Heard It From a Pro tip #5: A/C Filters

You’re going to be so surprised and delighted by this tip:

Replace your A/C home filter with the cheapest $1.25-$2.00 filter you can find monthly. If your unit requires a 1″ thick filter, the best thing you can do for your unit (believe it) is to replace it more often with a basic filter sold in packet of 1,3,12 or 24.

I’m going too far! That’s too cheap, your thinking. The last AC repair guy came by two years ago and provided us with a wonderful secret and we haven’t seen him since. Before the secret, we had repair work every late Fall and Spring after we clicked on the A/C.

This is what he told us. Your unit works less if doesn’t have to suck the air through thick sheets of the ultimate filters you find at the store. (They sell for between $12 and $100, to be replaced every 3 months) They’re so thick that it’s like sucking a stiff milkshake through a coffee straw. Ideally you want your unit to feel like it’s sucking lemonade through a regular straw. BUT, you need to replace them monthly, rather than every three months. We replace them when our mortgage it due. Since making this change, I’ve noticed other positive effects, besides the convenience and savings:

  • The vents don’t collect dust
  • our ceiling fans don’t need to be cleaned as often
  • our A/C unit seems to cool and heat more quickly and effectively

There are washable filters….I don’t know about the comparison with regard to them, they may also be effective and more sustainable. And for those who use special filters to control serious allergies, this may not be the best route. But with our own round of seasonal allergies, we haven’t noticed any difference.


I heart My Cleaner

Today I found the most wonderful recipe for a houheart_311449sehold cleaner: better than your best Myer’s, Dr. Bronners, Mean Green, Mr. Clean  or anything by Clorox. Short story, I’m preparing my home to rent. Time to clean the windows (uhg!), the doors and baseboards (really!?), and even under the fridge and stove (Pooey!). What will cut thro
ugh the mineralized windows, the gravy under the stove, the stickers, finger prints, unreasonable dark smudges on the garage door?  Well, I found it. I feel like your best friend. Isn’t this fun?

This is it:

  1. 10oz (1 1/8th cup) ammonia (yes that smelly gaseous cheap cleaner at every store), mixed with
  2. 16 oz (2 cups) H2O topped off with
  3. A little dab of Dawn (it’s blue) dish soap.

In a sturdy, clean spray bottle combine ammonia first, then water and top with Dawn, swish with nozzle straw. Voila, perfect cleaner for every surface (except inside your oven).

Smelly, so what! It will leave your space smelling clean and glistening.

Want more information like this, CLICK here!     The only 5 cleaning supplies you need…

I was looking for a solid cleaner and found a lot of good advice on this website (by the way this is NOT an advertisement, in fact this site also gets thumbs up because they didn’t bombard me with advertisements.)

Blank White Paper

(Warning: I just woke up and and reread this posting and it actually may really act like a self indulgent journal entry)

Yesterday I listened to a thief open the heavy squeaky wooden parents drawer of the family desk, removed what sounded like many sheets of


artist: Jeff B. Davis

copy paper, and return to her bedroom, locking the door behind her. Shortly thereafter I heard the crunch of the stapler. She’d returned to get it too. Then with a few quick bouncy steps I heard a leap land and a slam of the door, too loud for such a sneaky thief. Clearing my throat I went to retrieve the last of the copy paper, it’s tax time in our house.

“You cannot take the last of the paper”…I began. “No. No! No!!” She said scowling at me while stuffing the papers into her rumpled bed. The stapler was trapped out of sight. “Give me those papers NOW please.” This continued until I agreed to let her have five sheets, because she’s five years old I reasoned to her. She agreed to return the last of the crumpled paper and the stapler even though she was certain five sheets was not enough for the book she was making, but it will have to do today. Geez lousie…

Call me a scrimper, but she does have her own wealth of property. Her alotted desk drawer is  deeper than mine and heavy with enticing colorful treasures: fairy princess coloring books, origami paper, construction paper, paper dolls, sticker pads, the pretty stationary she’d received from her aunt. I know this because she and I cleaned it out last month and she hugged every wonderful thing in her drawer. We cleaned and stacked  all the coloring books from largest to smallest, high-fived, shut the drawer, and she never opened it again because, I suppose, it doesn’t have any blank white paper.

We people, who have children we love, try to provide everything we can to help them grow healthy, happy, and to discover their potential.  So after this scenario I had to ask myself, am I distracting my child’s self motivation with my own collection of paper doll experiences, princess advertisements and cultural messages? My daughter prefers to draw her own lines and make up her own story lines rather than color inside someone else’s.  It’s just her way. I love this about her, though wonder why I keep adding items to a drawer that remains closed. What IS my motivation?  But really, what child would prefer a ream of copy paper for their birthday instead of one of those stunning coloring books and special painting markers?

On the other side of this thought is knowing that children must learn to color within the lines. It’s an important acknowledgement that we have to defer to our teachers (all types of them) and set aside our own own ideas in order to learn, grow, and (yes, let’s admit it) fit in. And the counter balance to that is providing them with a time to be open. So recently, I’ve agreed that when my children return home, there will be a time and space where they can go their own way. In our home I’ve found that this occurs best when the screens are turned off followed by a brief episode of wining and admitting “I’m bored…”. I give it 10 minutes, and the ideas sprout and grow rapidly. For my son and his three buddies, the backyard becomes a space battleship developed from sticks and a few foam noodles.

Children don’t need much to be happy. I know you’ve heard that so many times before. It’s plastered everywhere. But do we give too much to the point that it’s wasteful and distracting? Are we…am I, nurturing a need for immediate gratification when I pile the drawers with coloring books and markers and crayons of every color?

A child has shown me again that less is more, and that kids are often capable of greater things than we ourselves can imagine. So, this birthday:

  1. Ream of blank white paper
  2. Flintline stapler.
  3. Markers (maybe the glittery kind…maybe not)

Done. She’ll love it.

The Anarchists Skin Care Line


For the price of skin care products today, there should be a miracle cure for aging listed in the ingredients.  And some do sound like they come from a sorcerer’s pantry: snail elastins, nightingale poop, bee venom, and if you carry your magic wand down 5th Avenue, then La Prairie offers platinum cream for a little over 1K.  Or consider, Lancôme’s Absolue L’Extrait Regenerating Ultimate Elixir,  a third of the price at $350 for 1.7 ounces. And that’s just for the cream. Working at a skin care counter in my 20’s, I watched the same men and women return to spend phenomenal amounts of their budget on creams and toners, sprays and muds. I’ve remained quietly certain that they were paying for a lovely ideal, and a delicately perfumed meringue in a pretty jar, which if used religiously….will not halt aging, create happiness or make the world right again.

I’m middle aged now. And I’ve been using the same skin care regime for 25 years, which will set you back around $25 every other month or so, depending on your personal needs. I put it together in order to take care of my skin on a students pay. And today I continue to use it because it’s the most effective, available and affordable way of taking care of my skin. After years of enjoying the outdoors, my face skin is still the best part of how I look. While I have a T-zone caucasian skin tone, my friends have also tried this method who are older and younger, fairer and darker skinned, men and women, and they like the results too. If I was a salesman I’d post some juicy quotes from them to convince you. But I’m not a salesman. Or a dermatologist.  Enough said.

So what is the Anarchists regime? It’s a skin care regime that despite the continual messages that natural physical beauty is achieved with expensive products, secret ingredients, and procedures, it’s really often available from simple items we already have, patience and perseverance–sort of like a pair of running shoes in the back of our closet. So here it is…

First, I clean my skin the same way I clean my cast iron skillet (Ha), without soap. Yes soap removes dirt and grime, but it also removes the natural oils your body creates to protect your skin against environmental damage.  Don’t use soap even if it has a lovely label.baking-soda-washjeffDOTedu.jpg

1. Every morning  combine about 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda ($1 per month) with a teaspoon of Cetaphil ($6 per mo.) an oil free, soap free, cleansing cream and stir it in my palm. Then with watery wet fingertips, apply it to your face, scrubbing in gentle circular motions and adding extra mild pressure on dry spots. Then use it on your neck with upward strokes. Rinse with warm water. This is also aimages.jpgn excellent makeup remover, leaving your skin soft and smooth. Never put anything grainier than baking soda on your skin, forget the walnut shells or other crackly additions. They will scratch, not exfoliate.

In winter weather or if you have sensitive skin, baking soda may be too harsh. If so, you may work it into a once weekly routine rather than daily. Or not at all. Trust how your skin feels. Also, in the dry weather I’ll reapply moisturizer throughout the day.

regenerist.jpg2. Then, pat your skin dry and combine one part serious broad spectrum sunscreen to a one part Oil of Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream (if your over 35. If your not, keep reading.). This will be your big expense of around $20.00 and worth every cent even on a tight budget. Should last 5-6 weeks. I  always return to this product because I see the difference. Regarding sunscreen, depending on your taste & location the best sunscreens can vary. I like No-Ad, Blue Lizard & Neutrogena products. And with the higher levels of sun exposure I get, I find that adding my own is more effective than just relying on what’s in the bottle already.olay fluid.jpg

If you’re under 30, you’ll need something milder, I used Original Oil of Olay face cream for years. It’s around $10 a bottle. But DON’T forget the sunscreen or the baking soda.

3. Adding  Witch Hazel, an astringent flower extract, as a toner between each cleaning is excellent for acne witch.jpgor over production of oil or removing makeup, though not around the eyes. Any Walgreens will provide basic Thayers witch hazel and they also have totable clothes for cleansing in the middle of the day. I crave Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel in the summer.


4. At night, cleanse with Cetaphil but without baking soda unless you’re removing makeup or feel it’s necessary to remove additional natural face oil build up throughout the day.


5. After my mid 30’s,  I started putting on a thin layer of Nadinola cream at night followed by Olay’s Regenerist face cream.

I use Nadinola cream to even my skin tone. It has 3% hydroquinone without a prescription and if used once a day it shouldn’t cause discomfort.  If it does then discontinue use. I have a few sun spots and developed melasma when I was pregnant which causes skin patches to darken. Over time it worked well to clear up these issues. But you may not need it. Know your skin. However, I don’t recommend it for use in all over skin lightening. My dermatologist had mentioned that it can cause darker skin to lighten to a violet gray, no way.

6. Finally, the fun secret. Skip the expensive face masks or Vitamin C Serum. My idea is more effective, plus The Anarchists Face Mask is best if you eat! Blend up (or mash) whole vitamin C rich fruits, as often as you want, but at least once a week. So use, strawberries, pineapple, kiwis, berries, and greens leafy veggies–what’s in your fridge? Adding an avocado can be great too.breakfast.jpgThese fruits releaseVitamin C directly onto your skin which is a wonderful skin regenerator and antioxidant. The fruit acids are also fantastic for removing dead skin. Or, on a day when your alone try laying the damp side of kiwi skins on skin, wonderful!  Make it. Drink it. Spread it on your face. About the time your done eating the rest, it will be time to wash it off and your skin will smile.

Follow these simple and affordable tips. Do it, do it, do it. And be patient. The real secret is sticking to it.  After a week you’ll notice a difference. After a month you’re friends will notice a difference. After three months, if your my age, your skin will look like it’s beautifully recovered from a chemical peel,

Let me know how it works for you!

**But as always, be smart about it. If your skin breaks out in a rash or feels uncomfortable discontinue use. While it is mild, this is not a hypoallergenic routine.


The Confident Minimalist

Yves Saint Laurant Mondrian Dresses, 1965 w/ Piet Mondrain Painting

Yves Saint Laurant Mondrian Dresses, 1965
exhibited likely w/ Piet Mondrain Painting

The Confident Minimalist

click on link above

A friend of mine sent me a link to this blog theminimalists.com.     I resented him of course for the implication. Just because I have WELL ORGANIZED boxes of bones, bugs, and other inspirational stuff and a storage unit full of my grandmothers doll collection (which admittedly, she and I collected throughout our tours of the public trash disposal that summer which I must write about some time) does not mean that clearing out my belongings is clearing out my life. However, I have always been attracted to Zen principles, or at least Zen gardens, well really bonsai trees, they’re so little they’ll fit anywhere. Minimalism for me has always been the svelte man in a black tux staring at me from across a room full of a thousand bumping garage band types which I found myself landing into trying to circumnavigate that room. But back to the blog, while the contributors Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (both maximum names I might add) aren’t bedecked in tuxedos, indeed, they’ve probably boycotted tuxedos on principle, they do approach minimalism in a modern and palletteable way. They are honest, personable and are not afraid to brave subjects such as happiness, gift giving, money, magic, love and they drive home that minimalists don’t have to take themselves seriously. Humor is encouraged.

I’ve selected one of my favorite essays for your introduction “A Japanese cowboy and an arrogant American walk into a museum“.  And note that they’ve toured, published a book, organized meetups, mentored, and have an archive fat with essays.  Check em out!

11 Easy Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life

11 Easy Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life

All we need is another self-help list, right? Well I know you, sons and daughters of self-helpers deplore these types of things, lists and self help and all that. By God were doing the best we can. Do we really need one more finger wagging over our heads!

Fortunately, I was not born to self helpers. As long as you had a fresh breath, brushed hair, and a relentless motivation to do, do, do, everything would work out in the end. So that’s why I was surprised to find this list on my fathers Facebook page. Of course my curiosity got the best of me, that and the fact that I happen to love lists. So I read it and thought I’d pass it on to anyone out there not raised by self helpers, who still find parts of themselves to help.

Please click on the underlined link below to be redirected.

Pretend Poverty

There’s a lot of talk these days about the increasing gap in the “top 1%” and those in poverty. And while I can’t stand it when someone’s trying to teach me about something I already know, I did begin to feel rather than know what this gap means through an experiment my husband and I tried with our family of four. Two little ones included. We increased our biweekly contribution to our investments and decided to live beneath our means. We now, are poor, sort of.  Some would balk at my saying that because we have two cars, a house, clean clothing and a dog and a cat, luxuries. Me for instance, I balk at myself. I’ve seen third world poverty. I’ve smelled it. But always from behind a veil.

Poverty expert Dr. Donna Beegle gave the second keynote address at the 2012 Oregon NAME (National Association for Multicultural Education) Conference

Poverty expert Dr. Donna Beegle gave the second keynote address at the 2012 Oregon NAME (National Association for Multicultural Education) Conference

Most outwardly recognizable, I’ve gained 5 pounds since the experiment began January 1st, a month ago. But how could that be when our daily grocery budget went from $6 per person, per day, to $4? That’s a 40% decrease in food! That fabulous 40 allowed us to supplement our groceries with local produce,  2 gallons of BGH & antibiotic free milk, 18 eggs from my neighbor and local meats. We enjoyed healthy fresh nutrient rich food. A gift to ourselves and our kids. Today though, we’re stocked with Ramen, pasta, cereal and recipes which are low in cost and higher in fat and carbs.  I clipped coupons the way my mom did at the breakfast table every Sunday. But even coupons are mostly pantry stock, rather than fresh foods. I see this and am trying to remain mindful. So I buy more frozen veggies. My children prefer crunchy colorful vegetables, so they’re eating less fresh. Bags of apples and oranges disappear in two days from our pale galley, leaving us feeling anemic and thirsty for orange juice.  I can see how, when flavorful food is scarce at home the $1 fast food menus are so enticing.  We’ve quite buying juice for the kids. Too much sugar. Too pricey. But they have soda sometimes. Guilt treats. We give ourselves guilt treats too. I heard once the best investment you can make during an economic Depression is in candy bars because it’s the one thing everybody can afford.

But, even free things began to disappear in our home. We lost a book from the library. My daughter left it under the deck and the rain took it. Thus the library suspended our card until we could pay $30.  A wonderful resource now inaccessible. And do we really want to take the kids to the free festivals, if they can’t ride the rides?  Other things are sacrificed too. For you, it could be limiting your subway pass. We’ve limited our gas to half a tank a week per car.  That’s enough to and from work but not enough to and from the park. Not enough to visit grandma who lives in a nearby town or to attend the birthday party 20 minutes away. Besides, birthday parties require a gift… a day of food or a birthday gift? That’s a simple choice.

Underprivileged people may have a hard time getting to and from work or school or to visit family or to afford a phone call. American’s live in expansive large communities which consume a lot of energy to cross. People without money may seem to neglect friends and family, when really they simply can’t afford to maintain them. Hence, they become isolated. And isolation is a perfect container for abuse as well.

When people are no longer capable of providing for their family in a healthy way, and are no longer able to pay their bills on time, their self-respect goes away with those things. This morning my husband and I drank our last cups of coffee for a week. We’re not big coffee drinkers really, but it’s an enjoyable daily habit. And after we finished and began our day there was a cool irritation that consumed us. We’re at home. It’s cold and rainy. We usually love the rain, but we have no more coffee. We have no gas. Our children are laying on the couch in front of the TV whining to go somewhere. We’re whining too, and we’re feeling the sense of despair that comes when you have too little.

While the children take their restless afternoon naps, I’ll go out to the car and turn the key and nothing will happen. No engine will turn, no flicker of dashboard lights, not even the ding ding dinging of an ajar door will ring. The damn car is dead.  And the mild cold I have will become full of choking coughs. And that will be that. Experiment over.

Even if it weren’t over, we’d still have health insurance, a large back yard, a safe town full of trails to hike and bike, fresh air and good schools. We’d also have a future before us, a way out, and our healthy, educated, middle class upbringing full of roots and wings.

And although we feel the ache of having too little, it remains, that we still have enough.

If you haven’t taken enough of  beating, here’s Paul Piff’s Ted Talk,” Does money make you mean?”  I just listened to it last week while I made a box of macaroni and cheese and thought it was appropriate to the article.

Paul Piff: Does Money make you mean?

UPDATE: The day after writing this, I found this woman’s story on Huffington Post, Linda Tirado, This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense. Check it out! Click on the ling below:

This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense