between success and disappointment.

rustic wooden step stool with a coffee mug placed on it

10. Glycerin Suppositories or an Enema. That goes where? This one I haven’t tried on myself, but we have used it on newborn horses to make sure their waste gets flowing out after the placenta is no longer doing that duty. Once poop goes through the intestines, when it approaches the rectum, it can kind of dry out and get hard if  it is not expelled. This can really plug you up and cause a traffic jam, especially if you have healthy bowel movements waiting behind it. I analogize this to the head of a python getting stuck in a hole where the skinnier body cannot follow. If this is permitted to happen, it will be very painful to push out. A glycerin suppository or enema can be inserted into the rectum to soften up this “head of the snake”, making it easier to get going and more comfortable to push out. Follow the instructions and always use clean hands or a sterile glove.

albino cream and red colored baby Burmese Python head and neck      glycerin-suppository

11. Anal sex. Nothing arouses peristasis quite like putting something up there that “shouldn’t” be up there. The thought of participating in this very intimate activity in order to achieve a very personal result might be too gross for you, but for those in need and who have previous experience, you know what I’m talking about. Relax, try it, have fun. Afterwards, get to thy throne.

sexy nurse from enema of the state album

12. Sauerkraut. There have been times when I’ve referred to sauerkraut as an explosive food. I love it so much, one time I bought a pint of Valley Gourmet Fresh Sauerkraut and ate the whole thing in one sitting. Let’s just say I was the opposite of constipated that night. My other favorite brand is Aunt Bubbie’s Sauerkraut. I buy sauerkraut from health food stores. I really disdain the stuff found at most regular super markets that comes in a bag or can. How gross! I would never touch that. If you don’t think you like sauerkraut and have never tried the good stuff, get ready for a world of difference. If you love sauerkraut, consider investing in a crock and making it yourself for the future.

alexander-valley-fresh-sauerkraut-healthy       aunt-Bubbies-sauerkraut

13. Smooth Move Tea. Traditional Medicinals makes this mild laxative tea. Brew it strong, because it is gentle, but sometimes works.

smooth-move-laxative-tea-constipation-cure

14. Colon Cleanse. I’m not talking about pills or products you can buy, actually go see a specialist who performs colon cleanses! This does require you to schedule your appointment ahead of time. Usually the person performing the colon cleanse is a very nice, earthy person. Think of her or him as a Doula for your bowels. It typically costs $80-$100, at least for the first session. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I really want to. I have a very macho friend who got on a health kick. He was the last person I could picture willingly allowing anything to come near his butt, but he went to a very nice, spiritual older lady for a colon cleanse, and came out with a glow on his face like he had been touched by an angel. Afterward, he wasn’t shy at all about recommending it to his biker friends, family, or anyone who would listen. Alternately, my mom did this while she was in her second trimester of pregnancy and said the pressure of the water was uncomfortable, especially coupled with already needing relief, compounded by the pressure of the baby. So I guess it depends. Before you go, your colon cleanse professional may tell you to drink lots of water and consume salads or be vegetarian the day before your appointment. You will go, get comfortable probably on a medical- or massage-style table, and have some humorous small talk with your colon cleanse professional in a welcoming, warm environment. Once you are mentally prepared, he or she will guide a small-diameter hose “up there” a little ways, and then the flush may commence! Water will flow into your body for a few minutes, and then your professional will allow the water and all the gunk it loosened up to flow out through the tube and into an enclosed container, I believe, so it’s not like it will be loose or you will smell it. Personally, I think this is fascinating and would like to see this! A few minutes after removing the tube, you will probably have to use the private bathroom. From what I’ve heard, bring your camera! What happens in there may need to be seen to be believed. This option might be too graphic for you, but I find it very interesting. Hey, you’re paying a nice chunk of change for this, so you might as well get the full experience and see the amazing result.

colon-cleanse-beautiful-feel-good

15. Triple Shot of Wheatgrass Juice. Especially if you don’t usually go for the wheatgrass juice after yoga class or slack lining or whatever you do, if you are a wheatgrass virgin or don’t habitually drink it, this might just be the cure for you. Anywhere there is food where you have seen little pallets of grass growing behind the counter is where you want to be. Fresh pressed wheatgrass can be found at Jamba juice, Robeks, or any local juice bar.  Also check out your local Whole Foods Market or other health food supermarket, as they often times have wheatgrass at their deli/cafe/bakery. You may have to travel to a nearby city or college town to get your dose. If you have a wheatgrass press or juicer that can process wheatgrass (not all properly can), you can grow it and do it yourself. Wheatgrass is actually strangely tasty, and take a few shots and this can be a very potent constipation remedy. Because most people obtain wheatgrass shots when they are out and about, make sure this is your last stop if you are out running errands and can get home quickly, or hang out at the local library for an hour or two so it can work.

two shots of wheat grass with orange slices

 

Long Term Relief:

1. Eat Fiber. Anything you can recognize as coming from a plant probably has fiber. Dried fruits are full of concentrated fiber, and not just prunes. Try dried apricots and dates too. Any kind of whole food – something that you can recognize as coming from the earth – will help get your intestines on track. Spinach, or any kinds of greens, carrots with the skin on, and apples are all high fiber choices. You can choose orange juice with pulp. Fresh squeezed is best, but Tropicana’s Most Pulp is readily available. Just make sure its not from concentrate. Also consider prune juice. Think of it as gourmet dried plum juice. Eating real oatmeal with fruit for breakfast is a great habit to start. Be sure to get rolled oats or steel cut oats, NOT that crap from a baggie that is mixed with sugar and flavoring. Coach’s Oats are a staple in my life, and can be purchased from the Coach’s Oats website or at some Costco stores.

bag of coach's oats oatmeal

2. Drink Water. Lots of it, all the time, for the rest of your life. You will be a better person.

3. Don’t eat meat. Meat is the best way to block you up and make you constipated all the time. For some people, this might include fish, as canned tuna is known to contribute to constipation.

4. Don’t eat dairy. Or at least limit it. Cheese is the worst culprit of constipation, and cultured yogurt in moderation might negate the effect of dairy or even help remedy your constipation. Try soy or vegan yogurt in order to avoid dairy. Sheep milk and goat milk yogurt may also be better options. Don’t fall for that Activa or any marketing crap about how great Greek yogurt is. It’s no better or worse than normal commercial yogurt.

5. Consume Probiotics. Foods with probiotics are cultured or fermented foods where beneficial bacteria has been allowed to grow. This includes yogurt, including soy and vegan yogurts, kefir (goat’s milk yogurt),  sauerkraut, kimchee,  miso soup with lots of miso, and kombucha (a slightly carbonated drink that tastes like apple cider vinegar). You can also buy probiotic pills, just make sure you are buying quality. Check the date, and usually if they must be refrigerated, they are of higher potency and quality than those that are not. One of my favorite probiotic products is Bio-K. It can be found in the refrigerated section of your health food store. Bio-K is dairy, but it is delicious and tangy and definitely helps settle stomachs and get the flow moving.

bio-k probiotic bottle

6. Exercise. Walk 30 minutes each morning, five to six days a week, for the rest of your life. Commit to taking care of yourself and honoring your body and its ancient tried and true systems.

7. Do not take pain killers. If you are on opioid-type painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Norco, Lorcet,  any of their generics, or morphine, you need to explore other options. These will cause severe constipation. If you truly need these drugs for pain management, constipation is probably the least of your worries. If you are taking them long term and don’t have a life-threatening disorder and aren’t on hospice, no offense, but find another doctor and get help. These pills are bad, bad news. If you are taking these drugs or heroin recreationally, again, constipation is now an issue you can put on the back burner. Please get help. You can die and it will hurt those that love you. I personally know young people who have died from this. It is such a preventable and unnecessary heartbreak. Enlist a friend or someone you trust to support you in seeking treatment. Here are some resources: Painkiller Addiction Helpline, Narcotics Anonymous, Nar-Anon.

 

More Advice:

  • If you are pregnant and/or your constipation is caused by hormonal fluctuations and increases, don’t wait for the pipes to start moving and think you are home free. There is no telling when this will end. First off, talk to a doctor. Don’t put your unborn kid’s life in my hands, but I’d say, try a one-hit-wonder to get immediate relief, then make it a priority to follow all the long-term remedies.
  • If you have some kind of disease or digestive disorder, please talk to your doctor, chiropractor or a naturopathic physician. This also applies if you are concerned about your ostomy, if you just had surgery and were given a shot of pain killers or are recovering from anesthesia.
  • If bouts of constipation result from poor food choices and bad eating habits, enlist the help of a nutritionist.
  • Do not stick anything up there that does not belong. This include a spoon, coat hanger, rebar or small gauge wire (yes my sister who is a nurse actually saw this), small animal, anything dirty, or anything that could pierce through your rectum. If you pierce from where poop is or should be, into your body cavity, you can become septic and die. So don’t risk it no matter how uncomfortable you are.
  • If you are reading this because you think these cures will help you lose weight, you are better off adjusting your diet and exercise to accomplish this. If you really want to get cleaned out, consider a colon cleanse. The large intestine can hold 2-25 pounds of fecal matter. Remember, fecal matter is not just digested food you ate, but it is also water that needs to stay in your body to make your skin nice and keep your energy up, but also liver cells and waste. A skinny, slim, or athletic person who eats healthfully daily probably carries 2-5 pounds of poop. If you are anorexic, bulimic, or have a condition where you can’t eat or hold down food, it might be less than half a pound to 4 pounds. Again, remember your body is going to expel old blood cells from your liver and try to keep your intestines alive by hydrating them with water. This website is not going to help you. Please seek help, or continue to seek the help of a professional if this might refer to you. Now, a word on laxative abuse. Constantly being obsessed with pooping because you ate food is totally counter intuitive. Your body still digests the food before it comes out the other end, taking with it calories form fats and carbs/sugar. Even if you speed it up by abusing laxatives, this is really ineffective and if you continue, you will get horrible, painful, ugly, icky hemorrhoids. Do you want to know what your cute little cheerleader butt will look like? Google it. Hemorroids are even too gross for Sicko Miko.
  • You can actually vomit poop if you are really backed up, especially if it is caused by a blockage you didn’t know  you had. My sister is an RN and has stories about people projectile-vomiting doo-doo. It’s not pretty. If you have been constipated and vomit, and it smells awful, call 911, get someone to drive you, or somehow get to a hospital. Some hospitals have a feature on their website where you can sign in before you come, see the wait time, and “schedule” when you will be seen in the ER. You are not a priority unless bodily fluids are spilled in the ER waiting room. Think about that one. I am in no way recommending you injure or embarrass yourself publicly, but just FYI.
  • Don’t be embarrassed. Everybody poops.
  • Play it safe. Get help, get professional advice, don’t wait.

Good luck. I hope you get moving soon.

 Posted by on January 20, 2013 at 3:17 am Healthful Living Tagged with: