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I’ve been making this all purpose spray cleaner for years.  It works better than any store bought version, especially on greasy surfaces.  It’s easy and inexpensive to make, less than 5 minutes of prep time.  I also recommend not purchasing a spray bottle but recycling one you already have, these generally stand up longer than the empty store bought bottles.  If you have to buy one, try the home and garden center, they seem to be more durable.

I’ve faithfully used a recipe from the Better Basics for the home book, from $6 used at Amazon.com.

The recipe is easy, easy, gather the ingredients:  liquid dish soap, borax, washing soda, essential oil (I use Tea Tree oil) and water.

Mix all ingredients together and pour into spray bottle.

Easy, clean, inexpensive and chemical free, if you have to clean, this is a happy way to do it!

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“Mystical, magical, creative, vintage lake cabins, workshops”..like Christmas to yourself.  Squam artist retreat in New Hampshire is my newest travel goal.

“…17 amazing teachers…” “…..trying your hand at jewelry making, cooking & food styling, writing, mixed media, photography, painting, drawing, yoga or even some wild, unconventional embroidery techniques”

$995 includes lodging, workshops and all meals.

How can you NOT go?….

I honestly can’t remember where I saw this poster but I didn’t forget it’s message and made an effort  to look it up so I could obtain a copy of my own.  I love what it stands for and the inspiration it provides to be my best. Get your own copy at Northern Sun.

It reads:

Turn off your TV. Leave your house. Know your neighbors, Look up when you are walking; Greet people; Sit on your stoop; Plant flowers; Use your library; Play together; Buy from local merchants; Share what you have; Help a lost dog; Take children to the park; Garden together; Support neighborhood schools; Fix it even if you didn’t break it; Have pot lucks; Honor elders; Pick up litter; Read storeis aloud; Dance in the street; Talk to the mail carrier; Listen to the birds; Put up a swing; Help carry something heavy; Barter for your goods; Start a tradition; Ask a question; Hire young people for odd jobs; Organize a block party; Bake extra and share; Ask for help when you need it; Open your shades; Sing together; Share your skills; Take back the night; Turn up the music; Turn down the music; Listen before you react to anger; Mediate a conflict; Seek to understand; Learn from new and uncomfortable angles; Know that no one is silent athough many are not heard. Work to change this.

Happy Monday!

I was a child in the 70’s and have many great memories of the freedom we enjoyed riding bicycles, exploring the woods and being gone all day exploring.  Our mothers rarely knew where we were but never worried, the safety in that freedom is cherished in my memories.  One of the secret pleasures I had was visiting our local one room post office about a mile away, where the postmaster Helen with her bee hive hairdo would great us with smiles and penny candy.

Candy is not only visually stimulating, with bright colors and whimsical packaging, but always gives me that special feeling of being a kid again.  I always pack candy as a special treat on road trips or purchase boxes for our family movie nights.  So even though sugar may not be good for you all the time, the small pleasure you get from the sweet taste and pleasant memories are one of life’s great pleasures.  Enjoy!!

1  Good Karmal ~ Some of my favorite candies are retro but the first one is my new adult favorite.  These buttery, sweet caramels come in beautifully wrapped zen messages.  Genius!

2 Candy Buttons ~ These endless rolls of paper with their rainbow colored dots were one of my favorites visually, the brightly colored sugar was hard to resist and fun to pop off the paper.

3 Razzles ~ A gum and a candy in one, the paper bag always smelled so sweet when you ripped it open.  The transformation to a soft sweet bubble gum was always satisfying.

4 Mike and Ikes ~  These are still my favorite, especially at the movies and now I can share in the delight with my own child.  I love the sparkle in his eye when he hears the fruit chews wriggling around inside the box and the smile on his face when he has the whole box to himself.  Priceless!

5 Necco wafers ~ The crackle of the wax paper wrapper as you rip it open, the dry powdery feel of each wafer on your tongue and the sweet crunch were magical.  The only bad thing about these were the black licorice ones that I always tried to trade.

6  Barley candy ~ This is another adult favorite but I have memories of traveling and seeing these crystal clear, brightly colored lollipops in various tourist locations.  Shaped as Lobsters in New England or plain circles in five and dimes, the options have become more sophisticated.  These are in the shape of baskets, but this company Escape Concepts, has some beautiful options.  Including small molded dishes, bowls and pedestal plates that would be a beautiful treat at a Tea party.

The list could be endless, Bazooka joe gums with the comic inside…Remember collecting the points on each comic to buy a silver locket or Chinese fortune gum…What are your favorites?

It might be enough to love Sundance catalog just because it is owned by Robert Redford, but each turn of the page reveals magical merchandise from jewelry to housewares and everything in between.  I genuinely savor the arrival of each new catalog until eventually reality sets in and I convince myself that I don’t really NEED to buy that $138 skirt.  So I instead use their styling as inspiration for building my own outfits with more reasonably priced options.  Especially when I can impart recycling as part of the effort and re-purpose consignment items.  This outfit from Sundance was one I successfully copied for a fraction of the price.

Sundance Fleur du jour skirt ~ $138
Essentia Tee ~ $40
Mother Nature Locket ~ $998

Total ~ $1176...

My Thrifty version was born when I found the skirt on EBAY.  I put in my search criteria for a skirt, size medium, and rather than look through all the results, I selected save search and opted to have the search results emailed to me daily.


I got this Anthropolgie skirt for $6.00 !
Shirt at Walmart for $5
and
the necklace, made by moi, garnet, silver and artisan pendant, $35 in my ETSY shop.



Total….$46

As much as I admire the organization and attention to detail that Martha Stewart types have for keeping their lives neat and organized, I’ve never been able to achieve the type of controlled beauty that this photo from the April 2011 of issue of  Country Living Magazine represents.

In my search for ideas on how to achieve this look without breaking the bank
I came upon Ana White’s DIY project to build your own soda caddy.
It would be perfect for organizing all kinds of gardening odds and ends:  plant markers, tools…

Other items I just couldn’t resist from a couple of my favorite online shops:

1.  Cavallini Bird Gift tags – $12 for 36, would make great labels for baskets and crates
2.  White metal garbage can with lid – $5, perfect for storing potting soil
3.  Montauk Flat crates – $10 for three, for holding jars of nails, ties or any small items that tend to get lost
4.  Chicken wire candle holder – $6
5. Milk bottles and wicker basket – $4.99 ea, this would make a great vase for flowers or holder for plant markers
6.  Retro Metal paper holders – $17.50 for two, storage for balls of twine, pots or saucers
7.  Antique stainless bread box – $18.25, enclosed storage for keeping critters from eating saved seeds
8. Seagrass storage basket with handles – $6.99, soft but reinforced would be great for stacks of clay pots
9. Galvanized bucket – $5, storing flower or vegetable stakes

I intensely dislike exercising, the boring repetitive-ness of any form of exercise (except maybe yoga) prevents me from performing it as regularly as I should.  Instilling exercise routines in children is even more difficult, until I found Letterboxing.

Letterboxing history claims that it originated in 1854 England with a single box and an exchange of calling cards.  It slowly grew to the thousands and caught on here in the states.  Virtual maps with box locations all over the US and some European countries make it a perfect activity in your local area or while traveling.  The basic premise is similar to orienteering where you follow a set of clues to find a hidden box.  Inside the box is a rubber stamp and pad, maintained by the sponsor.  You stamp their pad with your own signature stamp and stamp their stamp in your own book.  Many people also leave amusing notes, poems or information about the search…weather, difficulty, etc.    The hikes range from very easy to difficult with all types of terrains, mileage and locations.   This activity certainly made it more fun when we took our son out ‘hiking’ and he got to look for the hiding place, carry the compass and then sign the log book and direct the stamping.  For maps and locations in your area visit Letterboxing.org and don’t forget the bug spray.

Some other items that make it fun and easy to begin your own Letterboxing adventures:

1.  LL Bean Apex back pack – On sale for $29. I love LL Bean! free shipping and free replacement at any time if anything happens to the item.

2.  Carve your own stamp kit – $9 at Stampeaz.com.  You may want to buy stamps at first but once you’re hooked on this activity you may decide to carve your own design.  This is especially useful if you decide to sponsor your own box.

3. Klean Kanteen water bottle – $13 and up at Greenfeet.com.  BPA and lead free, stainless steel water bottle.  Kleen Kanteen also sells all kinds of convenient accessories such as slings and replacement tops.

4.  Trail Mix – Make your own with snacks you like.  My son especially like M&M’s and mini marshmallows mixed in.

Not only is Letterboxing a fun and addictive outdoor activity that you do with family or friends,

…….but it’s (gasp) …..EXERCISE!

I often get so wrapped up in the busy-ness of my life that I forget about the simple things I can do to impact the lives of others.  Charitable acts don’t have to be grand, time consuming or expensive.  My two favorite resources for ideas make it really easy to slip in good deeds wherever you may be…

Debbie Tenzers “nice-a-holic” website is a great resource for busy people to fit good deeds into their everyday.  Her email newsletter and website lists specific items needed for a cause and the address to send it to or on her faq page for her new book she lists everyday nice things you can do on your own.

The Random Acts of Kindness website also has wonderful resources for home, community and schools.  I especially love the simplicity of their free pdf download, great for hanging on your refrigerator or bulletin board as a reminder.

Wishing you a kind and happy Monday!

I love to travel.  Going someplace new always inspires inventiveness and creativity.  On a recent family vacation to England, one of the many inspirations I took away from this trip was tea time.  Of course England and Tea time are synonymous, it seems very cliché to even mention it, but the English take their tea very seriously, more seriously than I imagined.  Tea was EVERYWHERE.

On one occasion we visited a garden center in search of a hostess gift.  The shop was very typical of an American shop, plants, flowers, pots, garden tools, etc. except that in the middle of the store was a tea shop.  No paper takeaway cups for this country.  A good, old fashioned, sit down tea complete with scones and jams.

I love tea and drank my fair share even before my visit to England.  But more important than the cup of tea is the ritual and pause that ‘tea time’ affords.  Taking time in mid afternoon to sit and relax with a cup of tea, muse about the day or the evening to come has become a new practice that I took away from my trip and reminds me of the beautiful country where tea is part of their culture.

Some of my favorites for Tea time:

1. Earl Grey Black Tea from Stash 30 ct ($3-5) at local Grocery stores, Walmart or online at Stashtea.com Stash makes the best Earl Grey with just the right amount of Bergamot.

2. Tea Infuser stick ($9.95) at Crate and Barrel.  It’s a decadent ritual to have a cup of tea made from loose tea. This Tea infuser stick makes it easy and portable.  The stainless portion of the stick makes scooping the loose tea easy and spill free, attach the diffuser end and set it into a cup of hot water.  Just stir and you have a luxurious cup of tea without the mess.

3. Organic White Honey ($17) from Volcano Island Honey in Hawaii, there aren’t words for how good this honey is, I could eat it right out of the jar with a spoon.   You can find it at their website but I’ve also seen it for sale at Whole foods.

4. Electric Tea Pot ($30) from Walmart.  I like this version, it heats up fast and the base is wired, not the pot which makes for easy service and cleanup.

5. Mate Chocolate, organic spiced yerba mate by Guayaki.  I love coffee and chocolate together but never enjoyed chocolate with tea until I found this brand.  It’s spicy and chocolaty without the overpowering licorice or clove flavor that other spiced chai teas have. YUM!

6. Stoneware Japanese mug, Pearl River ($6.50).  I have a handle-less stoneware mug that I found in a kitchen shop in Bar Harbor Maine, similar to this one.  I like having a special mug for tea, especially one without the handle so you can wrap your hands around it on cold days.

7. Tea Book, ($10) by EliteElishi on etsy.com.  America has lots of great coffee shops but not so many tea houses,  so I keep a few of my favorite tea bags in this padded envelope in my purse.  It’s especially great for travelling, the booklet keeps the tea packets from getting crushed or lost.

It may be officially Spring but here in New England we are still waking up to cold temperatures and cool, cloudy, windy days.  While spring fever causes some to peruse seed catalogs and dream of budding flowers and sowing vegetables I peruse the spring fashion catalogs, dreaming of sunny, warm beach days or family picnics.  Boden is in my top 10 picks for clothing design, but it’s a bit pricey.  I like the challenge of using Boden and some of my other favorites as inspiration and finding similar more affordable options to achieve the same look.

Boden’s Strappy jersey dress ($68)
Tie Espadrilles ($78)
Big Beach bag ($64.00)

 Grand total of $210.00

A similar look for $41.48!

Chadwick’s Cinched cover up ($12.99)

Payless Morgan espadrille ($24.99)

Amazon.com Daily Tote ($3.50)

Happy Spring!

