Healthy Habit Thursdays: Give Your Kitchen a Health Makeover

Genre scene, woman in kitchen peeling vegetables

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

What do you think are the dirtiest, most germ-laden areas in your home?

Most people would probably say the bathroom or the kitchen.

Interestingly enough, studies reveal items like your television remote, cell phone and computer keyboard are actually the culprits!

How many of you lifted your fingertips off the keyboard just now? ūüôā

No worries‚Ķyou can easily clean it by turning it upside down and gently shaking to release any crumbs‚Ķthen wipe with a cotton ball slightly damp with alcohol or special computer cleaning fluid and finish with an antibacterial wipe.¬†¬†Clean each key…the black ones are dirty even if you can‚Äôt see the bacteria.¬†ūüôā¬† For more detailed information:

Even though some research has put computer keyboards, TV remotes and cell phones at the top of the germ hot-spot list, the kitchen is not far behind.

So what can you do to insure that your kitchen is a safe place to prepare and store food for your family?

Here are 6 simple steps to give your kitchen a Health Makeover!

1.   Always start with freshly washed hands when preparing or serving food…then wash hands, utensils, countertops and cutting boards, especially after touching raw meat or poultry.

2.  Promptly refrigerate leftovers…bacteria can grow at room temperature.

3.  Switch to glass food containers because some plastics contain chemicals that leech into the food.

4.  Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and remove outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage.

5.  Wash off the tops of cans before opening…you never know who or what was crawling on the merchandise in the store warehouse.

6.  Rinse off your can opener after each use…and give it a good wash on a regular basis.

Young children love to help in the kitchen‚Ķmixing and measuring give them a sense of competence‚Ķone of the building blocks in the formation of a positive self-image.¬† If you are looking for fantastic fun-filled cooking activities, check out SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING, available right now at half-price on my website.¬†

Don’t forget, Mother’s Day is coming sooner than you think (May 8th)…why not grab a copy for a special mom or grand-mom in your life.  And maybe one for yourself!  It’s a gift that provides 100’s of fun-filled educational activities…and answers the question…what are we going to do today?

De-clutter Equals De-Stress

Need to organize!!! 136

Image via Wikipedia

Did you know that living in a cluttered environment actually adds to your stress level?

It’s doubly hard for me because I¬†would like to be organized and live more minimalistically, but my husband is a collector…of many things!¬† Books,¬†all things flyfishing, art supplies (he has taken up painting¬†and is really very good).¬† So you can imagine how difficult it is to keep things neat and in their proper places because we have so much STUFF that we sometimes run out of the proper places and stuff winds up on tables, chairs…even the back of the couch!¬†¬†If this sounds familiar, maybe the list of books below will help.¬†¬†

¬†I am always waiting for the BIG block of time to REALLY get organized ūüôā but I think the secret is to simply make a decision to DO IT and when you have an hour or a half hour, clear one drawer or one table and just keep at it.¬† Even if it takes a month or more, eventually you will be more organized and surrounded by less clutter.¬† AHHHHHHHH!¬†

There are hundreds of books available on organizing and cleaning up clutter.¬† I‚Äôve listed just a few you might want to get from the library or bookstore if you‚Äôve decided to organize and want some more direction.¬†¬†Some of the¬†books listed are geared for homes with children…children definitely¬†benefit from living in¬†an organized environment also!¬† You can also go online and find a wealth of ideas.

1.¬†¬†¬† Helping Kids Get Organized ‚Äď Activities That Teach Time Management, Clutter Clearing, Project Planning and More by Robyn Freedman Spizman

2.    Organized Kidz: E-Z solutions for Clutter-Free Living by Debbie and David Williams

3.    Stop Clutter From Wrecking Your Family: Organize Your Children, Spouse and Home by Mike Nelson

4.    Organized Living: Clutter Clearing Strategies and Creative Storage Solutions by Dawne Walter and Helen Chislett

My husband asked me the other day what my New Year’s resolutions were…now I know.¬† In addition to trying to blog EVERY day with something of value, I am going to take my own advice and grab an hour or half hour every day and clear out one drawer, cabinet, counter or whatever…I promise to blog in a month and update everyone with my progress.

How to keep your house clean and green

You are probably going through your child’s clothes right now, weeding out the items that have been outgrown.¬† Perhaps we can apply that same¬† concept to our cleaning supply shelf.¬† Haven’t we outgrown the toxic-to-our-children-and-the planet, chemical-laden glass cleaners, bathroom scrubs and dusting sprays.¬† I looked¬†in my cleaning supply cabinet the other day and I was horrified to find cans and bottles of cleaning supplies that I don’t use anymore (having gone “cleaning green” a while back), but had not gotten around to trashing.¬† And throwing this stuff out is a whole other issue…you can’t (or shouldn’t) just dump these items in the garbage.¬† Many communities have drop off locations or special dates where residents can bring these toxic supplies for safe removal – I wonder if there is any safe way to dispose of some of this stuff.

