August 2, 2010

Organizing

Posted in Cleaning, Home, Organization tagged , , , , at 9:09 am by Liliana

Creating order out of chaos

Creating order out of chaos

My sister Branka is a great organizer. Creating order out of chaos gives her pleasure and a sense of accomplishment.

She approaches each challenge systematically and with purpose. Currently, she is working on my basement.

The task is daunting, believe me, I have been avoiding it for years. But a few weeks ago, the basement got flooded, and something needed to be done right away.

Thank goodness that Branka was willing to adapt this project as her own. My gratitude is beyond measure.

First, she cleaned the place up. We had tons of books, bags of children’s paraphernalia, Branka’s and Joe’s belongings. She went through everything, organized keepsakes in labeled plastic boxes and threw away the rest.

Then she painted the ceiling white, the walls sunny yellow, and the bookshelves sparkly white.

Next, she will be overseeing the tiling of the floor – our brother-in-law is taking on that job.  We bought creamy beige ceramic tile and I can’t wait to see what our basement will look like when it’s installed. It will make doing the laundry almost fun!

All I can say is – thank you, dear sister, for bringing order into my life!

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June 27, 2010

The Oil Spill

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Children, Cleaning, Health, Money, News, Travel, Weather tagged , , , , , at 6:46 am by Liliana

http://www.oilism.com/oil/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/oilspill0.jpg

"Make my hands respect the things you have"

There is a great environmental tragedy happening in the Gulf of Mexico and it affects our entire planet.

I wanted to address the issue, to acknowledge the unprecedented affliction, torment and suffering, but my words feel inadequate and shallow.

What can I say that hasn’t been said? What wisdom can I offer?

I will let this beautiful Native American Prayer speak for me. It says everything, and much more, that I wanted to express.

Native American Prayer

Oh, Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me, I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold
the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have
made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things
you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my Spirit may come to you without shame.

(translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887)

Source: http://www.sapphyr.net/natam/quotes-nativeamerican.htm

June 9, 2010

Not a Day of Rest

Posted in Cleaning, Family, Home, Weather tagged , , , , , , at 7:07 am by Liliana

The power of water

The power of water

Despite all our hard work in the garden, no one got much sleep Saturday night.

It rained. It poured. Thunder. Lightening. Enormous amounts of water. Wind. Tornado sirens. I am not sure any of us even fell asleep.

Blurry eyed, I descended to the kitchen early Sunday morning. The rain had stopped. I was happy to discover that we still had power as I pressed the on button on the coffee maker. I reviewed the damage in the front of the house as I retrieved our Sunday paper. Branches were strewn across the lawn, mulch had been washed away, but all in all, it was not too bad.

People started coming down as the smell of fresh coffee wafted to the second floor. Everyone was sore. My father’s back hurt, Nana’s knees were in bad shape, Joe’s arms were battered, Branka’s shoulders were crushed from carrying heavy bags, and I could hardly get up from the soft couch. Karen felt lightheaded and had a fever. Nicky and Sam had nasty colds. We all agreed that this was going to be a day of rest.

As we lingered over hot tea, coffee and toasted bagels, discussing the news and commenting on the oil spill, Kaya whined begging for a walk (or at least some coffee and bagels!) My father and I volunteered to take her and I slowly headed to the basement to get my warm pants from the laundry room. It had gotten quite a bit cooler overnight.

At the top of the stairs, I stopped. Our basement was flooded. Several inches of water covered our finished, carpeted and furnished basement. We had placed boxes of Joe and Branka’s books (many signed and rare copies) and belongings all over the place, and have not had the time to unpack them or to lift them up higher. Everything was humid, and wet.

The water had nowhere to go. The sump pump, overwhelmed by the amount of water pouring in, was simply inundated and the motor burnt out.

I tried not to take this personally, but feeling sorry for oneself comes instinctively to us all. I called up and was joined by the rest of my family. Disbelief. Anger.

And then we got to work.

Books were our biggest worry. While Branka and Jeff dealt with the sump pump, Joe and I unpacked and shelved the books, allowing them to start drying or at least be out of the water. We unpacked boxes, carried load after load upstairs and threw things away. Blankets, linens, clothes were all drenched. We started a load of laundry. A bag containing my mother’s old lace was seeping yellow water.

It was not a fun day. Jeff called the insurance company and catastrophe cleaning, but no one had time for us. Our whole area was in bad shape, some places (where the tornado had landed) much worse off than we. I wanted to cry.

We got through the day, I am  not sure how. We cleaned, carried heavy buckets of water, and our ankles got numb from standing in cold rainwater for hours. Jeff bought a new pump at the hardware store, then worked on replacing the old one. The water finally started receding.

Sunday was not a day of rest. It was a day of backbreaking labor. But as I got ready for work on Monday morning, much more tired and sore than I had been the previous Friday, the sun was finally shining. Forecast for the rest of the week – rain!

June 8, 2010

Garden Work

Posted in Children, Cleaning, Family, Food, Garden, Home, Weather at 6:54 am by Liliana

My father working

My father working

My family and friends rallied together last Saturday. Our overgrown garden needed to be weeded, pruned and readied for the big graduation party at the end of June. Mulch had to be spread and flowers planted, dried tree branches cut, grass mowed, vegetable garden brought to life.

My father (77 years old) and stepmother (we all call her Nana) are visiting from Florida and they were up early. Equipped with old clothes and borrowed shoes, they were ready to battle. My sister made coffee and a huge breakfast (bagels, eggs, fruit, toast, meat, etc.)

The day was perfect for working outside, overcast, and not too hot. Nana and Nicole got the job of weeding the brick patio, one of the hardest jobs there. My father (with a bit of help from Sam and Mike) was pruning the dried branches, tackling the largest overgrowth and moving the old wood pile. The boys could hardly keep up with their grandfather.

Joe worked on pruning and removing the prickliest weeds, Branka was designing the side garden, digging, spreading mulch. Ann helped with everything, Nancy and Andrew got really dirty carrying bags of mulch and spreading it around. Jeff was the general supplier, running to the store to get us anything we needed, grocery shopping, helping with the cooking. I planted flowers in containers.

All day long, Mike’s girlfriend Karen cooked for us all. She made beef brisket (Texas style,) polenta, grilled fresh corn (rubbed with lime and feta cheese for flavor,) and an exotic mixed slaw. For dessert, she made blackberry squares.

By four in the afternoon, we were all sore and exhausted, and despite vigorous scrubbing, some of us had very dirty fingernails. The garden looked so much better, though, no one seemed to mind. People took showers and came down to dinner. Fourteen people sat around my sister’s dining table, and as the sky darkened, we ate the most delicious food imaginable. I ate slowly, savoring every bite. The sweet taste of corn gave away to tangy touch of lime.  The crunchiness of slaw complimented the smooth creaminess of polenta. And then the dessert – blackberries melting into brown sugar!

I hardly noticed the deluge outside.

June 1, 2010

Advice from RepairClinic – Summer Food Safety

Posted in appliance parts, Cleaning, Food, Health, Home, RepairClinic.com, Weather tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Liliana

Summer picnic

Summer picnic in Serbia

Every summer, people get sick with food poisoning.

By following a few simple food and hygiene safety rules, you can avoid any discomfort and enjoy the hot months of summer.

  • Keep cooked and raw food separate during preparation in order to prevent contamination of foods that will be eaten raw.
  • It is best to buy cold foods (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, etc.) right before checking out at your grocery store. Always separate raw meats  and poultry from other foods in your cart (to prevent leakage and cross-contamination.)
  • Cold foods should be placed into the coolest part of your car. If you live further than 30 minutes away, bring an ice cooler for storage.
  • Once home, place cold foods in the refrigerator right away. Meat and poultry that won’t be used in one or two days should be frozen.
  • Use your refrigerator for slow, safe defrosting of meat and poultry.
  • Cooked food should reach safe internal temperature. Whole poultry -180 degrees F; chicken breasts – 170 degrees F;  hamburgers – 160 degrees F;  Beef, veal and lamb steaks – 145 degrees F. All pork – 160 degrees F.
  • Meat thermometer should be cleaned carefully between temperature checks to prevent contamination.
  • During the summer months, food should not sit out at room temperature for more than one hour.
  • When preparing any food, but especially meats, keep all surfaces clean. Frequently wash your hands, cutting boards, counters and utensils. Make sure that the wash cloths and towels that you are using to dry your hands are clean.
  • Never reuse (or serve as relish) marinades that have come in contact with raw meats, chicken or fish.
  • Never place cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat.
  • When preparing meals or recipes that use mayonnaise, refrigerate them as soon as you can, and keep cold until serving.
  • While at the picnic or beach, keep coolers in the shade. Keep lids tightly closed and avoid frequent openings.
  • Use one cooler for drinks and another for food.  This way, the cooler containing perishable foods won’t be opened and closed constantly. Replenish the ice as it melts.
  • If you have spent a long day in the heat, it is best to throw away leftovers. Don’t take chances.

Your best policy is to use common sense. If you are in doubt, be extra careful!

May 25, 2010

Ways to Feel Better

Posted in Cleaning, Family, Food, Friendships, Health, Home, Weather, Women tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:00 am by Liliana

Nena, Nicky and Kaya

Nena, Nicky and Kaya (puppy)

All of us have dark, irritable days when nothing goes right and everything seems to be our own fault. How to make oneself feel better and lift one’s mood? Often it is the simple, everyday, sensible things that help the most.

Here are a few practical and effective suggestions:

  • Let the sunshine in – open the windows and let in the sunlight and the fresh air. Taking a few deep breaths always makes me feel better and reminds me of the beauty of the world.
  • Play with your pet – animals are non judgmental. They love you for being you and cheer you up with their presence.
  • Exercise regularly – talk a walk or go for a swim. Do something you love. Just getting out of bed or that dark chair will lift your mood.
  • Clean your house – order gives us a sense of control and accomplishment.
  • Repaint your room – change your environment. Beautiful colors transform your vision of the world.
  • Listen to music – whether listening to a classical piece or singing a popular song, music allows us to examine and explain our emotions.
  • Don’t over schedule – this is very hard for me to follow, but I thought I would say it anyway.
  • Take care of your health – visit your doctor and dentist regularly. Control the things that you can control.
  • Eat a healthy diet – good, nutritious food makes you healthy in body and mind. You will feel more optimistic and energetic.
  • Eat chocolate – in moderation. Chocolate boosts one’s moods.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol – they might make you feel better for a very short while, but you’ll be sorry later.
  • Maintain a daily routine – don’t be rigid, but it helps to have a daily plan. My husband, Jeff, has taught me this.
  • Talk about things – there is nothing more depressing than resentful, sullen silence. It feels liberating to discuss issues and try to find a joint solution.
  • Connect with others – get together with your friends. One long, freezing winter my girlfriends and I got together every Tuesday night. We all remember it as a wonderful season.
  • Get a good night’s sleep – when all else fails (and when it does not) rest and sleep and recharge. You will feel better.

Take good care of yourself. Be your own best friend.

May 15, 2010

Open Your Windows!

Posted in appliance parts, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Cleaning, Health, Home, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:02 am by Liliana

Open Your Window

Open Your Windows

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies indoor air pollution as one of the top risks to public health in our environment. Often, the air inside is more polluted than the air outside. What can we do to keep the air in our home fresh, clean and healthy? EPA offers a few easy to follow suggestions:

Open the Windows and Air Your House Out
Every day, even in winter, it is a good idea to open as many windows as you can in your house. The cross breezes will purify the air and make your house smell fresh and feel comfortable.

Keep Houseplants
Green houseplants not only clean the air in our homes by removing toxins but look beautiful and refreshing as well.

Candles and Air Fresheners
Most candles and air fresheners contained phthalates. These chemicals, used to spread fragrance through the air, are believed to cause birth defects, hormonal abnormalities, and reproductive problems. Burn only beeswax and soy-based candles.

Combustion Gases
Gas stoves produce open flames, and places where open flames reside (kitchens, living room fireplaces, furnace rooms, or basements) nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide have a chance of building up. It is important to check  and make sure that your gas appliances are properly adjusted. All should have a blue flame; a lot of the yellow or orange color are a sign of higher pollutant levels. If this is the case in your home, you should alert your gas company to adjust the setting. If you are buying a new appliance, select a model with a pilot-less ignition; this type does not have a continuously burning pilot light.

Dust Mites
Although not deadly, dust mites (hiding in bedrooms, linens, sofas, carpets) cause a number of allergies and  may be responsible for stuffy noses and itchy eyes. They could also make asthma symptoms flare up. Cover your pillows and mattresses with tightly woven “allergen protector” covers. Vacuum with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter; or even better, select wood flooring for your home. It is much easier to keep dust free.

PBDEs (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers or Flame Retardants)
These dangerous chemicals have been linked to thyroid and liver cancers, as well as neurological and immune disorders. Many Mattresses, upholstery and electronics are made with them. Mattresses made from wool (a natural fire retardant) are a healthier choice. Electronics manufacturers such as Apple, Dell, and Sony are starting to phase out certain PBDEs. IKEA is one of the furniture manufacturers that has stopped using these chemicals (as they have been banned in Europe.)

Formaldehyde
This chemical emits toxic gases that can cause nausea and dizziness; in severe cases, it may harm the liver and the kidneys. Formaldehyde can hide in adhesives in furniture, flooring and cabinetry. Particleboard products have a lot of adhesive, so buying solid wood furniture and flooring instead may help you avoid this harmful chemical.

Mold
Anywhere that there is water (refrigerator, washing machine, shower walls) there is potential for mold. Mold causes itchy eyes, runny noses, asthma, and other respiratory disorders. In order to control mold, it is important to control indoor moisture levels (those levels can easily be measured with an inexpensive humidity meter – a hygrometer.) Don’t forget to regularly clean the spots in your home that hold standing water – the drip trays beneath your refrigerator and the bucket on your dehumidifier. Run a cycle without clothes on your washing machine once a week with 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to prevent mold from invading there.

Pesticides
These chemicals can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, coughing, and dizziness and over long periods of time have been linked to central nervous system damage. They accumulate on floors, plants, pets, bottoms of shoes. Be careful of what kinds of chemicals you spray on your pets and plants to ward off pests and insects. Removing shoes before entering your home, can significantly cut down on the amount of lawn fertilizer tracked inside.

Every bit counts. Keep the air in your home clean and healthy. Keep those windows open.

May 7, 2010

Spring Cleaning – Bedroom

Posted in Cleaning, Home tagged , , , , , at 6:53 am by Liliana

Open Your Windows

Open Your Windows

Spring is the customary time to clean and refresh your house from the closeness of winter. Dust your walls, wash your fabrics and open your windows wide to let in the fresh breezes.  I am planning to start with my bedroom this coming weekend.

Supplies I’ll need:

  • Bucket with warm, soapy water (I usually use all-purpose green soap); replace water and soap frequently
  • Furniture polish
  • Window polish
  • Lots of soft, clean cloths and several soft brushes
  • Leave the windows open the entire time that you are cleaning and for the rest of the day

Tasks I hope to complete:

  • Take down window curtains and wash in washing machine. I have lace curtains, so I don’t dry them in the dryer but hang them back on the windows to dry.
  • While curtains are in the washer, I wash down the window shades, and areas and corners around the windows.
  • Take window screens down and wash well with soft brushes.
  • Wash and polish windows.
  • Wash ceiling and walls.
  • Wash ceiling fan, blades, and light fixtures.
  • Strip and wash bed linens, comforter, mattress covers, and pillows. I try to do this on a nice, sunny day (I hope Saturday will be one) and place everything outside to air and dry.
  • Vacuum mattress and flip over; air mattress by open window for the rest of the day.
  • Vacuum and wash area under the bed.
  • Dust with damp cloth all lamps, books, picture frames, art, vases, etc.
  • Dust and polish chests of drawers, dressers, and nightstands.
  • Clean and polish mirrors.
  • Vacuum and wash wood floors.

I usually leave cleaning and organizing closets for another time. At the end of the day, I bring in the linens from the outside and make my bed. The room will smell like the wind and sunlight. In order to keep it fresh, I will open the windows and air it out every day.

April 30, 2010

Wasteful Things We Can Live Without

Posted in Cleaning, Health tagged , , , at 7:02 am by Liliana

Clean World

Clean World

Everywhere I look these days, people are coming up with innovative ideas to curb wastefulness.

These are some suggestions I got from Care2 website on healthy living.

A Few of the Wasteful Things We Can Easily Live Without:

  • Tin foil — Use an oven-safe pot.
  • Plastic wrap — Use a glass container with a lid.
  • Disposable cleaning cloths — Use a microfiber cloth or rags that can be washed.
  • Paper towels — Use a cloth towel.
  • Disposable pens — Buy a good pen that only needs the ink well changed.
  • Plastic cutlery — Use silverware.
  • Paper plates — Using dishwashers saves water.
  • Paper or plastic single-use grocery bags — Use reusable tote bags.
  • Packaged fruits and vegetables — Go to the farmers market instead.
  • Individually wrapped snacks — Use a container.
  • Disposable razors — Purchase a razor that only needs the blades changed.
  • Juice boxes — Put juice in a reusable glass container.
  • Disposable diapers — Cloth diapers services are a good option.
  • Plastic cups — Reuse porcelain cups.
  • Bottled water — Install a water filter on your tap or buy a water pitcher with a filter.
  • Electric can openers — How much effort does it take to use the manual one?
  • Single-serving pudding or yogurt cups — Buy a large container of yogurt or make your own pudding.
  • Antibacterial wipes — Wash hands with soap and water instead.
  • Disposable table cloths — Use linen or cotton and wash when needed.
  • Facial tissues — Where did all the handkerchiefs go?

What are some of your solutions to a green, clean and healthy planet?

April 5, 2010

Maintenance Advice for your Refrigerator and Ice Maker – from RepairClinic.com

Posted in appliance parts, Cleaning, Home, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana

Maintain your Refrigerator and Freezer

Maintain your Refrigerator and Freezer

Warm weather is here already  – it was 85 degrees in Michigan last week! Early spring is the perfect time to do some light maintenance on your refrigerator and ice maker. Take care of any problems now and you will be ready for the hot summer months. Then you can relax and enjoy summer barbecues and cool drinks.

Refrigerator
Manual Defrost Refrigerator
• Although these types of refrigerators and freezers are increasingly rare, there are still a few around. If you own this kind of appliance, check for frost build up in your freezer. If frost has accumulated on the walls to a thickness of a half inch or more, it is time to clean up. Remove all food from your unit, turn your appliance off and unplug from the wall. Allow all the frost to melt and then wash the entire unit with warm soapy water. When you are done, reset the thermostat and resume normal usage.
Note: It is easy to puncture the evaporator and ruin the refrigerator, so, please, do not use any utensils or tools to scrape off the frost. Give it time to melt on its own.

Automatic Defrost Refrigerator
• On self-defrosting refrigerators and freezers, it is a good idea to clean the drain pan underneath the refrigerator that collects water. (Some are not accessible. Don’t worry if you can’t find yours.)
• Clean the refrigerator cooling fan and the condenser coils. The coils are located underneath your refrigerator. They are usually black and look like a series of small tubes with “fins” connecting the tubes. Order a Refrigerator Condenser Brush to make the job easier.
• Check the door seals to make sure they are sealing properly against the frame of your refrigerator or freezer. If the seals are damaged, or don’t seal properly, your unit will not cool properly. This problem will grow worse as the weather gets hotter and more humid. Clean the gaskets and frame with warm soapy water so they don’t stick to the frame.
• Inspect the back wall of your freezer for any frost build up. You should not have any frost on the back wall or floor of a self-defrosting appliance. The presence of frost is normally an indication that there is a problem. See RepairClinic.com troubleshooting guide for help with defrosting questions.

Ice Maker
• If you have a built-in ice or water filter, it is recommended that you replace the filter every six months.
• If you don’t have a water filter, and you find your ice has a bad taste or smells funny, use a “taste and odor” water filter on the incoming water supply line. Try the RepairClinic.com Universal Replacement Water Filter.
• If you don’t have an ice maker, consider installing one. Many people don’t realize that almost all refrigerators are set up to easily accept an add-on ice maker. Many refrigerators have a tag inside the freezer at the back that gives a kit number indicating exactly what kind of ice maker will fit in that refrigerator. RepairClinic.com carries kits that fit virtually every refrigerator and freezer on the market. Come and see the wide selection in the ice maker accessories section.

For maintenance advice on any appliance in your home, visit us at RepairClinic.com.

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