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: , ,
Dec 112012
 
curly hair woman talking to bald man at college campus

For some, it’s religion.

For people like my mother, education is the road to salvation. She is forever pestering and propagandizing my sister and me to seek advanced degrees. With student loans still whipping our asses like jockeys riding Kentucky Derby losers, we don’t want no education, at least until til those are settled.

This endless educational journey for a “cleansed soul” is like the financial nightmare version of a pilgrimage up Mount Kailash.

I love reading. I love achieving. I love learning. That’s all cool and great by me. I just appreciate when people learn the right things. Like how to have a coherent conversation with another human being.

If you keep your nose shoved in your books for 25 years and graduate with all sorts of honors and double majors and masters and doctorates and score some fancy letters after your name, that in no way guarantees you from sounding like an idiot.

In theory, what should cause you to sound intelligent is from listening to intelligent people speak and imitating their diction. However, it has been my experience talking with many people with higher merit and IQ scores than I, and this is far from the case. Maybe I’m get caught up in semantics, but it is totally distracting when highly “educated”/cultural/people of stature or honor mispronounce words or use incorrect phrases. It’s like, ” Are you three? Who the hell taught you to speak?’

For this particular purpose, I am going to omit the common mispronunciations that make us all turn up our noses and scoff. Axe, libary, Walmarts, and so on, will not be included here.

Small Talk:

Let’s start off when you bump into one of your colleagues at Whole Foods. They will ask, “How are  you?” Now stop. Do not respond, “I’m good.” This is an inappropriate response. Good is an adjective, a describing word, like fancy, rich, or uptight. Your friend is not asking what kind or category person you are, they want to know how, or in what manner, you are at the moment. They are looking for an adverb. Adverbs describe how, where, when, how often and why something happens. This is why you need to respond, “I’m well, thank you.” Well is an adverb. Of course, if you are not well, you can be a Debbie downer about it and risk sounding like a complainer, or suck it up and lie and say you are well. Most people say “I’m good”. This doesn’t make is right, and it doesn’t make it OK. If you really bothered to go to school for X number of years and either earn scholarships by busting your tail or are still paying off student loans into your fifties, why the hell are you going to sound uneducated when you are first meeting someone? Wasn’t it the point of all your hard labor, to be educated and correct in all things? Don’t blow it right off the bat.

Now, maybe you get into talking about how cold it’s been this February (Feb-brew-ary. Not Feb-you-ary), and you are shopping for hot beverages to percolate (per-co-late, not per-cue-late) into a hot brew.

You might be looking for certified-organic fair-trade coffee beans. If you like Espresso, then make sure you pronounce it Ess-press-oh. Now that’s class in a glass. It is not Ex-press-oh. This is the Starbucks version of axing people questions. If Busta Rhymes figured out how to pronounce Courvoisier, I’m sure, with practice, you can become proficient at Espresso.

Perhaps you get into talking about whetting your appetite with a little dessert. Please don’t say “wet”. Did you ever see that Family Guy episode where Brian, (the talking dog) really enunciates Cool Whip? He and Stewie (the talking baby) get into a “wh” discussion. If not, watch this clip. And practice: whhhhhet.

Which leads me into saliva. Sa-live(as in live music)-ah. It is not “sa-lava”. Saliva comes from the Salivary glands. Lava comes from volcanoes.

If you have your heart set on something a little creamier than sorbet (which I know you know how to pronounce), be sure you are equally as learned in sherbet. Shur-bet, not sher-bert. There is only one “r’. Bert is a character on Sesame Street.

 

Maybe you’ll mention you can’t talk too long because you need to meet your realtor (real-tor, not re-la-tor) or pick up your Xanax prescription. Pre-scription, not Per-scription.

However, you continue talking for 45 minutes. You explain that you need your zannies because they offer you a respite (res-pit, not re-spite) from your teenage son, whom has caused you much perspiration (here we go again with the “pre-” prefices: Press-per-ation, not per-spur-ation) because he has  developed the recurring (not re-occuring, there is no such word) problem of sneaking out of the house at night.

