Tag Archives: environment

For the love of beans


Whole foods have become increasingly important to me as I make the move toward self-sustenance and inner peace.  I was never much to cook as a kid; my father was more prone to baking chocolate chip cookies, and my mother, badgered by the picky and monochromatic appetites of her husband and children, cooked a small repertoire of foods.  When I grew up, I found that I was totally incapable of feeding myself.  I spent a lot of money on fast food or easy food (I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and ramen.)  What attempts I did make at dinner were often fairly successful; the food, while edible, was bland.  I would stare in wonder at the recipes I had tried to follow.  I hearkened back on my time as an exchange student in Venezuela and marveled, remembering how my host mother or aunt or grandmother would simply grab handfuls of food and throw them together and suddenly there was a meal.  It seemed to me that they were fairies in possession of a magic I would never understand, let alone employ.

I’m good at salads, but give me some meat and veggies, or God forbid rice and beans, and I am useless at creating a meal.  My fear of spices persisted until about a year ago, when, as part of our typical conversation, I mentioned to my grandmother that I had purchased a particular type of soup at the store.  She exclaimed, with admirable horror, “Oh honey, you mustn’t buy soup!”  It got me thinking, and I began to experiment with stews.  I found that to make a good stew I basically needed the following ingredients:

  • beans
  • chicken
  • salt
  • pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • onion
  • garlic
  • bell pepper
  • as many tomatoes as you can possibly fit in the stew (this is my own personal prejudice; to me, tomatoes MAKE stew, and I will cut up six or seven large ones to put in.)

This was heartening.  I wasn’t able to cook while traveling, but now that I am stationary again, I am experimenting with beans, with what I feel to be are admirable results.

Rice and beans, with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, possibly a little bit of cheese, and most certainly a half or full avocado, is one of the most satisfying meals on the planet.  Thrown in a big bowl and stirred, I will eat this stuff fast and lick the bowl clean.  Inspired by Rebecca Orchant’s article “Don’t Be Scared, It’s Just A Bag Of Dried Beans“, I have been cooking them nonstop lately.  If you don’t presoak, you can still make a hearty meal of beans in about four hours.  Having tried both ways, I don’t find any difference other than the appearance (quick soaked beans seem to split a little more) and that doesn’t bother me at all.

Since I’m still experimenting, I’ll hold off on giving any of my own advice on beans, but wanted to provide a handy list of links (the above article is a great start) for those interested in bringing beans back.



Simple and effective pest control: Fruit flies

I have to admit, in the world of creepy crawlies, fruit flies rank pretty low on my list.  They’re harmless, they’re small, and aside from being incredibly annoying, they don’t give me the heebie-jeebies the way that other insects do.  I was at a friend’s house the other day, and he apologized for the fruit flies, which got me thinking about ways to conquer the little buggers.  I offered the solution that had worked well for me the last time I had an infestation- put a banana peel in a jar, cover the jar with plastic wrap, secure the wrap with a rubber band, and poke a few holes in the top with something small, like a push pin.  The fruit flies, attracted by the banana, will get in and not be able to get back out- for a while.  “Then you kill them?” he asked, and I realized that my solution once the jar was full was to let them go outside.  Here are some other methods for dealing with the little jerks.

As with any insect infestation, the trick to decreasing fruit fly problems is cleaning.  If you have fruit on your counter, consider putting it in the cupboard or in the refrigerator once it starts to age.  Make sure you compost your fruit scraps and peels, or, if you don’t compost, keep them well covered in the trash can.  You’ll probably notice that fruit fly issues exist when you leave the garbage or your fruit for a while, and as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As if it didn’t do everything already, basil is a great fruit fly deterrent.  The pungent spice repels them, so breaking a leaf or sprinkling dried basil over your fruit or in the bottom of the bowl can really make a difference.  This also works with lavender.  And who wouldn’t want a lovely fresh bunch of lavender hanging in their kitchen?

Make sure you wash your fruits and vegetables to get rid of any residual eggs.  You can do this with a simple peroxide solution (see this post.)  Keep in mind that most fruit fly issues start with fruit flies from outdoors, so if you still find you have a problem after washing your fruit, look for places where they might be getting in.

If you want to spray the fruit flies, you can make a solution with lemongrass oil or even rubbing alcohol and spray where the flies are at.  Another simple solution is getting them drunk.  Put some white wine with dish soap in a small dish and leave it near where they congregate.  The flies drink the wine, and the combination literally rots their guts.

Make sure that your kitchen is well-ventilated.  I find that in the south this can become difficult, especially in the summer months where the house stays closed up.  If you can’t open a window, see if you can turn on fans; the flies don’t like the air being disturbed or the temperatures changing, and it can dissuade them from hanging around your goodies.

Once I get around to canning fruits I’ll write a nice long article about how to make use of all that fruit sitting around.  In the meantime, why not take those old bananas and make some Bisquick banana bread?


I used Jiffy Mix with this recipe, which worked spectacularly.  I baked the bread in small loaf pans with tinfoil over the bread and left it in for 40 minutes instead of the recipe’s recommended 55.  The bread turned out flavorful, sweet and spongy.  It’s delicious.


  • 2 1/3 c Bisquick or Jiffy mix
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 t vanilla

Mix together bisquick, sugar, oil, and eggs.  Beat well.  Stir in bananas and vanilla.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

The magic of hydrogen peroxide


This has been floating around the internet lately; I picked it up on Facebook, and it’s so great I wanted to share it here.  I actually got sick right after I saw this post, and was quickly using hydrogen peroxide to disinfect everything in my house.  My toothbrush is sitting in a pool of it right now, just waiting for me to shove it back into my filthy mouth.  A little research showed the original post was written by Jill of One Good Thing by Jillee; you can see it here.  So!  Without further adieu, and with the disclaimer that this list is NOT my creation, merely a respectful reproduction, I present to you the many uses of hydrogen peroxide.


“Ever since I started using Hydrogen Peroxide to get rid of armpit stains, to clean cookie sheets, as a miracle cleaner in my kitchen and bathroom, and to make my own “oxi clean”, I ALWAYS have at least one bottle of the stuff under my kitchen sink, under my bathroom sink, AND in the laundry room. This stuff is amazingly versatile!

But it wasn’t until recently, after doing some IN DEPTH research on the subject, that I came to realize what a “miracle substance” hydrogen peroxide really is! It’s safe, it’s readily available, it’s cheap, and best of all, it WORKS! It works for a LOT of stuff!

Hydrogen peroxide should really be called oxygen water, since it is basically the same chemical make up as water but with an extra oxygen atom (H2O2). Because of this it breaks down quickly and harmlessly into oxygen and water.

Some other interesting facts about hydrogen peroxide:

  • It is found in all living material.
  • Your white blood cells naturally produce hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to fight bacteria and infections.
  • Fruit and vegetables naturally produce hydrogen peroxide. This is one of the reasons why it is so healthy to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • It is found in massive dosages in the mother’s first milk, called colostrum, and is transferred to the baby to boost their immune system.
  • It is found in rain water because some of the H20 in the atmosphere receives an additional oxygen atom from the ozone (O3) and this H2O2 makes plants grow faster.

Next to Apple Cider Vinegar, hydrogen peroxide ranks up there as one of the best household remedies.

Besides the obvious (cleansing wounds), did you know that it is probably the best remedy to dissolve ear wax? Brighten dingy floors? Add natural highlights to your hair? Improve your plants root systems? The list goes on and on!

There are SO many uses for this stuff that I’ve started replacing the cap on the hydrogen peroxide bottle with a sprayer because it’s easier and faster to use that way.

I have compiled a rather impressive list of uses for 3% hydrogen peroxide that I hope will have you as thrilled and bewildered as I was!

In no particular order, I present…….


Wash vegetables and fruits with hydrogen peroxide to remove dirt and pesticides. Add 1/4 cup of H2O2 to a sink of cold water. After washing, rinse thoroughly with cool water.

In the dishwasher, add 2 oz. to your regular detergent for a sanitizing boost. Also, beef up your regular dish soap by adding roughly 2 ounces of 3% H2O2 to the bottle.

Use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash to freshen breath. It kills the bacteria that causes halitosis. Use a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water.

Use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to make a paste for brushing teeth. Helps with early stages of gingivitis as it kills bacteria. Mixed with salt and baking soda, hydrogen peroxide works as a whitening toothpaste.

Soak your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide between uses to keep it clean and prevent the transfer of germs. This is particularly helpful when you or someone in your family has a cold or the flu.

Clean your cutting board and countertop. Let everything bubble for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse clean. (I’ve been using it for this a LOT lately!)

Wipe out your refrigerator and dishwasher. Because it’s non-toxic, it’s great for cleaning places that store food and dishes.

Clean your sponges. Soak them for 10 minutes in a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a shallow dish. Rinse the sponges thoroughly afterward.

Remove baked-on crud from pots and pans. Combine hydrogen peroxide with enough baking soda to make a paste, then rub onto the dirty pan and let it sit for a while. Come back later with a scrubby sponge and some warm water, and the baked-on stains will lift right off.

Whiten bathtub grout. First dry the tub thoroughly, then spray it liberally with hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit — it may bubble slightly — for a little while, then come back and scrub the grout with an old toothbrush. You may have to repeat the process a few times.

Clean the toilet bowl. Pour half a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the toilet bowl, let stand for 20 minutes, then scrub clean.

