My New Amazon Kindle

My New Amazon KindleI had a birthday last month and my husband bought me something I had been wanting for a while, an Amazon Kindle 3. I was so excited to get this gift. I did a WHOLE lot of research and I am so happy I decided on the Kindle. I wanted to be able to consolidate all of the books I was reading into one space. Plus, saving trees in the forest and space on the shelves in my house isn’t bad either. But I just wanted a reader. I didn’t want an iPad because I didn’t want to have the temptation of being able to get on the internet in a couple of clicks, or check my calendar, etc. Plus, the backlit screen is not good to stare at for hours and it is rather heavy and bulky (just to read from). I didn’t want the Nook because it is also rather bulky and has the annoying screen at the bottom. Amazon hadn’t disappointed us yet so we ordered the Kindle 3. It is by far the coolest gadget I have had in years. Hands down. It is so small and so easy to read. I ordered the complimentary case that snaps onto it and it is like you are really holding a paperback to read. My husband jokes that the screen looks fake because it really does look like you are reading the page from a book. It is easy to navigate and holds 3,500 books. The battery life lasts ONE MONTH with Wi-Fi off and 3 weeks if you forget and leave Wi-Fi on. Okay, okay, I know I sound like a commercial for the Kindle so I will stop with all the details. But if you think I wouldn’t be on an actual commercial for the Kindle, you would be wrong. I want to get on my roof and shout how happy I am!

 
If you are in the market for an electronic reader, look no more. And with the $139 price tag, you really can’t go wrong. Okay, end of commercial.
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Soybean Candles

Soybean CandlesI have been trying to make the transition into safe, non-toxic home fragrances for a while now. After reading an article from the American Lung Association which stated that candles are quickly becoming the number one culprit for indoor air pollution, I started researching why. I found out that Paraffin wax is the predominant wax used to make candles and it is actually a byproduct of crude oil (petroleum). Paraffin wax is what is left at the very bottom of the petroleum refining chain. And to get these “leftovers” up to candle grade, they process out asphalt and other minerals and even add chlorine containing bleach to get the finished product. When a paraffin wax candle is lit, the fumes are similar to those of diesel fuel. Even the wicks that are used are hazardous. There is a plethora of good information out there so I won’t bore you with anymore details. But it is worth checking out, that’s for sure.

 
So the search started for a good quality candle and boy did I luck out. It is a little more difficult to find beeswax candles so I started with soy bean. I bought a couple of BeanPod candles from Amazon a few weeks ago and they are awesome. They are moderately priced, especially if you have ever purchased a Yankee Candle. I got the Oatmeal Cookie scent and the Orange & Vanilla scent. They have an awesome smell even when they are not lit. They are made from 100% stabilized soy wax, which is earth friendly and biodegradable and the wicks are lead free. Read all about them at www.beanpodcandle.com.
 
I also found a really cool local shop that makes soybean candles. You can buy them there or you can take any jar into the shop and they will fill it up with any scent for $.70 an ounce. It makes me want to look into making them myself but that is at the end of my list for now.
 
Mission: Clean burning candles = BIG Check 🙂

Indoor Plants

Indoor PlantsWe built a home this year and moved in 6 months ago. During the construction process, I did a lot of research on the materials that were being used to build our home and the toxins they release. Needless to say, YIKES! I knew that the paint would have a low VOC level but I was mostly concerned with the carpet fibers, carpet glue, etc. But I quickly found that there was more to it. The lumber used to build our home was pressure treated with agents which contain formaldehyde. Luckily, I found that after about 90 days the lumber no longer releases those toxins. But what to do in the mean time?

 
Well, who would have thought that there was such a simple, affordable solution….house plants! I found that Peace Lilies (from the Spathiphyllum genus) clean indoor air of all sorts of toxins, including benzene and formaldehyde. We didn’t have them the first weekend we moved in and we both developed sore throats and headaches. So I went out and purchased a Peace Lily and an Angel Plant (from the same genus). I only spent around $50 on the plants, soil, pots, etc. and as soon as I brought the plants in, they IMMEDIATELY helped! Plus, these particular plants don’t require a lot of water or light to survive, which is great since I’m so new at this.
 
Being a horticultural neophyte, I would love tips on how to change the color of my thumb from a pastel green to a BOLD, grassy green 🙂

Homemade Butter

So this adventure was inspired by the “Pioneer Women” episode from “I Love Lucy.” Ricky and Fred told Lucy and Ethel that modern housewives had it made and didn’t have to work like their ancestors. Well, that led to a bet between the couples and before you know it, they were dressed in apparel from the 1890’s and making bread and butter from scratch. As I was watching it I thought, “Hey, I wanna do that!” Well, I didn’t want to churn butter using a contraption from the 19th century while wearing a full length dress like Ethel did, but I knew my kitchen aid mixer would do the job nicely. I know that you can buy fresh organic butter, and it really isn’t expensive, but I wanted to make my own just for kicks. I took some heavy whipping cream I had in the fridge and let it sit out about 10 minutes to warm up just a bit. Then I poured it into the mixer and gradually increased the speed until it was on medium-high. Then I covered my mixer, so it wouldn’t splatter, and about 8 minutes later I had full blown curds and buttermilk! I separated the curds and put them into a strainer. I pressed the butter until all of the moisture was out, added a little salt, and hand mixed until it was creamy. It was that easy! And a whole lot of fun if I do say so myself.


 
 
 
I used the butter for 2 weeks for all sorts of things like eggs, shrimp, or even a little on steamed veggies. You can even add a little bit of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice in the fall. The possibilities are endless. I also used the buttermilk as a richer, healthier substitute in a couple of recipes as well.
 
So here’s to “I Love Lucy” for the inspiration! This butter will now show up regularly in our house!

Homemade Hummus

Okay, so to say that I love hummus would not be an overstatement. I eat it practically every single day for lunch. But I really don’t like store bought hummus, at all! I like to get traditional hummus from Mediterranean restaurants, and I also found that Mellow Mushroom has some awesome hummus when I was eating there with my husband and wanted to stick to eating healthy. A couple of years ago I wanted to try to make my own hummus to see if I could capture the taste of the more traditional versions, and it worked! After many different tries, I finally found my favorite recipe and here it is:

 
3 cans garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)
Juice of 2 fresh squeezed lemons
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. Cayenne 
3/4 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 – 1 cup of water
Paprika and parsley to finish it off
 
In a blender or food processor, start by adding only 1/2 cup of water, then add the rest of the ingredients and puree. Add more water as needed for desired consistency. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and there you have it! I also add ingredients like roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes when I want a variation of the original.  Just cut up some carrots sticks or a red bell pepper for dipping and lunch is served!
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Lemons

I really like lemons. Really. I cook using lemons all the time. They add such a freshness to pasta dishes and brighten up chicken, fish or even desserts. And who doesn’t like fresh lemon or lime wedges in their water? I always try to keep fresh lemons in a bowl on my kitchen island and I love the splash of color it adds as well.

 
With as much as I use them, a lot of the time I just squeeze them for the juice or grate some of the peel off for zest. So I found a couple of ways to use the rest of the lemon so it doesn’t just go to waste.
 
I have a wooden cutting board and any of you that have one as well know that the smell of onions and garlic can stick around on them. So I take half of a squeezed lemon, add a little kosher salt, and use it as a scrubber for the cutting board. It removes the smells and leaves the cutting board fresh and clean. You can also use the other half and clean your sink or even counter tops.
 
Cut up lemons are great for the garbage disposal as well. Just drop some pieces down the disposal and turn it on along with some cold water. I am not sure where I picked this tip up but it is so practical and easy. It not only cleans the disposal but it leaves a fresh, citrus scent in your kitchen.
Who knew lemons could be so versatile?

Safe Household Cleaners

So in an effort to get my home chemical free, I have been doing a lot of research on cleaning products. It started to get a little bit overwhelming when I was looking into making my own, so for now, I have landed on quite a happy medium. I have recently purchased a few items from Seventh Generation and LOVE them!!! I was able to get them right down the road at Publix. I signed up on their website so that I could download some coupons to use. With other coupons I found I was able to save $4 off of my purchase. This savings made them actually cheaper than my usual cleaning products. Again, I LOVE them.

 
I bought the Lemongrass and Clementine Zest dish washing soap for the sink and it works and SMELLS great! Not to sound like a commercial, but it leaves my hands so soft and doesn’t dry them out at all. I also bought some of their Automatic Dishwasher Liquid and could tell the difference the first time I used it. It left zero residue and again, smells great. Their All-purpose cleaner is definitely a keeper as well.

 
I was very surprised at the prices and how well they worked. I am excited to try out more of their products in the future!