Cleaning green is not difficult – and in addition to being so much better for your family’s health and the planet’s survival, it is also CHEAPER!¬† White vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice…the triumverate of being green and clean!

Here are a few simple “recipes” for some basic cleaning solutions:

  • GLASS/HARD SURFACE CLEANER: Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar with a gallon of water.¬† Soak your cloth, ring it out and wipe surfaces.¬† Dry with a clean cloth.
  • FABRIC SOFTENER: Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to final rinse cycle of your washing machine.
  • DUSTING MAGIC: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 tsp olive oil in a clean glass jar or spray bottle.¬† Apply a little to your dusting cloth and wipe down your wooden furniture.
  • ALL-PURPOSE CLEANSER: Mix 1/2 cup pure soap (such as Castile), 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 gallon hot water for dishes, countertops, floors and walls.
  • BATHROOM TUB AND TILE CLEANER: Combine¬†1 part water and 3 parts baking soda for an awesome grout and soap scum cleaner.

Now, I’m not saying you should leave these cleaning supplies around for your preschooler to play with.¬† However, unless your child drinks the bucket of all-purpose cleanser or sprays the dusting magic solution in his eyes, you will be able to rest a lot easier as your house shines and you, your family and¬†the planet take a breath of less polluted air.¬† One person can make a difference.¬† Why not get started?

Please post comments with your own green cleaning solutions.

Carpet installation fiasco

At 9am this morning, there was a knock on the door.¬† It was our carpet installers, here to install new carpeting for our downstairs floors.¬† For the past week, I had been working like a mad-man (or mad-woman) to clear off tables, empty bookcases and clean out cabinets so that the installers would be able to move the furniture in preparation to laying the carpeting.¬† Of course, it doesn’t help that our furniture is HUGE, a carryover from our days in a 14 room house.¬† Even though we sold, gave away, threw away LOTS of STUFF when we downsized to a small 6 room townhome, everything we have is BIG.

After the carpet installers came in, they spent an hour moving much of the furniture to other places (outside patio, garage) and they¬†began measuring the floor so they could determine how the carpet should be laid. ¬†When they went out to their truck to call the carpet store and¬†were gone for quite a while, we began to worry.¬† And, as it turns out, we had good reason to worry.¬† When they returned, it was to tell us that the man who had done the measuring (from the carpet store) had under-measured¬†the length of the living room by 2 feet!!!!!!¬† So, they had to move back all of the furniture and the carpet store is ordering a new length of carpet to be laid next Tuesday.¬† How frustrating!¬† Will I put back all of the books, knickknacks, and other STUFF that I had boxed up and put in the garage? You bet I won’t!¬†

I’ll wait at least until the carpet is down on the floor.¬† And maybe, if we haven’t needed the STUFF by then, we actually don’t need it at all.¬†

That’s one way to get rid of clutter!

I’d love to hear other carpet installation horror stories…perhaps it will make me feel better.

Andy Rooney’s in my kitchen

Last night, on 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney did a segment on gadgets one finds in the kitchen drawer.  He said that most of the items he found in his kitchen drawer had not been used for 20 or 30 years.

It made me think about my kitchen gadget drawer (don’t we all have one?).¬† So, this morning, I decided to empty it and check out what was in there.

Here is a list of what I found:

  • Rubber gripper for opening bottles (I use this ALL the time)
  • Graham Kerr sheet metal thing with ruler marking on one side (maybe for pastry making…have never used it)
  • Orange cylindrical plastic thing (lemon juice extractor?)..I actually have 2 of these
  • Wooden honey dipper (not sure what you call it…when I need honey, I use a spoon)
  • Green plastic grapefruit sectioner (we don’t eat grapefruit)
  • Orange Tupperware spreader/spatula (never used…will take it out of gadget drawer so I will have it when I need it)
  • Yellow plastic cylindrical thing labeled Sunkist (maybe for extracting juice from an orange)
  • Old-fashioned metal garlic press (I usually hit the garlic clove with the flat blade of a big knife)
  • Wooden double mini rolling-pin (didn’t know I had this…could have used it several times in the past)
  • 3 top-notch wine bottle openers (my husband has a small glass of wine with dinner and I don’t drink)
  • Old-fashioned metal can opener (just in case the electric can opener doesn’t work, I guess)
  • Lobster/crab leg cracker and set of picks
  • Red plastic flour scooper (why isn’t it in the container with the flour)
  • A dozen assorted wine bottle corks (I keep throwing them away and my husband keeps putting them in the drawer)
  • Broken tea strainer
  • Metal melon ball scooper (I can’t remember the last time I scooped melon balls)
  • Vacuum pump and rubber corks for sealing open wine bottles
  • Wooden roller thing (not sure what it is for)
  • My oldest son’s original baby spoon (he turns 38 this month)
  • Set of cheese spreaders/cutters (use them at Christmas)
  • Set of 4 multi-colored mini rubber prep bowls (so small I don’t know what I could prep in them)

And that’s it!¬† Do I just put it all back?¬† Dump some of it?

What’s in your kitchen gadget drawer?¬† I’d love to know that I’m not the only one with items I have never used and have no clue what they are for.

Does it always get worse before it gets better?

The other day I wrote about the new carpeting we are getting.

I was excited, not only for the new carpeting, but also because I was looking forward to the opportunity to CLEAR OUT ALL THE CLUTTER that tends to accumulate on bookshelves and the dining room table and in cabinets and drawers.¬† In fact, in and¬†on virtually any surface or space that is available to park papers, books, the odd piece of clothing…you name it and it is probably there…somewhere…but please don’t ask me to find it!

I guess I should have known by now, having moved several times during the last 4 decades, that things would get worse before they got better.¬† It definitely looks like we are moving…with half-filled boxes on the floor and the dining room table littered with papers (do we really need that piece?).¬† I’m glad our children are grown, because adding little ones¬†into the mix¬†would only make it more difficult.¬†

However, there is a shining light in the distance…my heart beats with hope (or is that from walking up and down the stairs 20 times with boxes of books?)…the 2 bookcases are EMPTY!¬†

Next step: wrap and box the dozens of framed photos and knicknacks on the piano and sideboard.  

At times, it does seem overwhelming.¬† Parenting can seem like that also, don’t you agree?¬† So, I guess I will try to do some of the things I did when my children were young that helped me put everything in the proper perspective:

  • Make a list of what I need to do each day…the night before! (You sleep so much better when you’ve written it down.)
  • Get a good night’s sleep! (Not always easy to do with little ones…have a cup of soothing tea before bedtime, close your eyes for a few minutes, breathe deeply, visualize the job done.)
  • Do the hardest or most unpleasant thing first…it empowers¬†me and energizes¬†me for the rest of the day! (There is a book out there called EAT THE FROG!¬† Check it out…it talks about this phenomenon.)
  • Take breaks to walk, dance to great music, sit in the sun for a few minutes!¬† (All work and no rest or play can burn you out quickly.)
  • Ask for help if I need it!¬† (Sometimes we are too proud to ask for help because we think we should be able to do EVERYTHING by ourselves…is that you?)
  • Spend time with the ones I love…in person or on the phone…this renews me! (If you have children, no matter what you are involved in, please try to spend positive time with them…someone once said: To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today…so true.)

I hope this list helps some of you…just making it has already helped me!

Clutter: My nemesis…is it yours?

We just got back from the carpet store.  Our downstairs carpeting is in BAD shape and so we took the plunge and ordered a new one (made of recycled soda bottles). 

From where I stand (on a worn-out rug) this is a WIN-WIN situation for me.  First of all, we will have beautiful new flooring.  Secondly, in order to have the carpeting installed, the furniture in the rooms will have to be moved by the installers.  In order for them to be able to move the stuff, I have to empty every bookcase, cabinet and clear off every surface of anything and everything in the rooms that has to be moved.

Now, you might think this is a big job, boxing up hundreds of books and photos in frames and all the other STUFF that somehow accumulates as we journey through this life.  And, you would be right!  However, it will also be an opportunity to go through EVERYTHING.  The question is, will I be able to toss or give away some of the STUFF, so that the house will be less cluttered.

I truly believe that clutter increases stress in one’s life.¬†¬†What do you think?¬† I’ve always wished¬†my home could be neat and¬†organized so that if company came, you could open a closet and STUFF wouldn’t fall on you.¬† Or, you could open a drawer and wouldn’t have to push the STUFF back in so that you could close the drawer again.¬†

When my children were little, I had an excuse…I wanted to save EVERYTHING that they created…every picture and craft project.¬† I know it is really difficult to be organized with young children…but if you can be, it makes life so much more simple.¬† No running around the house 5 minutes before the school bus arrives, looking for a missing shoe.¬† No wasting precious hours searching for the car keys that are hiding under several layers of papers on the table instead of hanging up on a key holder.

I’ve read¬†quite a few “how to get rid of clutter” books…right now they are on the bookshelves…soon to be boxed up with the rest of the STUFF.¬† Getting rid of clutter (and staying rid of it) is a mind-set one must acquire.

 Wish me luck!