In fact, just last Friday, he sneaked  (not snuck) out again. It’ shocking really, because he excels in academics and athletics, and is usually such a good kid. Naturally, he is the “spit and image” (not spittin’ image) of his father at that age, height (not heigth: no such word) and all.  In fact, he just won his age group in his last triathlon (try-ath-lon, not tri-atha-lon). And you should have read the paper he submitted on Aesop’s (Ee-sop, not Ay-sop) Fables! You’re really going to have to make a forte (fort, not for-tay) to get him back on track. The word is spelled “forte” but the “e” is pronounced only when speaking of music, as a “forte passage.” The words for a strong point and that mess of pillows and blankets covering your bonus room are pronounced the same: “fort”.

Perhaps this matter gets you so upset that you fall back against a display of herbs. All English speakers outside of the United States, as well as educated people within the US say, “Hhherbs”. The rest of America drops the “h”, which, in my opinion, is just as bad as saying “git ‘er dun”.

Now, if in this process, you scuff your Hermès bag, this is where you can drop that “h”. Pronounce it “air-mez”. If you consider repairing it with your L’Occitane  (Lox-ee-tan) lotion, maybe you should cut back on the zannies.

Your companion may turn back to lighter conversation such as giving you a compliment on your jewelry (jewel-ry, not jew-lerey. Jewel is the root word here, see to it that it makes it into your enunciation) or on your clothes (not close), or even on your perfectly umber (um-ber, not ohm-ber-ray or omm-bray; don’t try to class it up with a botched foreign language pronunciation) hair.

Now, a note here: umber is a natural brown clay pigment that contains iron and manganese oxides. The color becomes more intense when heated, and the resulting pigment is called burnt umber. So check it out: is your hair

or is it

?

Regardless, “umber” is the English translation derived from the Latin word for shadow, “umbra”. If you think it raises your social stature to say the French translation, “ombre” (om-bray), know that this more commonly refers to the card game Ombre. In “real” France, whether it’s used as a noun (the actual pigment) or an adjective (the color description), the phrasing is more specific: terre d’ombre. Even raw umber must be described as “ombre naturelle”. Ombre is not a stand-alone word unless referring to the game.

Heavier Conversation:

Now perhaps that person you ran into was an old college friend. Most likely, your alumnus pal is just one of many alumni (co-ed/including males) you knew.  However, if you graduated from Wellesley, she would be one of the many alumnae (alum-nee, not alum-nay, and female, plural).

If you’re into the sciences, you may discuss the publication of your journal article on wasp larvae (lar-vee, not lar-vay), or your recent trip to the Arctic (Ark-tick, not Ar-tick) where you worked on a research project involving the prions (pree-on, not pry- on) of fungi (although the dictionary considers both fun-guy and fun-jee acceptable pronunciations, remember the root word is fungus, so fun-jee is kind of an unnecessary stretch).

Let’s take a moment to consider the word prion.  In 1982, American neurologist and biochemist Stanley Prusiner, made up this portmanteau from the words “protein” and “infection”. Protein-infection. The word is so new, perhaps any pronunciation may be acceptable, but Prusiner invented it, he says pree-on, and he’s American. So if you are not American and say “pry-on”, realize that just because we are in our own country we don’t call ballet “bal-ett”; we respect the French language and use their pronunciation, “bal-lay”.

On a humorous note, when asked by a foreigner how to avoid bad meat while visiting America, Brian Wickham responded, “Prion is pronounced “May-oh-naze”. Always order your burgers without this. At least on the East Coast anyway.”

Or maybe politics is more your game. You might mention your opinions on parliament (par-lia-ment, not par-la-ment) or Angela Merkel’s (Un-goo-lah and I like to think: Medical’s, making a soft “r”) latest decision.

Additional subjects may arise, pertaining to government (gov-vern-ment, not gov-ver-mit nor gov-ver-ment) such as what candidate (can-did-dett, not can-a-date nor can-a-dit. R emember, you always want to have a good candidate for your “candy date”!) you’re giving your vote to. Or perhaps you’re concerned on the latest nuclear (nu-clear, not nuke-you-lar) policy, or what politician was indicted (in-dite-ted, not in-dick-ted) for what.

Regardless of who you need to impress to maintain your perceived educational and social stature, the only exception that you are allowed to make, is “Duck Tape” for Duct tape, because ducks are just that fucking cool.

         

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?”

 

Nov 302012
 
Action shot of silver haired man in business suit and tie stomping on cell phone

Whether you are a parent, business owner, or social butterfly, for many people, voicemail is on the A-team of players when it comes to communication.

For me however, voicemail has long gone the way of the telegram. And gosh, do I love it.

As a high-energy entrepreneur, you may expect me to settle down at my desk after dinner with my phone, a pen and a notepad, to patiently listen to and record details of each of the 30 voice messages I got that day. And then take the time to respond in a timely manner to each one before 9pm. You might think I look something like this:

In reality, I’m all over the place. I sometimes eat dinner at home, but not usually. Sometimes I go out for sushi, sometimes I eat at my boyfriend’s, sometimes I eat in bed, sometimes I drink happy hour wine at the local dive bar for dinner,  and sometimes I don’t eat dinner at “dinnertime” at all. But usually, no matter where I am, by the end of the day, I look something like this:

Now, I will tell you that these photos are not of me. A picture of me resembling the first woman doesn’t exist, and the actual picture of me resembling the second woman I have deemed too disturbing for my readers.

Thus, I have absolutely no time or patience for voicemail. Years ago, I had it. Voicemail, that is, not time nor patience.

When I was a student, almost no one left me voicemails, and if they did, I listened to them hours if not days after I had already called the person back. So I heard the information twice, only the second time it was not nearly as interesting.

Then, as an employee of a corporation, a voicemail meant bad news. Either it was going to be a request to come in on the weekend, or it was a notification that someone was sick and I was expected to pick up the slack tomorrow, or  a call to let me know (after hours, mind you) that I screwed something up. It was rarely good news.

The real fun began when I became a small business owner. People would call and leave ridiculously long messages about their life story, or talk so fast or so quietly or so incoherently that you can’t hear what they’re saying, or call to ask if I can perform a service that is not even vaguely related to my business. When I return the voicemail, I am still met with surprise, “Oh, you’re a horseback riding stable? Do you groom dogs? Could you pet sit my Bichon? I’ll pay you extra to clip his nails.” Sure, I’ll take your money, and watch your mop-dog, but really?!?! Ah, then there is my mom. On some days, she would leave seven messages telling me to watch Bill Maher that night, and subsequently call and leave messages asking if I heard her last message. Are there really some people who still don’t understand how this works?

Oh! And goodness forbid you miss a day of checking voicemails. Now, I had it back in the day when your voice mailbox topped out at 30 messages. I’m sure the sky is the limit as of now. People get really agitated if they can’t get through, and hear that your voice mailbox is full. They start thinking either you’re a slacker or that you’re dead, and tell you so when they actually do talk with you. They call their friends who they also know are your clients to see if they can get through to you. Then everyone is wondering where you are, and why you haven’t responded to their voicemail, or why your voice mailbox is full. Then, next week, you get to hear it five different times from five different clients, their story about trying to leave a voicemail.

I love when you get your first business cell phone and make the effort to have a professional, clear, enunciated voice mailbox greeting: “You have reached the voice mailbox of Melissa Miko of HorsePlay Santa Barbara. Please leave me your name and number, and I will return your call as soon as possible.” and you get all these messages for the person who used to have your phone! Now I love all people and international callers, but twice I have gotten phone numbers where the old owner of my phone spoke a language other than English. How are you supposed to tell them they’ve got the wrong number? Apparently the fact that my voicemail message is in English and states my name isn’t enough, because they keep calling.

On my old phone, I got calls from both English and Chinese speaking friends of the woman who previously had my number. Over the next two and a half years (yes, two and a half, because they kept calling for that long), I learned that this woman had developed a disease of the throat and could no longer speak on the phone, and had fallen into a depression and deleted her Facebook account and was ignoring friends and relatives. Poor woman! But geez, delegate someone to let your people know what is up.

Currently its been seven months since I got my new Connecticut phone number, and all I get are a ton of collect calls from Mexico and have not found one person that speaks English except for a debt collector. Fabulous. But, there are no voicemails, because I don’t have voicemail! I only get calls I choose to answer and correct, or to reject, from that same stinkin’ collect call number.

For me, it got to the point where I was avoiding business because I hated doing this stupid voicemail dance. It caused me anxiety, heartache, and feelings of malice. Someone recommended a voicemail-to-text application; I tried it, but it was annoying and glitchy and still took too long. I actually took my phone number off my website for a while, leaving only my email contact information. It’s perfectly appropriate to email someone at 4:00 in the morning and that not be bothersome or weird.

However, then it dawned on me. I called Verizon, and asked them to disable my voicemail. They did. That was singularly the best decision I ever did for my sanity and my business.

If you choose to do this too, check and see if your phone will give the caller the message, “The user of this number has not set up a voice mailbox account.” or if the phone will just ring and ring and ring. See if you can choose, and determine if you are OK with the result. I feel the former seems a little unprofessional and unpolished, and the latter leaves the caller with a dazzling sense of mystery. Like in Boiler Room.

On my website, I generously place my email link in strategic locations, as well as have a Contact Form that shoots your message right to my email. On my site and business cards I put “Please Text (860) XXX-XXXX”. That way, this “unusual language” makes it crystal clear that I greatly prefer a text.

So, three reasons why you should cancel your voicemail:

1. Lack of efficiency. It is a waste of effort on both ends. The caller wastes their breath talking one-sidedly to a machine/data inscribing robot who may or may not deliver the message to the receiver. OK, in 99% of cases, voicemail works, but what if you are out of range? What if your phone dies and doesn’t alert you that you have a new voicemail, what if the system is glitchy? Plus, voicemail opens up an excuse for shady people, “Oh, I left you a voicemail. You didn’t get it? Well maybe you phone’s broken.” (I love hearing this excuse, and confirming that a person definitely, without a doubt left me, on my voicemail, a message, then revealing I don’t have voicemail. Boo-yah, mofo!)

Next, it’s called caller-ID. The first thing I see when you call is your number, and if I know you, I see your personal contact information, like your name. I see that it is you who has called, plus your phone number that will presumably still be working by the time I get to you. I will call you back long before I would ever listen to your voicemail.

And if you have a restricted number? I don’t want to talk to you anyways because you’re either an individual with way too much drama in your life or you’re a marking salesperson who wants my money.

I don’t want to forego a free moment in my day when I can actually call you back to see what you need, and instead wait until the end of the day to listen to your schpiel along with all the others and call you back when I’m worn out and tired and just trying to get through my list. The whole production seems like a huge inefficiency: You call, you wait, I wait, I listen to a recording of you, I transcribe it, I read it, you still wait, I finally call you back, hopefully you answer; if not, the cycle perpetuates.

Voicemail perpetuates a cumbersome service that delivers little value. why not take advantage of a free service? Because it stinks!

2. Stress. People have different thresholds of pain. People have different thresholds of stress. For me, stress is very stressful! The “notification ringtone” of a voicemail curdles my blood, and the anticipatory cold sweat that breaks out leaves me shakey until I can find a moment alone, where I am sitting down, pen and paper in hand, to check my voicemails and see what is so wrong and urgent that the caller had to leave me a message in his or her own voice? If it was a casual question, you’d just text me. If it wasn’t urgent, you’d email me. Voicemail is such a tease, as if our lives are so chaotic that we must strain and stretch and just can’t wait to hear every last second of your message before gulping a breath in time to listen to the next one.

For those of you who say I should just accept life as it is, and have a nice voicemail because it seems professional, and it’s what everyone normal and successful does, I am here to shake things up for you. Submitting to a product I hate is submission of power, and this I do not like! I have been successful without voicemail. I promise you, it has and can be done!

And I know, voice-to-text software has improved greatly since I last tried it. However, I just don’t want voicemail because I don’t want it. I don’t want to be like everyone else. Even if I fiddle with voice-to-text for a fraction of a second, I’m going to be complaining. My eyes are on those programs, just waiting for them to screw up. I’m stubborn. I want to be the successful business owner who is successful despite not even having voicemail! Let’s call it my cause.

I’m sure in this article you can find endless sub-reasons to eschew voicemail, and probably think of some of your own. Whether you decide to banish voicemail from your life here and now, or mildly consider it, or even decide life can’t go on without it, consider not only the output of effort it requires, but also the potential for it to be a stressor in your life. We should aspire to live a life that flows as smoothly as possible.