Remove stains from clothing, curtains, and tablecloths. Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a pre-treater for stains — just soak the stain for a little while in 3% hydrogen peroxide before tossing into the laundry. You can also add a cup of peroxide to a regular load of whites to boost brightness. It’s a green alternative to bleach, and works just as well.

Brighten dingy floors. Combine half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with one gallon of hot water, then go to town on your flooring. Because it’s so mild, it’s safe for any floor type, and there’s no need to rinse.

Clean kids’ toys and play areas. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe cleaner to use around kids, or anyone with respiratory problems, because it’s not a lung irritant. Spray toys, toy boxes, doorknobs, and anything else your kids touch on a regular basis.

Help out your plants. To ward off fungus, add a little hydrogen peroxide to your spray bottle the next time you’re spritzing plants.

Add natural highlights to your hair. Dilute the hydrogen peroxide so the solution is 50% peroxide and 50% water. Spray the solution on wet hair to create subtle, natural highlights.

According to alternative therapy practitioners, adding half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to a warm bath can help detoxify the body. Some are skeptical of this claim, but a bath is always a nice way to relax and the addition of hydrogen peroxide will leave you – and the tub – squeaky clean!

Spray a solution of 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide on leftover salad, drain, cover and refrigerate. This will prevent wilting and better preserve your salad.

Sanitize your kids’ lunch boxes/bags.

Dab hydrogen peroxide on pimples or acne to help clear skin.

Hydrogen peroxide helps to sprout seeds for new plantings. Use a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution once a day and spritz the seed every time you re-moisten. You can also use a mixture of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 32 parts water to improve your plants’ root system.

Remove yellowing from lace curtains or tablecloths. Fill a sink with cold water and a 2 cups of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Soak for at least an hour, rinse in cold water and air dry.

Use it to remove ear wax. Use a solution of 3% with olive or almond oil. Add a couple drops of oil first then H2O2. After a few minutes, tilt head to remove solution and wax.  Note: Do NOT use the 20% to clean ears; it will damage them!

Helps with foot fungus. Spray a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water on them (especially the toes) every night and let dry. Or try soaking your feet in a peroxide solution to help soften calluses and corns, and disinfect minor cuts.

Spray down the shower with hydrogen peroxide to kill bacteria and viruses.

Use 1 pint of 3% hydrogen peroxide to a gallon of water to clean humidifiers and steamers.

Wash shower curtains with hydrogen peroxide to remove mildew and soap scum. Place curtains in machine with a bath towel and your regular detergent. Add 1 cup full strength 3% hydrogen peroxide to the rinse cycle.

Use for towels that have become musty smelling. 1/2 cup Peroxide and 1/2 cup vinegar; let stand for 15 minutes and wash as normal. Gets rid of the smell.

Use hydrogen peroxide to control fungi present in aquariums. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your fish. Use sparingly for this purpose.

De-skunking solution. Combine 1 quart 3% H2O2, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 teaspoon Dawn dish detergent, 2 quarts warm water.”

Enjoy!  Do use hydrogen peroxide in a way that wasn’t mentioned on this list?  Let me know!

Simple and effective pest control: Cockroaches

I was once told that Mark Twain professed that the reason he was an atheist was because of the mosquito; how could a loving God create such an awful creature?  After searching at length for these words I can decide he was misquoted, but the expression about sums up my feelings about the cockroach.  I am not an atheist, but sometimes I teeter; most often it is when I have just smashed one under a shoe and am wiping the explosion off whatever surface it had the ill luck to fall upon.

Cockroaches are the one insect that most find impossible to get rid of.  They are remarkable in their durability and propagation; once they get into your house, they are said to be impossible to remove.  In Chicago, we kept them at bay for several months, and then woke one morning to find that they had taken over the kitchen.  I spent a lot of money on organic sprays that were completely ineffective at prevention; to kill the roaches you had to spray them directly for three to five seconds, which also inevitably doused the dishes and utensils in the area as well.  I solved the problem by moving to Montana, where the cold makes it difficult for them to live, but this seemed a rather extreme measure to recommend to others.

Due to their gross-out factor, cockroaches are highly misunderstood; a little education can go a long way when dealing with them.  For example, most of us see them on our counters and floors, but cockroaches love to climb.  Boric acid (which is TOXIC when eaten, and should be kept away from children) sprinkled on TOP of your cupboards can work wonders- the roaches come into contact with it and bring it back home, which subsequently kills the others living with them.  I would recommend this only in extreme cases, and don’t apply it repeatedly; boric acid, when inhaled, can really harm you.

Thankfully, nature has provided a swell and harmless alternative: diatomaceous earth.  This swell powder is a type of rock made from the fossilized shells of diatoms, and can be purchased in a lot of places where regular insecticides are sold.  If you sprinkle it on your counters, in and on top of your cupboards, and places where roaches like to hide (behind appliances or the refrigerator, under the garbage can, behind the toilet), they get coated in it, and the crystals break down their exoskeletons.  You will see more roaches when using this method because, as they die, their dehydration will force them out of hiding to look for water.  Within two weeks, your roach population will decrease dramatically.

Roaches hate cucumber and garlic, and if you find they hang out in a certain place, slices of these will keep them away.  But the best solution to roach problems is prevention- clean your kitchen and bathroom thoroughly, and vacuum every nook and cranny.  If your vacuum has a bag, make sure you get rid of it in a trash outside your house; if it has a plastic container for dust, make sure you’re dumping it in an outside trash or dumpster as well.

Roaches, like all animals, are attracted to water, so fix any water leaks you have around the house and make sure your faucet areas are clean and dry.  Don’t free-feed your pets; rinse and dry their dishes after each use.  If you’re not using a faucet, plug it up.  Caulk cracks and holes where you notice roaches hanging out.  Put screens over your air vents.  Cockroaches want in because they need food and water and can’t find it outside.

Make sure you don’t have extra stores of paper bags or cardboard hanging around; roaches love the glue on paper bags, and cardboard boxes serve as excellent nesting grounds.

As a little bit of humor:


Simple and effective pest control: Ants

Growing up on the Washington coast, we didn’t deal much with ants.  We scratched at fleas, we were grossed out by spiders, we got bit by mosquitoes.  But my only experience with the insatiable little buggers growing up was a traumatic one: I leaned for a minute against my grandmother’s laundry-line pole while talking to my parents in the back yard, and suddenly they were crawling all over me.  I screamed bloody murder as my parents stripped off my clothes and batted them away.  I was frightened to death of them until I became a teenager; their anthills gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I’ve met many families that don’t want to use harsh chemicals to kill bugs, because they’re afraid of .  It’s a valid concern; some pesticides can kill you.  But an abundance of commercially available pesticides doesn’t mean you have to buy and use them.  With many pests, knowing their natural predators and biological deterrents can go a long way in the fight against invasion.  I’ll be writing a series of articles about pest deterrents, one at a time.

Ants are the bane of many houses; they seem innumerable and impossible to get rid of.  But they aren’t as crafty as you think.  Ants, like all insects, are motivated by food.  The first thing to do, when you have an ant problem, is to clean up; if you have honey or syrup in the cupboard, put it in a bag you can seal (this also helps save your shelves.)  Get rid of crumbs and sweep your floors.  Encourage your children to help you (chances are, if you have small children, that they are a main source of crumbs around the house!)  Make sure you vacuum your children’s rooms, too, or your room and floor if you like to eat in bed.  The point is: keep food contained!

Then figure out where the ants are coming from.  If you just see a random one once in a while, chances are you don’t have enough of a problem to worry about.  An abundance, however, has a source.  If you can’t find it, figure out where the ants like to hang out (I found that in the south, the daddy long-legs would set up shop close to ant sources; they are one of its natural predators.)  Put cucumber slices, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, old coffee grounds, or mint leaves (cloves work too) around the area.  You can also leave a night light in areas that don’t have them; doing this for a few days confuses the ants, who get used to looking for food in the darkness.  Discouraging them this way can change their habits and get them to look elsewhere for sustenance.

Cinnamon and garlic also work well.  If you have ants on a deck or porch, you can shove garlic cloves between slats in boards to keep them away.  You can put cinnamon sticks on your windowsills or in the edges of your doorways, on shelves and in drawers.  Cut off water sources- dry your sinks and surfaces.

Need a stronger ant attack?  Apple cider vinegar makes a great spray for floors and counters where ants hang out.  Apple cider vinegar will require its own blog post someday, because it’s just that great, but it is a natural insecticide that, considering the toxicity of others, is well worth the pungent smell.

Pay attention to where the ants go.  If you put cloves or black pepper near them, they may beeline in a certain direction- this can provide helpful clues to how, exactly, they’re getting in your house.

If you’re a gardening type, add mint or rosemary to your garden, or keep the plants near your doorways or windowsills.  Mint makes ants unable to detect certain smells.  If you don’t have mint or rosemary, experiment with other pungent-smelling herbs, like tea tree or eucalyptus or thyme.  Many herbs are natural pest deterrents; this is why we love them in our flower and vegetable patch!

The most important things to remember about pests is that they don’t merit your anger.  They’re there because they’re looking to do what we all want to do: eat and sleep comfortably.  It seems a little silly to me for a family to bug bomb their house when they don’t even want to sweep or clean the counters.  Use your natural remedies as a lesson for your children and others about the interconnectedness of life, and most of all, be persistent!  Bugs don’t show up overnight and they might not go away overnight either.

Peace and love.

Good references for natural ant control: