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.)

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.


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

Harvest Season for Seeds is here!





Dandelion seeds (achenes) can be carried long ...

Dandelion seeds (achenes) can be carried long distances by the wind. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seeds are everywhere,

flying by us, drifting on the side of the road, feeding wildlife, drying and

burying themselves again. And I am still struck with wonder at the power in those dormant little stones. They are a generous reminder of the continuity of life, and hope even when it’s dormant. They are one of the best things in life, and indeed they can be free. I am reminded of that each year when volunteer tomatoes, arugula, basil, strawberries surprise me without warning and produce a decent fruit.

So this year I purchased only seeds which were not genetically modified, for various reasons but mostly because GMO seeds often don’t produce in the next life. I always think there must be some paranoid farmers messing with our produce to insure that we won’t take that big watermelon home and make baby watermelons. But perhaps not so paranoid after all, that’s just what I’d do, being the penny pinching watermelon-poor person that I am. So my non GMO mostly heirloom seeds have succeeded nicely, and I have the opportunity to harvest the seeds for us and for seed bombs, and to exchange with with neighbors. So if you’re also interested, here is some information and links below to get you started.


  • Not all seeds are alike. I like to imagine how beat up a seeds needs to get before it ready to use–what’s it like in the wild? They need to dry out, some of them need a good freeze, some of them need darkness, most like to soaked for just before planting, and the masochistic ones, like those tortured little Blue Bonnet seeds need a scratch or cut.  Called seed scarification, I imagine it’s another brilliant way seeds evolved with eaters and scratchers hounding them. And what are heirloom seeds, or why does everybody want to eat those ugly bulbous expensive tomatoes anyway? Heirlooms are cool for several reasons, they are old, non modified, tried and true seeds.
  • They are seeds which have endured the hardships people faced before they had sprinklers, fancy fertilizers, pesticides, and the like.They have GRIT!
  • And so you don’t have to waste your hard earned cash on those chemical either
  • And, you also get a lot more seed selection.
  • Another thing is that they will grow in an environment most conducive to their survival rather than flourishing in places where they don’t belong. That leads to things like Potato Famines and stuff like that.
  • And can find plants to suit your personal taste, such as my love for tiny tart tomatoes, little yellow Blondkomphchen tomato, and little round Korean Eggplants (OK I know what’s up with my palette for little things, weird)



So seeds….Image.


For the most part I’m fairly lazy, and just prefer to cut when dry, place in a freezer bag and refrigerate till needed. In fact I did that yesterday driving past a gathering of brown dry Queen Anne’s Lace. And over there, those are my Nicholas sunflowers which I dry out and toss in a bag till next Spring.  But a little research for those plants you LOVE is worth the effort. And of course it’s always good to consider the environment your planting where you’re planting. They could become unwelcomed neighbors. (see Potato Famine again).


A couple great places to start are:


The international Seed Saving Institute:  http://www.seedsave.org/issi/issi_904.html


You Grow Girl:  http://www.yougrowgirl.com/2002/10/04/harvesting-seeds/



But my super fav where I started, and it’s also where I purchased my first heirloom Non GMO seeds: http://www.seedsavers.org/


Or like me, if you’re interested in first looking through some seed catalogs to begin your wish collection, you’d enjoy this website which allowed me to order 20 (but up to 60) seed catalogs which are packed full of lot’s of extra information about planting, growing, and harvesting.  (I keep my catalogs for years since their like little botanical encylopedias). It’s a wonderful way to spend a cold winter weekend planning for the Spring! But keep in mind not all of those offered are heirloom or GMO free. Choose what’s best for you.




And if you get hooked,  you’ll find that there are seed exchanges. It just altogether a wonderful cycle of things.


So I wish you the best in the harvest and cultivation of your biological jewels. Have fun, and please let me know what you learn…..