Category Archives: Home Maintenance

Adventures in Gardening

While baby tries to wail herself to sleep, Mom finished planting her little patio garden.

I have no green thumb, or any green fingers at all. Not even blue or yellow. This is a true adventure. My one houseplant is extremely forgiving and puts up with being watered every two weeks or less — whenever it looks completely dead, I give it a drink, and within a couple of days it’s thriving again.

But a little part of me has always found gardening very romantic. I think one of my original 100 life goals was to have a true English garden a la “Secret Garden.” And gardening lines up with the key demographic of many of my other hobbies: knitting, cooking, reading old mysteries, quilting, genealogy…

Last year I had one plant on my front steps. I think it survived a while. And there was another deck planter, which I realized too late didn’t have drainage holes.

This year the operation’s been ramped up.

A total of three planters are on the porch railing. The first contains five herbs: chives, parsley, oregano, rosemary, and cilantro. (Had to keep their little markers — not smart enough to remember what a couple of them are!)

Second pot contains six marigolds. They might be too close together, according to the package instructions … I thought they looked too far apart. I always love marigolds and tulips because they were the first two flowers I can remember my mom planting. Marigolds also make me think of earthworms, though — I was scared to death of worms when I was five, and my mom made me hold one next to the marigold bed. It pooped in my hand.

The third pot is seedlings: four spinach seeds and four mesculin salad lettuce seeds. The basil seed packet went AWOL.

On the front steps is a pot of geraniums. (Surrounded by some weeds.) Apparently the bush in the background is dead. More about the bushes another day.

I’d still like to try to do a tomato plant. Anyone have success with a container-garden tomato plant? Do you remember what variety you bought?

Finally, a question.

What should I do with this dead patch? Our townhome association tries to plant grass in it every fall. This is my front yard, with a driveway just outside of view at the bottom.


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‘Toxic Free’: Browsing Through a Book

I stopped at the library this afternoon to pick up “Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Kids,” recommended by several friends. As baby was fairly well-behaved at the moment, I browsed through the new books for a few minutes and picked up a couple other titles.

One was a baby sign language book — I’d been thinking that would be neat to learn more about. (Note, I do take everything I read with a grain of salt.)

The other was called “Toxic Free: How to Protect Your Health and Home From the Chemicals That are Making You Sick.” Just yesterday I was reading some about BPA and learned it’s not only in bottles and cans, but toilet paper and napkins, and our main contact with it is probably in receipts and tickets. So this was along one of my current brainwaves.

On the whole, the book is too extreme for me. The author writes that one day, she went through and threw out everything in her home that contained toxic chemicals. “When I was done,” she says, “all that was left was four bare walls, a concrete floor with dried paint spatters all over it … and a roll-away bed frame with a pile of cotton thermal blankets for a mattress.”

Even if I wanted to do that, I think I’d quickly find myself a divorced woman. Just mentioning to my husband that maybe we could switch to cloth napkins was over the line for him.

I don’t know much about toxic chemicals, but I definitely believe they are in everyday things that we don’t even dream of. BPA began to be used inside cans in the 1960s, back when doctors probably smoked while they were delivering babies. My daughter’s pacifier is BPA-free — the sucky part, anyway. Apparently that may not be the case for the hard plastic parts of it. And yes, our parents are living to ripe old ages having consumed any number of poisonous chemicals, but I don’t think that means we need to keep doing it. I would like to take small steps of smarter choices.

On that note, here are a few items from the book that I found interesting:

  • The only bottled water she considers safe is sold in glass bottles.
  • Toothpastes can contain formaldehyde and plastics.
  • Baking soda can be used as a natural deodorant. (Not sure I’m willing to try.)
  • Most major dish manufacturers still use glazes with lead in them.
  • “If you do need to use plastic, choose food storage products made from polypropylene, which has a very low toxicity. The ‘disposable’ storage containers are made from polypropylene and can be reused many times.”
  • Do not microwave foods in plastic containers.
  • Nylon, polyester and acrylic fabrics are plastics made from petrochemicals.
  • Polyester-cotton and permanent-press cotton is coated with a substance that contains formaldehyde — that includes a lot of bedsheets, and could be a cause of insomnia.
  • CFL bulbs contain mercury, as you know if you’ve had to deal with cleaning one up. LEDs contain arsenic and lead, but they are very difficult to break.

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Filed under Green Living, Home Maintenance, Scary Chemicals in the News

‘Sell By’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Throw Out By’

It’s a pretty regular occurrence in my fridge that there’s a bag of spinach or carton of eggs that’s not used up by its “sell by” date.  I remember being told that it was okay to use eggs after that date, but … is it really? What about the spinach?

I never really did find out about the spinach — which is especially irksome as it’s the title photo of the following article — but did learn some more about how long things keep.

(I learned it from a Google search.) Here is a Business Week slideshow and article.)

  • “Sell By” is a date for sellers and selling, though it helps you gauge an item’s age.
  • If your fridge is cold enough, milk can last 2-5 days beyond sell-by.
  • Meat should be used or frozen within two days of when you brought it home, regardless of the sell-by date, because most of us don’t keep our fridges cold enough.
  • Ground meats should only stay in the freezer for three months. (Wow!)
  • This article suggests cereal should be used within six months of purchase. I know the boxes are dated generally a year out, though…
  • Eggs can be used 3-5 WEEKS beyond sell-by. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re super-fresh.

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Filed under Cleaning Up, Green Living, Home Maintenance

Cleaning: Let’s Just Say We Did?

I’m not the cleanest of people.

(Or maybe that’s an understatement, former roommates of mine might tell you.)

But in the not-so-distant future our tiny human will become mobile and grabby, and my ways will need to change lest I want to make daily trips to the E.R. I’m frequently pledging to get my act together like most messy people do, anyway.

I have an inkling that I might need to make a cleaning schedule: this room on Mondays, that chore on Tuesdays, etc. But what chores are really worth doing, and how often? If they’re not overtly filthy, how often should you really bother to clean a window?  Vacuum? Dust? What else is there?



Filed under Cleaning Up, Home Maintenance