It occurred to me the other day that my largest organ, the skin, deserves as much consideration to nourishment as the meals I choose to prepare.  A lot of emphasis, rightly so, is placed on proper nutrition, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, etc. But very little information is regularly available as to the effect of the chemicals we put on our skin daily.  But I recently found this article at Care2.com “Make your own natural body lotion” and decided to try it in an effort to feed my skin a healthier option.

This recipe has only 3 ingredients and I was still intimidated by the process and put off making it, but it turned out to be so much easier than I anticipated.  It took about 20 minutes, start to finish.  I am very sensitive to commercial fragrances and making this lotion with essential oils turned out to be a blessing.  The Almond oil can be purchased at pharmacies and Whole foods type grocery stores.  My favorite place to get essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs, oh how I wish I lived near this store, they have so many wonderful products at their online site including containers for storing all your creations, and you could get the beeswax and the carrier oil here as well.  The beeswax I purchased online at LocalHarvest.org an online cooperative of farmers.

The directions were straightforward and easy to follow; if there was a difficult part to this process it was finding the tools to dedicate to wax crafts and the cleanup.  Otherwise it was blissfully simple and I will never purchase commercial lotions again!!

Step 1: Collect the ingredients:
oil, essential oil, beeswax.

Step 2: Grate 1 TBSP beeswax

Step 3: Heat oil and melt beeswax in water bath

Step 4: Blend ingredients with essential oil

Step 5: Pour into your favorite container

A few years ago when I was approaching the big 4-0 a good friend of mine and I decided to do something big to celebrate.
She was also turning 40 the same summer and we thought an active adventure located somewhere between us (she’s in Israel, I’m in the US Northeast).

We explored many options, kayaking in Portugal, surfing in Costa Rica, hiking in England.  We finally decided on biking in Spain, as much for its location and good weather as the ease of bike riding.  We chose Active Journeys out of Canada for their self guided tours and reasonable pricing, the company was easy to work with and the trip was extraordinary!

I must explain that while my friend bicycles regularly, I did not.  In fact, I hadn’t been on a bicycle since I was 12, and while I had the best of intentions of practicing in the months before, I rarely did.  So I urge you to cast aside all doubts of whether you can handle an active vacation.  YOU CAN!  Explore the options…..

We had the time of our lives and never felt better, we averaged about 25-30 miles per day
and had the most wonderful Inns to stay at along the way,
the company transported our luggage to and from each location so we weren’t hauling it on the bicycles
and we had hot local meals and cold beer waiting for us at the end of each day.  I can’t wait for our next trip!

This Monday muse is the podcasts that I can’t seem to live without.  They are thought provoking, inspirational and uplifting.
I love, love, love to listen to podcasts in my car, some people get their best ideas in the shower…I get mine while driving.  Listening to these podcasts has improved my life in more ways than one:

Tranquility du jour audio and video podcasts feature fabulous interviews by self-proclaimed tranquilista Kimberly on numerous subjects such as “do-gooding, creativity, yoga, style, and being fabulous”.

Want more?  Visit her website http://kimberlywilson.com/she is a one woman extravaganza.  Her collection of websites include a blog, book club, workshops, retreats, philosophy, yoga tips, recipes, clothing line….her ingenuity and energy are motivational.

Who doesn’t need a little motivation on a Monday?


My next favorite (these aren’t in any special order) are the More hip than hippy chicks Dori and Val.  An eco friendly, environmentally conscious, sustainable collection of gadgets, news, interviews, tips, beer and chocolate…mix in the witty, unpretentious camaraderie of these two fabulous hosts and you’ve got two new friends.  With almost 300 episodes and 6 years in the making there is a load of information available, I just hope they don’t call it quits any time soon.

My final muse for the day is Queen of Dreams, Tina Ferguson.  Her soothing voice teaches peaceful, inspirational, reach for the stars, be your best subject matter in interviews with likeminded guests.  After listening to her I feel refreshed, calm and ready to conquer the world.

So on that 1000th commute to work, or trip to Grandma’s house when you’ve seen everything  and could make your way there blindfolded, with your hands tied…. pop one (or many) episodes of these lovely ladies onto your iPod and stimulate your journey with new thoughts, ideas and creative juices.

Happy listening!