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:
Dec 102012
 
beautiful woman silhouette dancing on beach sunset

Feeling good is all about enlightenment. Whether you seek perfection, or just a positive change to your life, the progression “upwards” is more of a life-long meditation than a journey to a final goal. There are many ways to feel good about yourself and the actions you take. Here are 10 of my favorites:

1. Remember your re-useable shopping bags when you go into a store. Grab more re-useable bags than you think you need. If you have two or less, make the investment and buy a few more. Some places even offer them for free as a promotion.  Alternately, if you are only buying a few items, just carry them out (make sure you get your receipt so it doesn’t look like you are walking out without paying!) Or put them in your pockets, purse, or backpack.

2. Be nice to a creature you don’t especially care for. Whether this means picking a worm off the sidewalk and putting him on the grass or smiling at OPC (Other People’s Children), it will make you feel like a better human being.

3. Use washable food and beverage containers. Invest in some glass or BPA- free plastic  Tupperware and water bottles. Don’t use paper plates, paper cups, or plastic utensils. For storing food, baggies are a no-no (unless you are really earthy and wash them, although I don’t know how sanitary that is in the long run), as is aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Likewise, don’t grab a fistful of napkins every time you go to Panera. Just take what you need, even if  you have messy kids, because you know 90% of those napkins are going to be stashed, crumpled, and unused until you deem them old and ratty enough to throw out so you can get cleaner, newer, nicely folded napkins.

man hand holding saved baby bird

4. Take the time to find out what items your waste management company recycles. This goes for home and work. Look it up online, see if it is printed on the recycling container, or make a quick call. Separate trash that is recyclable from that which is not. You’ll probably be surprised how much is recyclable!

If your area offers a refund on glass, plastic, and aluminum beverage containers, separate these out too. If you don’t care to cash them in yourself, give them to an avid recycler, a homeless person, or you could offer them to a local nonprofit.

5. Turn off lights/unnecessary appliances when you leave a room, and if you live with other people, encourage them to do the same. Nothing is worse than coming into a house with every light and TV on, when no one is even home.

Better yet, switch all your incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. This can be an investment, and while it’s not as pricey as you may think, figure out how many bulbs and of what kind you need and make a budget and execute it, if you need to do this over time. Make a list. Include chandeliers, bulbs in the attic and basement, bulbs on appliances, and outdoor lighting. You will be astounded how much your electricity consumption goes down!

Earth Mother: Circular psychedelic image of a Woman breathing out sky, laying in the sea, with rainbow sun rays and land in the background

6. Support a local business owner. Whether it’s a quaint gift shop, a farmer’s market, or a sandwich stand that makes artisan breads, give your money to your local economy and keep it close.

7. Insist on a “TV turnoff week”. Don’t try it, do it. It’s not that hard, and if you feel like it’s hard, I pity you. What an empty life you have and you don’t even know it! Whether you live alone or with others, this is a great way to have a lot more fun connecting with other people. That may mean playing battleship one night, socializing with friends another, completing a project, or finally reading that book you’ve been thinking about.

8. Look a stranger in the eyes and smile. Say hello if the opportunity presents its self. Try this with a neighbor who is out walking, someone at a traffic light, or someone in line next to you at the market. You never know how someone’s day is going or how many unfriendly, blank stares they got. Just be nice! It’s free.

9. The next time you go to make a negative judgement on someone, whether to yourself or a friend, don’t. I don’t care if you see a 14 year-old with a baby or a lady that weighs 700 pounds and her butt crack is exposed or a guy with the most epic uni-brow you have ever seen. Think of something nice you notice about them. It doesn’t matter if you say it in your head, to your friend, or even to that person. Stop the negative, defensive, judgmental thinking. This habit will make you much more satisfied with your own life.

10. Go for a walk outside. Not a run, not a bike ride, not to the gym, and not a lap around the mall. Only about 20% of this one has to do with exercise. It’s more about observation, and awareness of your community and surroundings. Notice that your neighbors painted their shutters, or the new boat in the harbor, or all the cardinals that come out in December to look for berries. Get connected and make it a habit to actually live life in real-time, rather than through MSNBC or People Magazine or Facebook. Be that person doing things, seeing things, and experiencing life.

black and white photo of a man's hand holding out a daisy

If you try some of these, and I sincerely hope you do, think about getting in the habit of channel Benjamin Franklin, and every morning, ask yourself, “What good can I do today?”

 

Dec 092012
 
Seven police officers dressed in black SWAT gear with helmets and rifles at the front door of a house with a white picket fence

In support of the police: I have friends and friend’s family members who are police and who are very good people. I want to give them ultimate respect and appreciation for putting their lives on the line and performing such a necessary civic duty. I recognize that there is a lot of pressure put on the police to get quantifiable results, and that they are always in the spotlight.

However, just as there are unethical and possibly even malicious doctors, teachers, coaches, accountants, and so on, I think that because the police hold such high authority in our society and are so accessible and close to a community, repercussions of manipulation and misdoings by people in authoritative roles are magnified.

The Constitution of the United States greatly interests me, and I have taken up study of our Amendments/Bill of Rights. I have been aquaintanced with many people who have unnecessarily gotten themselves into hot water (embarrassed, fined, arrested, kicked out of their living situation, etc.) simply by not knowing or exercising their rights.

The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

thereby giving citizens protection from unreasonable search and seizure. You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home.

Again, the Fourth Amendment protects you from an authority of the law searching your body, your possessions (rented, owned, borrowed, or otherwise) including your car or home, and confiscating any property related in any way to you.

This article focuses specifically on the unreasonable search of your premise, i.e. police attempting to search your house without a properly filled out, signed, and dated search warrant. Just because they have a piece of paper that has the word “warrant” at the top, does not make it valid, but more on that later.

While many of us don’t think the police will ever come to our home, a police officer knocking on a door is not an uncommon occurrence. Whether its due to questions about a crime that happened down the street, checking in on a loud party, or the dreaded notification that someone was in an accident, many people find themselves answering the door to a police officer at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately, innocent people get arrested all the time. Any time the police show up at your home, you are at risk for being arrested. When a cop enters your home, whether or not he or she is searching for contraband, if they see something questionable, they only need to prove they had a reasonable suspicion in order to do a search. You don’t know if your college-age son left his copy of High Times on the coffee table, or your wife dropped an empty tiny baggie that contained extra buttons, or you left a fish gutting knife out next to the sink that is reflecting something red or brown. Any of these items could lead to further questioning, which will undoubtedly make you nervous, and might make you say something jokingly, which could be interpreted as incriminating. It’s important to know and protect your rights and your family’s rights if the police come to your home. Whether you have kids, roommates, or guests, you just can’t know every single item that may have ended in your home. Deal with any issues internally; bringing the police into it is only going to cause heartache, lots of money, and could even incriminate you.

If police, detectives, FBI, etc. come to your door…

What you do depends on your comfort level of risk. whether or not they are positive you are home, you can either ignore them, or choose to attend to them.

If you choose to hang tight and pretend you aren’t home, have your cell phone video camera ready and hidden because if the door is unlocked and they think no one is looking, they will try to open it. If you have proof that they entered without a warrant, lucky you! Don’t let them know they are being recorded because they will destroy your device and not report it. They can also claim obstruction of justice if they catch you recording them. It might be best to make your presence known but not open the door.

Before you attend to them, grab a phone (even if it’s dead, even if it’s fake, even if it’s really a TV remote control), paper, and a pen as props. The game here is to be professional, prepared, and educated.

In many states, you do not have to identify yourself, provide ID, or say anything. Do your research on your state’s current law. However, in all states, giving a false name is a crime, so you are fully entitled to say nothing.

You should not need your ID or any paperwork, but it would be prudent to make copies of anything you think you might need and place it near each door leading to the outside. Under a chair by the front main door, tacked to a wall, hidden in a nearby Longaberger basket…whatever works with your decor. If a warrant is served, this may be especially useful and time saving for all parties involved.

Never open the door when police knock…never!

There is no law that says you have to open the door for a police officer.

Let me restate that: Never open the door when police knock…never! If you step outside the doorway, you can be put under arrest right then and there. If you keep the door open and they see something suspect inside, they may push you aside and lie that you let them in, since opening the door may be construed as an invitation to enter.

Do not open the door. Not even if you are totally innocent and have absolutely nothing to hide. Not if you get nervous. Not if you think you know why they are there. Not if it’s your best friend’s cousin’s neighbor if he’s on duty and shows up unexpectedly. Not even if they claim to have a warrant, or make threats, and definitely, definitely not if they actually do have a legitimate warrant. Let them break the door down if they want in so bad. The price of a new door will pale in comparison to the legal fees you’ll face if you did give the police a reason to obtain a warrant, so don’t worry about it.

Here is how it goes:
The police stay outside the door, and you stay inside the house with the door shut between you. It is completely legal to not open the door. Do not open the door, or cross the doorway, or allow them inside, under any circumstances.

Talk to them through the door only. When you get to the door, do not lock it while they are there or they can arrest you for obstructing and delaying. If it is unlocked, the fact that it is shut is enough to keep them out. If it is locked before they get there, that is OK too.

Do not talk to them through a window. If you have a glass or screen storm door, keep the main solid door habitually shut. If you have happen to not have your hands in plain sight they can claim to think you have a gun can legally kick the door down. If they move to the window to talk, you stay by the door and stay there until they are by the door.

You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud. Speak to the police as little as possible, give no personal information about who you are, what you are doing, if you are a resident or a guest, or what is inside. Just inform them that you know your Rights, and tell them which Right they might violate if it is appropriate to.

Good ways to be polite is to say:
“Hi there, I’m going to remain Silent.”
“Sorry, I’m not answering questions today.”
“Thanks, but I’m exercising my 5th Amendment Right.”
“I know my rights and I’m choosing not to speak with you.”
“No, I’m cool here thanks, I have nothing to say.”
“Sorry, I can’t/won’t talk to you.”

If you must speak, say ,“Hello”. If they ask you to open the door or to come in, always say no.
Clearly,  loudly, politely, firmly, say the exact word, “No”. Not “um, no, thanks”, not, “uhh I don’t think I can,” not anything that can be construed or warped or misinterpreted. Just “No.” It can and should be polite, but it must be strong.

Many people feel that silence is awkward and rude. Keeping your mouth shut may feel unnatural and disrespectful, but remember, the police know the law and you’re not going to offend anyone by keeping silent in a potentially legal situation.  Make sure you are not answering any unnecessary questions. The police are invested in keeping us all safe, but they also want to arrest people for crimes. Many police officers will ask people completely irrelevant questions for an extended period of time in the hopes of uncovering a crime. As long as you’re answering, they’re allowed to ask. Remember, refuse to answer any questions other than about your identity, If they are really pestering you, ask if you are under arrest, and if not, ask the officer to leave. Remain courteous to the officers at all times, even if they are not courteous to you.

When police ask you something, do not answer. On-duty police are not your friends; their jobs come first. They use drug arrests (the easy pickings) to gain fame and fortune (for some reason local press usually lauds these cops). Police are allowed to lie to you  to try and get you to talk. Even if you are thinking of saying something that you think is not incriminating, do not say it. Do not talk to them.

Again: There is no law that says you have to open the door for a police officer. Opening the door not only gives the police officer the opportunity to look around for clues to your lifestyle, friends, reading material, etc; but also tends to prolong the conversation. Don’t open your door with the chain-lock on either, the police can shove their way in. Police are known to kick in doors. Simply shout “I have nothing to say!”

Do not initiate conversation, and do not make any noise. Banging and rustling around gives police reason to suspect you are destroying some type of evidence, and they can search your house without a warrant for that.

A police officer cannot search your home without a search warrant or a belief that someone is in immediate danger. You cannot in any way benefit from a search of your home. It’s a violation of your privacy, and on principle alone, you should exercise this right!

If they say they have a warrant, ask them to slip it under the door and you read it thoroughly and completely and deem it to be real. They will come in on their own if it is real.

If they have no warrant, but claim they have probable cause to come in, absolutely do not let them in. If they truly do have probable cause, they will kick the door in. This will 99% probably never happen due to laws. If you are calm and there is no screaming or gunshots or blood spatters, they do not have probable cause.

They are legally allowed to bluff you and say there was an anonymous 911 call of someone screaming (or similar). As long as you talk through the door timely and present yourself calmly, they have no reason to believe any crime is committed and may not come in.

Just say, “Everything is great here, I have nothing to say, thank you”. If they persist, you ask the questions, but don’t give any information. Ask for the officers’ names and badge numbers.  Write all this information down, or pretend to. Not all departments have to give them by law, but ask anyways. Ask what department they are from, and confirm that they are in their jurisdiction, and write this down, too.

Women especially are encouraged to actually call the present officers’ department and confirm that they are supposed to be there, using their badge numbers. It could be a pervert or robber dressed up!

To end the conversation ask “Am I free to go?” Do not say anything more until you get a direct “Yes” or “No” from the police. Keep asking. Don’t answer any of their questions. Do not let them intimidate you. Keep asking until they say Yes and leave.

If they continue to say “no,” since you are still in your house, tell them to leave now, that you do not consent to their presence or search, and get on the phone you have with you and tell them that you are calling your lawyer. (The reason you say that you are calling a lawyer is two-fold: first, it puts the cops on notice that they should go harass someone else; and second, while they will tell you that you cannot use the phone, they know that one can always have counsel present while in custody, so you can surely have advice of counsel when you are not in custody). Of course, you do not have to call any real lawyer, just call your own voicemail and make a recording of the events in a loud voice saying stuff like: “The police are at my house/apartment without a warrant and no probable cause, they are not invited, I have asked them to leave, I do not consent to any search, etc.” If after all that, the police still do not leave, just sit there and be quiet.

Inform the police you are going to file a written complaint & call your local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) if you feel your rights have been violated.

Believe it or not, you may have to brief them on the rulings and codes above to shut them up because they do not know what they are talking about in many cases

Personally, I’ve had extremely limited encounters with police. I’m never been arrested, and never had much trouble outside of traffic tickets. However, I’ve had four separate incidents proving that the Santa Barbara Police and the Forest Service do not know laws. Officers I dealt with on four separate occasions did not know:

  • The extremely important difference between assault and battery;
  • What dirtbikes are forest legal, street legal, or neither. They don’t know their colors: green sticker vs. red sticker vs. no sticker, and can’t identify a spark arrestor when they see one with SPARK ARRESTOR stamped on the side. How silly, not to mention embarrassing for them!
  • Forest Service also tried pitifully to “enforce” the “Adventure Pass” which is a scammy, voluntary national forest useage fee not covered by any law, by unlawfully ticketing people and collecting the revenue.

They may harass you and pretend to know, but you may have to straighten them out! Be confident, firm, quiet, polite, and unwavering. Do not give them any personal information, but if they try to bully their way in or bully information out of you, feel free to state the rulings and codes you are protected by. If you are inclined to do research, maybe print out this information and keep it by your doors.

Never agree to go to the police station for questioning. Stay in your house.

Third-Party Consent

If a person gives permission to the police to search another individual’s property, this is considered third-party consent.

There are three general rules for legal third-party consent to searches:

  1. Husbands and wives may grant consent to search for each other.
  2. Parents can consent to search their minor child’s room.
  3. Minor children are not allowed to consent to a search of their parents’ property because they are underage.

In addition to family members having third-party consenting privileges, there are two types of authority for third-party consent to searching one’s personal property. The two types of authority are common authority and apparent authority.

Common authority is when there is shared use of a property and only one of the parties is present. For example, when a home is shared by two friends and one of the roommates is not present at the time of the search. This also applies to adult children or family members living with the homeowner. Additionally this applies to renters, couch-surfers, or guests living in the same building, with a landlord/sublettee, or homeowner who lives there full time and qualifies in all ways as a legal resident. This type of search is only allowed in the common areas of the property being searched. Personal, specific spaces such as designated bedrooms or closets or common rooms may not be searched.

Whether a landlord lives at a different address or on the same property, if you rent your premise fully from them, they cannot allow the police in your home. Most states give permissible reasons for landlords to enter tenants’ homes in an emergency in the absence of the tenants’ permission, like if the house is on fire or there is a confirmed gas leak. For example if the emergency of a fire occurs, and the firemen show up, and the paramedics, and the police, and they all do their thing and some kind of criminal evidence is discovered, note that all those people had probable cause to legally enter. Conversely, if there is no emergency and your landlord give you 24 hours notice that they want to come in to make repairs, note that only the landlord may enter. If they want a repair person to enter to keep the house legally habitable, like a plumber to fix a leak, a locksmith to replace compromised locks, or an exterminator to handle a confirmed pest problem, they must again notify you, and you can require that person to sign in and sign out. If they want an unnecessary person to enter your leased premise, such as a plumber to put fancier faucets on when the current ones work, a real estate agent to give them an estimation on something, etc, in most jurisdictions, you can actually refuse, and even claim harassment charges. A landlord may not let police enter for any reason, with or without notice. A request by a police officer to enter a rented home, without more, is no justification for the landlord to turn over the keys. The same is true for hotel operators. Of course, if the police return with a warrant, that’s another matter.
Again: be prepared and have a clear, written lease. Yes: oral contracts are just as binding as written contracts, but it’s your word against theirs, so have written documentation to be safe.

