Category Archives: Books
Household cleaning is one area that offers a lot of opportunities to save money while also living a little greener. Our society has grown accustomed to using harsh household chemicals, but these expensive – not to mention dangerous – cleaners are not the only choice.
In the Bathroom
Let’s start with the room that receives the harshest cleaning chemicals, the bathroom. Most American households use caustic cleaners in the toilet, bleach-based cleaners on the sink and shower, and still more chemicals on the floor and mirrors. Yikes!
Instead of using expensive harsh chemicals in your toilet, try mixing ¼ cup of baking soda with 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour into the toilet, let sit for a few minutes, then scrub. (Vinegar is antibacterial in nature.) Additionally, consider swishing the toilet with a toilet brush as part of your morning or evening routine. You’ll find that a quick swish every day keeps the toilet from getting too disgusting.
For the sink and shower, apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar) does a fine job of removing soap scum and hard-water deposits, as well as killing the bacteria that thrives in the humid environment of the bathroom.
If scrubbing is needed, try using baking soda. It’s mildly abrasive, but won’t scratch. If more abrasion is needed, a good scouring stone (pumice, available at hardware stores) will usually do the trick. Keep the stone wet and gently rub.)
For mold, spray on a solution of diluted hydrogen peroxide (available at pharmacies). Let sit for several minutes (15 or so) before scrubbing or rinsing.
In the Kitchen
Many families these days prefer to wash their produce with a special fruit and veggie wash meant to safely clean the produce better than simply rinsing them with water. A homemade alternative is to soak the produce in diluted vinegar – try ¼ cup of vinegar for a sinkful of water. Soak the produce for 15 minutes, then rinse and dry.
For oven cleaning, use your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, if it has one. Not only does this save labor, but there are no chemicals involved! If your oven is not self-cleaning, or if you have baked-on spills that need special attention, try dampening the interior of the oven with plain water (using a spray bottle), then sprinkling on a few layers of baking soda. Let the whole thing sit for a few hours, then scrub with a rag. Use steel wool for really tough spots.
For clogged sinks, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain and follow with a cup of vinegar. The chemical reaction that follows will help break down greasy clogs. Let this sit for a few minutes before pouring a panful of boiling water down the drain to help clear the clog.
The Whole House
For general cleaning – de-smudging, polishing, dusting, and wiping – consider purchasing some microfiber cleaning cloths. These cloths make clean-up a snap, and do a fine job of cleaning up without any chemicals at all. You can use them dry, or with plain water.
For hard-surface floors, you can’t beat the old-fashioned broom and dustpan, or the more modern Swiffer. (For an economical, nondisposable alternative to swiffer cloths, consider Sweet Sweepers.) Follow up with a mop and some hot, soapy water – just use plain old dish soap, no need for speciality floor cleaners.
There are a lot of good resources out there for economical, environmentally-friendly household cleaning. My favorite is a book called Clean House, Clean Planet.
I checked this book out from the Clive Library, as the particular challenges in raising boys has been of interest to me since, well, giving birth to one two years ago! However, despite its title, the book would also make good reading for those who are raising girls. Its focus is not solely on boys, but rather the differences between the sexes and how differences in brain structure and functioning might cause those differences. It also delves somewhat into general parenting, and gives research-based advice that leans very heavily towards attachment parenting ideals – breastfeeding, responding quickly to a baby’s cries, etc.
Here are a few highlights from the book – some of my favorite passages – for your enjoyment.
In a section discussing how the five senses are different in boys and girls, Ms. MacMillan writes, “But why are little boys fascinated with objects that dive and zoom – with toy cars, planes, trains, balls, and anything that can be turned into a projectile? This, too, may come down to an interesting difference in the order in which visual abilities develop. In a study that measured the brain waves of children from two months of age to sixteen years, it was discovered that boys’ brains really go to town between tow months and six years in developing the neural networks for visually tracking objects. Astonishingly, girls’ brains do not spear to make a serious start on these networks until the age of eight!”
In a chapter discussing the importance of nutrition in maintaining optimal health and optimal brain development, she writes, “When children with ADHD (the majority were boys) were put on a multiple-item elimination diet, 73 percent responded favorably. When various high-allergen foods (dairy products, wheat, corn, yeast, soya, beans, citrus, eggs, chocolate, peanuts) and foods containing artificial colors or preservatives were reintroduced, children behaved markedly worse.”
When discussing motor skills, Ms. MacMillan lists some recent study findings, including this one: “Babies brought up in certain traditional cultures (African, Indian, and Latin American) tend to develop motor skills more rapidly than those brought up in westernized societies. It is thought this is cause parents in industrialized countries rely more on equipment to carry or contain their babies while they do daily chores. Mothers in traditional cultures, however, often carry their babies in slings for most of the day, forcing their babies’ brains to work harder to maintain balance and support their heads, stimulating both motor and vestibular development.
The book does have one big disappointment – Ms. MacMillan summarizes research studies like it’s going out of style. Almost everything she says in the book is backed up by research. Except she doesn’t provide the actual citations, so the reader can’t go read the research for themselves. In particular, I was interested in looking up the actual study that suggests that sling-wearing helps with motor skill development!!
I do highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read, and gives a lot of good information on brain development and general child development in a very consumable format. It’s a fantastic book for parents of boys, but would also be interesting to parents of girls.
I just finished Peggy Vincent’s Baby Catcher. What a great book! I highly recommend it for ANYONE!
This book is like a breath of fresh air, the perfect antidote to A Baby Story or to mainstream birthing friends! Peggy talks about her career – starting from when she was a student nurse at Duke helping a young black woman birth her baby her own way, despite Peggy’s inexperience insisting that the woman lay down on her back and be quiet!
She discusses the hundreds of births she attended as a shift nurse at a Berkley hospital, her growing awareness of the beauty of normal birth, then her desire to learn about midwifery and become a CNM. She remained as a hospital midwife for several years before finally deciding to strike out on her own, then finally opened her own office to see patients independently. Her career ended with her back as a hospital shift worker, which was not her ideal situation, but she did admit that having regular hours and benefits again was a nice change!
Most of the book, though, is filled with birth stories – wonderful, normal births. Homebirths and hospital births, and even a few births in cars on the way to the hospital. Some births didn’t end happily, and some ended up in a hospital unexpectedly, but Peggy’s calm and laid-back attitude prevails throughout.
Peggy seems to take a very laid-back approach to birth. She doesn’t coach – she just waits, and makes sure everything is normal and safe. She catches the baby, or supervises the catching of the baby, weighs, measures, makes sure everything is OK, then excuses herself.
She also talks some about the effects her career has on her family. Rushing off to births in the middle of birthday parties, or Christmas. Always talking about placentas and ovaries at the dinner table. Having photo albums of women giving birth around the house. Her son driving her car to school – with a Midwives Do It At Home bumpersticker and the license plate that reads MITWIFE.
All in all, this is a WONDERFUL book, though it does end in kind of a downer, as Peggy is forced to return to hospital shift work. I won’t give away the details.
Run out and read this book today, especially if you’re facing disagreements from friends and family over your decision to home birth or to use a midwife. It’s easy to start doubting yourself, or to believe all the negativity you get from others. This book is a great morale booster!!
Incidentally, there is a collection of Peggy Vincent’s essays and articles on her website.