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Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Secret Weapon for Ear Infections and The Healing Power of Onions

I don't know how, but we get struck by sickness like crazy these days. And, thanks to Murphy :-), it always happens either at night, on weekends or on holidays.
This time it's the youngest member of the family, our 18 month old, with an ear infection, spiking on a Friday in the late afternoon.
Due to a medical condition, I'm very reluctant to give him pain killers and fever reducers but of course it breaks my heart to see him suffer and cry so much. Needless to say we had a rough night with lots and lots of nursing (yes, we still nurse. Hey, remember - not only is it a healthy thing to do, it's also very green!) and I found myself taking him downstairs with me, sitting in front of the computer and searching for home remedies.
I landed on My Home Remedies  and saw some good stuff. Suitable for the night was one tip - boil water, put a washcloth in, then remove the washcloth and place it in a cup. Hold the cup against the ear (make sure the hot washcloth doesn't actually touch the ear or any skin!) and let the steam soothe the ear. I did that and it gave my poor baby some relief.
But I also eyed this post from a user named Darlene:

"Gramma Mary's Ear Ache Remedy

For ear aches, ear infections, even an infection of the inner ear that is un-responsive to antibiotics. I'm the youngest of eleven children and I had ear aches as a child and this always worked for me.

My mom would bake a medium sized onion(with outer peeling removed) in the oven @ 350 for about an hour or until it would prick easily with a fork.(I cannot vouch for microwave). Remove the onion, place it at the bottom of a canning jar, wrap the jar in a towel so as not to burn your hand, prick the onion to release the steam. Place the affected ear over the opening to allow the steam of the onion to sooth and penetrate the ear. You can use a smaller onion and a smaller jar for a small child, the opening will be better for their little ears) Leave it in that position until the steam is no longer being released, the heat alone feels wonderful. It almost immediately eases the pain.

I know of a child scheduled for tubes to be surgically placed in her inner ear for drainage due to repeated infections that were un-responsive to antibiotics, who responded to this treatment the night before the planned surgery. When the doctor checked her ear the infection was completely resolved and the surgery was cancelled. The childs mother wanted to know if she could pay my mom,just knowing a child was no longer suffering was more than enough payment. We know now that onions have a natural antibiotic property and the heat may also help to improve circulation. It won't hurt to try, and it just may help. So what have you got to lose, onions are cheap!
Happy Healing!
Make it a Great Day for yourselves!!

Well, when we got up in the morning, the poor boy was still in pain and just super cranky. I baked the onion and did as told in the post. At first, he didn't like having the cup against his ear (I switched sides every few minutes). Then he kind of fell asleep for a few minutes. Woke up shortly after like nothing ever happened!

Thinking about ear infections and that they are the most common childhood illness, this might be a thing to consider. Why not talk to your doctor about it next time you speak to him/her?
Ear infections are 80% viral. Yet antibiotics are prescribed in most occurring cases. That is totally contra productive,  since antibiotics won't work for viruses and we hopefully all know by now that over consumption of antibiotics is simply not healthy in the long run, for different reasons.
If you are also reluctant to work with pain killers and want your or your child's body to resolve the illness by itself, try this remedy.

Onions have strong healing power. They are green, always available, easy to prepare, wont' create any extra waste or require extra energy to be produced. Unlike prescription or over-the-counter medications they don't come in plastic bottles that add to the landfill and they won't pollute the water and the earth with more or less toxic chemicals.
I'm so thrilled I came across this remedy (Thanks Darlene!) and hope you find it as helpful as I do (hopefully you won't need to use it anytime soon!)

Stay healthy and warm :-)

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Am NOT Perfect. Are You? Plus, The Truth About Energy Saving Light Bulbs

I've been thinking a lot about being perfect, and how it can make your (and my, and everybody's) life miserable trying to be.
We all want a greener future, healthier environment, less toxins and fewer worries. And hopefully we all try to improve our lifestyles and be as green as we can.

But striving for perfectionism is just not the answer right now, at least not for me. As hard as I try, I can't be perfect. And the more I try, the more it becomes obvious that I'll never be. Let me give you some examples of my imperfectness (oh, my PC didn't underline this word, suggesting that I misspelled it???):
  • On school day mornings, we're ALWAYS running so late that we NEVER make it to school walking (which we easily could), so my husband ends up driving our older one (I make up for this by picking him up walking at least,  99% of the time).
  • The other 1% of the time I use the car because I was out running errands anyway...
  • As hard as I try to exclusively compost all veggie and fruit scraps, eggshells and what not, at times I just can't do it. Our kitchen is way too small to store a compost bin (believe me, if you saw our kitchen you'd see that I'm NOT exaggerating). During the hot months we get hundreds of fruit flies, which makes the whole experience unbearable, and even recently they came back - in January!!! My family is not happy with the situation, so from time to time I take a break. Not perfect, but it keeps us sane, and we just aren't able to compost right here where we live.
  • Sometimes I order online which doesn't support local businesses and adds to our carbon footprint because of shipping and delivering. But you know what? Our financial situation sometimes forces us to look for the best deals around, and I'm sure the same goes for many people out there.
  • I stopped using energy saving lightbulbs. Gulp! What??? Yes, I did. And I tell you why: whoever invented them was not thinking the whole thing through and was just looking for yet another short-term solution, even though I'm not sure what kind of solution this was supposed to be. They're said to last longer (mine didn't). They're said to be practically unbreakable (I broke 2 of them within less than a year and know of many others who did as well). They're said to be so much better than the old kind - well, did you know they contain mercury? Did you know that you're not supposed to touch them when they break, leave the room and air it out, put a mask and gloves on, collect all broken pieces (and there's a million of those when they break!) with tape, put the whole thing in an airtight container and bring it to the recycle site, not in the garbage? Nobody knows what kind of impact these broken light bulbs have on our health, especially our childrens' and pregnant women. So think again. 

If I think hard enough, I'm sure I'd find a lot more to add to this list, but I hope you get the idea.
What are your environmental sins? Are you willing to share them with us?

At the same time, I try my best to be as green as I can in all aspects of my life:
  • Leaving the car in the garage as often as possible and walk instead
  • Shopping locally whenever financial situation allows
  • Shopping at thrift stores (also local!), farmer's markets, food co-ops
  • Cutting down on garbage by avoiding disposables whenever possible (home, school, parties,...)
  • Reusing everything possible (boxes, gift bags, envelopes, containers, clothing,...)
  • Eating an earth-friendly diet (organic, local, if animal products only humanly raised, no prepared, processed foods)
  • Using green cleaning and personal products (better yet self-made) - cuts down loads and loads of toxins
  • Break the habit of using water bottles!!! We use a filter and reusable steel bottles for many years. It makes my head spin when I think about how many plastic bottles we would have added to the landfill without this!
Again, this is just a short list of things to consider. What are your green tips? 
I know a lot of people from all over the world read my blog, and I'm especially interested in green living ideas from other countries - please share.

Happy green living!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My First Shopping Window Design Experience and THANK YOU go lightly

Today I took my whole recycled art theme a step further and designed go lightly's shopping windows.
For those of you who don't live in the area (or don't know the store even though you live in the area) - go lightly is located at 4 So. Fullerton Ave., Montclair, NJ. All merchandise is sustainably made with recycled or re-purposed materials, or is from organic, pesticide-free sources, or will help you live with less waste.Go check it out!

So a few days ago I talked to the owner, Jennifer Chaky, and asked her whether I could design her windows. This has been a long dream of mine and I figured why not do it for a friend who has the right shop with the right products (sustainable products are exactly my thing - I don't picture myself doing the window for a butcher, if you know what I mean).

Here's what we came up with (sorry for the reflection in the picture):

For the left side, we used a whole bunch of shoe boxes in different sizes and arranged them in the window. I had this old calendar with modern art prints and glued some of the images on the bigger boxes as a  background. We then filled the boxes with products from the store.

 The right window is totally dedicated to SodaStream - a machine that lets you make your own soda at home.

I painted this picture with acrylic paint, glued it to a lightweight cardboard and we hang it from a rod, centered in the window. I used old plastic take-out containers, pushed a hole so we were able to thread yarn through to hang them from the same rod. I cut out circles in different colors (from paper scraps) and glued them inside and outside the containers.
We then placed sample packs of different flavors for the soda maker inside the round displays.
Under this scenario is a crate, covered with a colorful old tablecloth, with the actual soda maker, some glasses and a plate with more sample flavor packs on it.

I had a lot of fun doing the windows - if you have a chance, swing by, take a look (at the windows, and inside the store as well!) and let me know what you think.
But the best part is that I worked with what I had already, nothing was bought just for this project.
I even made my own glue at home! You can find the recipe on the blog if you're interested.
It's really fun and easy to create something new out of something old - it saves you money and helps the planet.

Get creative and have fun!

P.S. One day after doing the windows I walked by and saw that all the colored paper circles have fallen out of the round containers :-( So I learned that my homemade glue will not work for plastic - only for paper (luckily the shoe boxes held up well...).
My husband was laughing and said "this is how you learn". I suppose that's true, embarrassing as it is.
I will fix the problem within the next few days.

Recipe: Super Easy Raw Almond Milk

For a 32 oz bottle "milk" you need:

* 3/4 cups raw almonds, soaked in filtered water overnight

* 1 date

* 1 pinch of celtic salt, optional

* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

* about 30 oz filtered water

Put all ingredients in high-speed blender and blend for about one minute. Drain (I recently got a "milk bag" which works perfectly for this purpose).
Pour in bottle and enjoy!

The almond pulp can be used in cookies, cakes, breads, basically in all baked goods.
I keep mine in a glass jar in the fridge and use it within a few days.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

GarbART or Recycled Art

No matter what, I always use recycled stuff for my art projects, or at least get the material in a thrift store, at a garage sale or - GULP! - on the street. It makes me look at everything differently, and if I had the space, I wouldn't get rid of anything but compost and soiled things that aren't reusable in a conventional kind of way.

Here's a little collection of the things I've done recently:

Fabric scrap projects

My last project in the States for a very dear little girlfriend. Oh, did I mention how fun it is to have a sewing machine that has a ton of fancy stitches?

These cards are made of scraps that I had left over from doing the envelopes (the fabric came from a thrift store, of course!). I satin-stitched around the motives and around the edges of the recycled cardboard cards.
These cuddly friends are all made of clothing that I couldn't use anymore because of stains or rips that weren't fixable. Each one of them is one-of-a-kind, since I never work with templates and every item is different. Some of them are available at Lili, Meili and Beau at 33 Watchung Plaza in Montclair, NJ 07042.

This was my Halloween project - 2 Mario hats for Halloween for my two boys. They're made of leftover felt following this tutorial.
Believe it or not, this used to be a bed sheet! I made 3 receiving blankets and a duck family of 3 out of it The feet are tiny pieces of felt and the eyes are embroidered. I have to say though that working with a stretchy fabric is not always easy... especially not for a beginning sewer like me :-)

These are little felt flowers made of leftover felt and buttons


Another place mat made of small pieces of scrap fabrics. Can you believe it took me about two hours to finish one??? They're double-sided and I made two for my parents.

This is a stack of place mats that I made for party favors. They're made of fabric scraps, old clothes and fabric markers. The tags are cut out of cardboard boxes and decorated with stamps.

I love making place mats because it's a nice way to use little odds and ends of fabric - and they're useful, too!

Another way to use little pieces of fabric is making envelopes out of them. Hopefully these are getting used over and over and over again!

Inspired by my friend Kris I made this booboo pack of fabric scrap and filled with flaxseeds - kept in the freezer it helps with all the little booboos that kids get.


I love personalized gifts. This one is for a dear friend who recently had a birthday. I painted the backing of an Ikea frame with acrylic and crayons and hope he enjoys.

I'm so proud of this little flower that my 5 year old made for a friend. It's a homemade birthday card.

These two thingis were little trays for baby food, the kind you would fill in tiny little containers and freeze. Well, those days are over for us and I couldn't think of how to re-purpose those trays, so I painted them.

This is a painting of a newborn baby girl for her birthday card, decorated with golden star stickers.

This is an embroidered "picture" - a copy of one of my son's paintings that I embroidered on a piece of diaper liner in an old picture frame.


Here is another one of my son's creation (with hand-me-down crayons). I just love the picture so much that I had to post it here as well :-)


Portrait of my two boys - black pencil on diaper liner (had to find a good use for the ones I bought and was never able to use for the baby)


I like my logo. Painted it back in 2009, when the idea of Your Greener Future started to grow.


Another painting that I made for my little friend Susi a while back.

Spring painting (acrylic on paper, glued to lightweight cardboard).
Reused take-out containers with colored paper circles glued inside, displaying sample flavor packs for SodaStream soda maker (shopping window design for go lightly store in Montclair)


This doll is made of a Nike winter jacket. The story is that this jacket was given to us in like-new condition, but broke after the first time in the wash. Nike wasn't interested in taking it back, even though it was obvious that the material was damaged, so I needed to recycle it in some way.

This little guy was a birthday present for my son's best friend. It's a no-sew doll (except for the hat and hair), made of leftover yarn, some embroidery floss and little fabric scrap.

And this is another one made pretty much of the same material.

"Nana II" was a present for my older son, made of the leftover scraps from my hubbie's T-shirt (I made my first doll of the same shirt!), rug yarn from the local thrift store, a ripped baby jeans that was falling apart and two stained baby shirts, oh, and some fiberfill stuffing - I used a bag that somebody gave me. It took me about 5 hours to do Nana's hair - every single "hair" has to be pulled through the crocheted scalp and tied.

Meet my first doll "Nana". Nana is baby's Christmas present. The first picture shows him not quite finished, made of an old T-shirt that didn't fit my husband, and an unused blanket as filling.

Nana's face is made with brown and pink embroidery yarn. I always stock up at estate and garage sales!

Nana's clothes are made of a sweater of mine (from a thrift store, of course) where the zipper had broken. I hand sew (is that grammatically correct???) everything and realized that I NEED A SEWING MACHINE!!! - which now, month later, I own!
Nana's hair is one pack of rug yarn that I bought at a local thrift store for 10 cents!


These are my kids' Christmas presents - they still love Mario and Luigi (even though they don't really know them :-) and I love giving something home-made. Not that they'd appreciate it yet, but still...
These two guys are crochet of yarn scraps, which
made it difficult to finish, since all the colors are different weight and some of the pieces I had to re-do because they were either too small or too big for the rest of the parts. I think I worked about 15 hours on both of them - there are so many single parts that have to be sewn together. The eyes are tiny little felt leftovers from a ladies craft night and a dot of fabric paint. I hope they boys like them!

A crocheted birdie mobile for a baby boy. Lots of leaves, flowers, birdies to assemble!

The lower picture shows the first headband that I crochet. The upper picture is my second one so far, both were presents for little girlfriends. 
The little picture shows one of my chokers, also crocheted. I love making these kind of things as it's a nice way to use up small amounts of leftover yarn

A present for my son's 5th birthday, this Happy Airplane is made of leftover yarn from different thrift stores/garage sales and white fabric scrap for the windows. The pattern is from Ana Paula Rimoli


Crocheted ice cream cones for my friend Jen from go lightly who will soon offer vegan icecream in her store.
Made of leftover yarn, pattern is from Ana Paula Rimoli. I put the cones in an upcycled item - this is for these little single-use coffee portions for fancy coffee machines, but are the perfect fit for actual cones! Great find, I find :-)

"WauWau", the crocheted doggie made of leftover yarn and filled with polyester from an unusable blanket.

Paper/Fabric stuff

Recently someone gave away a whole bunch of Tiffany gift boxes and I took them. For this one, I covered the box with a birdie cut out from leftover fabric scraps. I think they make beautiful gift boxes.

 Here is an Ikea kids table that had some serious damage to the surface. I covered it with a large paper map and packaging tape and voila! - a like-new table where the kids can even learn some geography while sitting at it!

Cardboard card with sewn-on carriage (leftover felt and tiny fabric scraps) for new parents. I didn't even know that sewing machines can sew on paper and cardboard until recently!

 This is a bath mat made of a lot of unusable and unwearable shirts that I cut in strips and crochet them into the mat.

A long time ago I bought a fabric book at a local thrift store. It's kind of a sampler for different kind of fabrics. One of the pieces I turned into a pencil roll for my son.

This is a fabric and paper banner that I made for a dear family friend as a graduation gift. Made of cardboard, covered with fabric scraps and cut-out felt letters that say "Dream big". On the back I wrote quotes from friends.

Party favors for a kids birthday get-together, made of empty toilet paper rolls, scrap fabric from a local thrift store and random little toys.

A bouquet of flowers made of egg cartons and fabric scraps (cut of unusable clothing), and reused chopsticks.

A birthday card created with a blank card from a thrift store, a teabag string, cut-out letters, glue and 2 golden star stickers.

This was my older son's advents calendar: Branch from outside wrapped in white yarn, openings covered with cotton balls and folded holiday cards hanging down from it (filled with organic, dark, fair-trade chocolate 

I learned how to fold beautiful little boxes out of old greeting cards. I used these for the above mentioned advents calendar.

Another use for those unused diaper liners that I used for quite some stuff: For a holiday present for my son's preschool teachers I sewed these little gift bags with their names on them and filled them with drawings from "their" kids.


All you need is a little box (such as tea boxes, tissue boxes etc), extra cardboard for the roof and some old fabric scraps for the walls, doors, windows and decoration.


Yum, more vegan cupcakes made of almonds, dates, dark chocolate and sugar sprinkles. No recycled materials here, oh, just the liners are from a thrift store. Unused, of course :-)

These are (almost) raw cupcakes that I made for my son's birthday, and the kids in his class loved them! Made of raw almonds, dates, raw honey and cocoa powder for the icing. On top I put store-brought dark chocolate rounds with sprinkles.

Other fun stuff

My miniature holiday tree! A friend gave me this little metal garden obelisk that I had no idea what to use it for, but figured something would come to my mind :-) I wrapped it in old ties that I took apart, a broken necklace and recycled holiday chain and put battery-operated LED-lights in red around it.
 This on is a holiday "ornament" as well. Somebody in our development threw out this metal star last year and I rescued it. I wrapped red and green yarn around it (boy, does that take a long time!), decorated with a recycled golden holiday chain and green LED lights, also battery operated.
 I have two young kids and therefore always a ton of crayons in the house. You get them at restaurants, as party favors, presents and some you don't even know where they came from. In any case, there's always a ton of broken crayons that nobody wants to use anymore. I do! I bought 4 silicone forms for ice on a yard sale last summer and a mini muffin form in a thrift store. In the muffin pan, I melt the broken crayons, sorted by color, and pour it in the forms. When they've hardened, we have beautiful, unique new ones that look so cute in a self-folded box (out of old calendar pages).