Next, Apparent Authority refers to a situation where a reasonable person would understand that an agent had authority to act. In other words, apparent authority is when police enter property without a warrant by someone who does not own the property, but who the police believe has some form of authority over the property. This is best illustrated by a man who has a key to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, thus displaying apparent authority over the property and allowing the police to search the premises. A warrantless search does not violate the Fourth Amendment if a person possessing, or reasonably believed to possess, authority over the premises voluntarily consents to the search. So be careful to whom you give keys, codes, garage door openers, or other information. If you choose to give a dating partner, friend, neighbor, house sitter, etc the ability to enter your house without you, inform them of your preferences on not letting police in, and how to lock up your pets in case a warrant is served.

Legal Searches Without a Warrant
The Plain View Doctrine allows an officer to search and seize evidence found in plain view during a lawful observation without a warrant.

For the plain view doctrine to apply for discoveries, the three-prong Horton test requires:

  1. the officer to be lawfully present at the place where the evidence can be plainly viewed,
  2. the officer to have a lawful right of access to the object, and
  3. the incriminating character of the object to be “immediately apparent.”

Police can get a good, legal look at you through your windows from the street, from public property, from a property they have permission to be at, and from an airplane or helicopter in the sky. Additionally, they may have a case if your neighbor’s land is a field, abandoned, or commonly used for hiking. Police can use binoculars.
However, in all states, police cannot scan a home with infrared technology (FLIR, heat detectors, etc) without a search warrant. Kyllo v. US 2010 deemed this violates unreasonable search 4th Amendment rights.

So, be prepared. Don’t leave anything questionable in view of a window.

In fact, it is a good idea to keep all vehicles (cars, RVs, trailers, dirt bikes) and anything else with a registration number or identifying information garaged or covered with a tarp or similar. Don’t let a parking ticket or expired registration give them a reason to bother you or think you’re a criminal. They cannot tow a vehicle from private property unless the owner requested it. If it is inconvenient or not possible to habitually cover your vehicles every time you come home, it would be prudent to strategically block VIN/registration stickers/plate areas so they cannot be seen with binoculars from another property or the air. Use a bush, a fence section, or park your car facing a certain way. Don’t let them bluff you and scare you about your vehicles.

Police can walk around your yard if you don’t have a fence up. Consider installing a perimeter fence with an electric gate requiring a code.

The plain sight doctrine is also regularly used by TSA Federal Government Officers while screening persons and property at U.S. airports. Remember, you have the legal right not to go through those creepy scanners, but you will be required to submit to a pat down. It is interesting to note, on May 17, 2012, a TSA executive admitted not one single terrorist-related arrest resulted from those whole-body scanners.

Depending on your state laws, Plain Earshot and Plain Smell may also be applicable. (Plain feel also exists but pertains more to a bodily search).

One of the most common reasons police are called to a home is a loud party. If the police knock on your door, turn off the music, quiet down the party, and regain control over your guests before attending to the door. Showing the officers you have control of the situation is an excellent way to improve your situation as quickly as possible.

Next, when you attend to the door (remember, through the closed door, without opening it) ask why they are there. Try “What are you here for?” or “What brings you here?”.

You may think you know the police are at your house because of your loud party or your delinquent sibling. However, you know what happens to people who assume! Don’t assume! They might instead be there because they think someone else lives at your house, because they have questions about a nearby crime, or something else altogether. When you assume you know why the police are there, you end up giving them incriminating information about yourself that can be used against you. Instead, always politely ask them why they’ve showed up at your house.

A big part of exercising your rights is actually knowing them. Do a little Googling on federal law, and do a little Googling on your state’s law.

For example, people in California have a lot of protection. If someone is inside, smoking something other than what seems to be tobacco, and this is visible through a window, the police do not have the right to enter due to People v. John Hua 2008.

Additionally in California, police cannot say they smell something (smoke, sweet smells, etc.) coming from your property and claim that entitles them to enter via probable cause. Stink up the world, because in some states, a smell does not give them the right to enter without a warrant.

However, in some states, if police smell drugs, alcohol, rotting dead bodies, etc. they typically may enter without a warrant. You can see how this relates to a legal, unwarranted search of a vehicle especially, if alcohol is smelled, since that driver is putting others in danger. Some jurisdictions offer more protection from this, so if this has been your situation, it may be worth fighting. It is helpful to research similar cases and see how they were ruled, as this will give you ideas for your defense and also may dictate how your trial will go.

The police may enter if there is obvious danger occurring. Blood splattering on the windows, screams, violent sounds, can all legally draw police into your home.

If the police witness someone who is wanted by the law running into your house, they can come in after them.

If the police have a reason to believe a crime is taking place and/or someone is in danger, they may legally enter immediately without a warrant.

Warrants
If the police come to your home, they may not enter unless they have a warrant. If they claim to have a warrant, ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it.

There are two types of warrants: Search Warrants and Arrest Warrants.

A search warrant is used to collect evidence or physical property which may be associated with a crime. The items listed better be relevant! Note which areas and items they are looking for.

An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside.

Again, a search warrant allows police to enter the exact address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the specified areas and for the items listed. Make sure it is actually signed, has the correct date, the correct address, the correct apartment number, and the aforementioned details of what areas they can search and what they are looking for.

Sometimes, the warrant is not signed or is not correctly filled out! Especially in the case of apartments, or condos, often the address is not complete. If this is your case, say “Sorry, Wrong address.” Let them know why their warrant is invalid.

If officers have a legitimate warrant, remember, you still have the right to remain silent. If there ever was a time, this is the best time to use it! Not opening the door will probably not hurt your case, either. Let them crash the door down if they really, truly have a legitimate warrant.

Important!!! If you have pets, inform them of this. Tell them that there is a dog/iguana/bunny in the house and you are putting him in his crate. Again: protection is about preparation. Have a crate or cage ready to secure your animals at any time, for any reason. Lock your pet up in its crate ASAP. You wouldn’t want your dog/iguana/bunny to get shot and killed right in front of you because the police officer “felt endangered” or is just sadistic and wants to rattle you up and cause you to freak out or otherwise get violent.

A note on seizure. In order for an officer to seize an item, the officer must have probable cause to believe the item is evidence of a crime or is contraband. The police may not move objects to get a better view. For example, in 1987’s Arizona v. Hicks, an officer was investigating a shooting, and moved stereo equipment to record the serial numbers without probable cause, and was found to have acted unlawfully.

Even if the search warrant is legit, monitor the officer’s behavior to make sure they don’t violate the terms.

Final Thoughts
Be respectful. Remember your rights.

The most common type of search is a search with a person’s legal consent. Many times, these end in some kind of problem. Most of the time, there is no warrant issued. Don’t get caught up by being a pushover and not exercising your legal rights!

Searches based on consent obtained as an undercover officer or as an informer are usually legally admissible. Pay attention to who you let in your home, and what they ask of you.

If you mess up and somehow find yourself having accidentally given permission to be searched, know that consent can be revoked at almost any time during a consent-based search. If consent is revoked, the officers performing the search are required to immediately stop searching. The prosecution is required to prove that the consent was voluntary and not a result of coercion.

Note that there are a lot of tips included in this article on how to be prepared and protected before you are ever faced with that knock on your door. Take implementing these tips into consideration.

Remember, the police are here to do their jobs. That is OK, and is very desirable. But just like your best friend with whom you play chess, it can turn into a game of cat and mouse. For that moment when police are under pressure to prove that there is crime to fight, especially when so many public servants are being laid off, they must do their job to survive just like the rest of us. We should aim to play fairly, honestly, and competitively, without letting our friends win on purpose.

Good luck!

Dec 032012
 
Photo collage of lettuce, oranges, lemons, limes, green and red apples, cherry tomatoes, purples, green and red, grapes, bananas, and melons

Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Contaminated Fruits & Vegetables; Buy These Organic

1. Nectarines (97% tested positive for pesticides)
2. Peaches (94%)
3. Celery (94%)
4. Pears (94%)
5. Apples (92%)
6. Cherries (91%)
7. Strawberries (90%)
8. Imported grapes (86%)
9. Spinach (83%)
10. Potatoes (79%)
11. Bell Peppers (68%)
12. Raspberries (59%)

Each of these not only tested positive for pesticides, but from no less than 25 – 45 different pesticides!
Notice that many of these have tender or soft skin.

Clean Fifteen: Least Contaminated Fruits & Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Onion
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Pea
  • Tomato

Notice that with most of these, you eat what is inside, i.e. you don’t eat the skin or outer layer.

Here is a Cheat Sheet you can save and print to carry in your wallet to help you: