Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin One on One

Ok, now you have a few pounds of pumpkin at home, you know they are very nutritious and healthy, but are not sure what to do! Here is a guide from Eating well and a few recipes from various sources to help you make the most of them!

What type of pumpkins can I use for cooking?
Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are great to carve, but too watery and stringy to enjoy eating. Go with sugar pie, baby bear and cheese pumpkins instead. To make easy work of cooking a pumpkin, start it in your microwave for 2 minutes. Then, cut the pumpkin in half with a sharp knife and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Next, place the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet pan and roast in a preheated 375F oven the pumpkin flesh is tender, which takes about an hour. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the tender pulp to use in your recipe.

What's the best way to roast a pumpkin?
Roasting a pumpkin may sound like a daunting task, but it's really not. First, microwave a pie pumpkin on HIGH for 2 minutes. Then, carefully cut the pumpkin in half (you'll need a sharp knife), and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Next, heat your oven to 375º. When it's nice and hot, place the pumpkin pieces (cut sides down) in a 13- x 9-inch pan. Cover and roast them for up to an hour, or until tender. Cool and scoop out the tasty pulp, and then use it as directed in your recipe.

What is the difference between canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie filling, and pumpkin puree?
Canned pumpkin is just that and nothing more: cooked, pureed pumpkin. Pumpkin pie filling is flavored with spices like cinnamon, clove, allspice and ginger, and is also sweetened. It is a “convenience food” for making short work of pumpkin pie. Pureed pumpkin or canned pumpkin may be used for many dishes besides pumpkin pie, including delicious soups and pastas.

Check out the recipes below:

Pumpkin Soup with Bell Pepper and Paprika
Pumpkin (or Butternut Squash) Cookies
Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Sources: Various, including and Yahoo

Super Powerful Antioxidants from Unexpected (and Affordable) Sources

When we talk about antioxidants we usually think about blueberries, cinnamon and spinach. Well, surprise, surprise! Check out the list below of super powerful antioxidants, all at your fingertips!
From Prevention Magazine:

1. Whole Grain Pasta
Whole grain versions of pasta (whole wheat should be listed as the first ingredient) have 3 times more antioxidants than enriched or refined varieties, found Vinson’s study at the University of Scranton. He and his team compared the enriched or refined with the whole grain versions of three spaghetti brands.

2. Popcorn

Popcorn has 4 times more polyphenols—powerful cancer-fighting plant compounds—than the average amount found in fruits, says Vinson, who tested several whole grain foods to measure antioxidant levels. “When air-popped at home, it’s a 100 percent whole grain food, so it’s not a complete surprise that it’s packed with polyphenols,” he says.
3. Eggs
Eggs aren’t commonly considered a rich source of the antioxidant lutein (which protects your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts) because they have low concentrations of it, relative to top sources such as spinach. However, scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University discovered that the lutein in egg yolks is absorbed more effectively than that in spinach, possibly because the yolks’ fat helps our bodies process the antioxidant much better. So even though one egg has only about 5 percent of the lutein found in just 1/4 cup of spinach, we absorb it 3 times more effectively, explains Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, coauthor of the Tufts study. “Spinach and other leafy greens are still the best sources, but whole eggs are another easy way to get more lutein,” she says.
4. Beans
A 2004 study conducted by the USDA found that certain varieties of dried beans contain high levels of antioxidants, but Americans commonly eat more canned beans, observes scientist Mark Brick, PhD. To find out if canned have as many antioxidants as dried, Brick and a team of researchers at Colorado State University measured the phenolic and flavonoid contents of several types of canned commercial beans for a 2009 study published in Crop Science. The scientists found that while all canned beans contain antioxidants, small red beans have the highest levels, followed closely by dark red kidney and black beans. In fact, darker canned beans have as much as 3 times more phytochemicals—plant compounds that wipe out free radicals to protect your cells and repair DNA damage—than white kidney and great Northern beans.
5. Yogurt
Love yogurt? You’ll love this stat: Just 1 cup of low-fat plain yogurt provides at least 25% of the daily value for riboflavin—the same that’s in 1 cup of boiled spinach. While not an antioxidant itself, riboflavin (a B vitamin) is critical in promoting antioxidant activity. Without it, the antioxidant glutathione—which is already in our cells—cannot destroy free radicals, which may lead to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions. Because riboflavin is water soluble, it remains in the body only a few hours and must be replenished daily; yogurt does the trick.
6. Canola Oil
Heart-healthy canola oil (which is less expensive and milder tasting than olive oil) is rich in the antioxidant alphatocopherol, according to Maret Traber, PhD, of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Just 1 tablespoon contains 16 percent of the DV. Alphatocopherol is one of eight antioxidants in vitamin E, which scientists have found keeps the fats in “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and forming free radicals, potentially leading to cardiovascular diseases and other chronic conditions. Turns out, though, we aren’t getting enough of this potent antioxidant. Close to one-third of women have low concentrations of alpha-tocopherol, say researchers who looked at data from a national nutrition survey conducted by the CDC. Easy fix: Use canola oil when baking or anytime you need a neutral-tasting oil for sautéing.
7. Organic Milk
Switch from regular milk to organic and you’ll be rewarded with a stronger dose of antioxidants, including vitamin E and the carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein, says Gillian Butler, PhD, coauthor of a recent British study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Butler’s findings show that the antioxidants in milk from cows raised on organic or grass-fed diets are about 40 to 50 percent more concentrated than the milk from conventionally raised cows. These cows eat more grass, and the pasture itself provides more antioxidants than grain feeding even if the feed is augmented with supplements. If you’re not a frequent milk drinker, look for cheese and butter from grass-fed cows; they also offer more antioxidants than conventional varieties, says Butler.
8. Natural Sweeteners
The average American consumes 130 g of added refined sugars each day. If you cut excess sugar and use natural sweeteners like molasses, honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup instead of refined whenever possible, you can add the equivalent of antioxidants from an extra serving of nuts or berries to your daily diet. That’s according to researchers at Virginia Tech University who examined the antioxidant content of several natural sweeteners and found that molasses (particularly dark and blackstrap varieties) had the highest amounts. Their study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, showed that honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup also contained significant levels of antioxidants. While the university study looked at commonly available commercial honeys (usually refined from clover nectar), earlier studies have measured antioxidants in a variety of honeys and found that darker types tend to have significantly higher polyphenol counts. For example, buckwheat has an antioxidant level 8 times higher than clover, which is also outranked by sunflower and tupelo honeys.

Friday, October 28, 2011

FDA: Black Licorice May Affect Your Heart

"Black licorice can lead to heart arrhythmias and other health problems when consumed by adults in large quantities, the FDA noted in its pre-holiday alert.
Experts say that consuming 2 ounces of black licorice per day for two weeks can set the heart stuttering in susceptible individuals. The culprit is a compound called glycyrrhizin, which is what gives licorice its sweet flavor.
Glycyrrhizin causes the kidneys to excrete potassium. And low levels of potassium can make the heart beat dangerously fast or out of sync, says Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.
The compound also leads to salt and water retention which can be a problem for people with heart failure or high blood pressure, Fonarow said.
It’s long been known in some cultures that licorice was more than just a sweet indulgence. In certain parts of the world, the chewy stuff is prescribed to treat everything from heartburn to bronchitis to viral infections. So far, though, there hasn’t been a study proving that licorice can cure anything, the FDA alert noted.
Because licorice is a bioactive food, which means it can tweak metabolic processes in the body, you also have to worry about interactions with medications, Fonarow said."


Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Make Your Home Healthier (by Dr. Oz)

I stumbled across this very insightful article and couldn't wait to share this with EcologicalMom readers. Check out these great tips from Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen on  how to keep home contamination to a minimum:
The Kitchen 
Garbage disposal: A veritable whirlwind of bacteria sprays up each time the disposal is on, leaving a germ-heavy mist hanging over the kitchen. Make sure the disposal opening is properly covered before flipping the switch.
Sponges and dishrags: These fertile breeding grounds contain more than 100,000 germs per square inch. Microwave wet sponges (not dry—they’ll catch on fire!) for two minutes when they’re particularly dirty. Ideally you’d do this every day to kill bacteria. You can also just use dishrags cleaned in a dilute bleach solution.
Cutting board: Wood cutting boards are in fact safer than plastic. In one study, bacteria on a wooden board dried off in three minutes. Bacteria remained on the plastic board overnight, and multiplied. Wood appears to have a natural, bacteria-killing property that glass and plastic do not.
Countertops: You can’t control all the bacteria in your house, so relax about that. Antibacterial countertops are useless. Clean off your counters with warm, soapy water after preparing food and dry thoroughly. If you’re cooking with potential bacteria (meat, fish or poultry), kill those germs with bleach or an eco-friendly alternative, like vinegar. Do the same in your freezer and refrigerator.
The Bathroom
Toilet: Toilets contain a bacteria line just below the water level, called a biofilm. This bacterial biofilm if very difficult to remove, even with household cleaners. Once airborne, these microdroplets land on everything within the flush zone: toys, cups, toothbrushes, etc. Gross, right?
Some of these pathogens live for a week on surfaces. Each toilet flush creates an unseen mist detectable at head height, which can travel 15 feet from the toilet bowl. This is known as the aerosol effect. Putting the toilet seat down before you flush the toilet will prevent some fecal particles from floating and landing on every bathroom surface. Keep your toothbrush covered or in the medicine cabinet!
Cleaning solutions: All surfaces should be cleaned regularly. This includes the door handle, toilet, sink, faucets, floor and shower/bathtub. Clean inside the toilet at least twice a week with a disinfectant. To avoid transferring germs, clean the sink and toilet with separate cloths.
Showerheads. Occasionally remove your showerheads and soak them overnight in a commercial cleanser or vinegar. This removes the mold and mineral residue that clog the head and contaminate shower water.
The Bedroom
Mattress: We all sweat during the night, up to a half pint of moisture. This goes into the mattress, which is an ideal environment for dust mites.

Add this to the skin we shed as we sleep (up to nine pounds per person per year), giving mites something to eat. These little buggers can irritate your skin and cause swelling. The scary statistics: The average bed is home to about 10,000 dust mites, which can cause hay fever, asthma and other things.

Every six months, turn the mattress over. Vacuum it monthly and replace it every ten years. Use a latex cover or a 1-micron filter sheet cover.
Pillow: Each night you inhale the waste of dust mites that live in the pillow. Use a 1-micron filter pillow cover or a latex cover.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

10 Reasons to Convince You to Drink Water

Do you drink enough water? If not, check out the reasons below.... they should be good enough to convince you this time! 
Researchers estimate that half of the world’s population is chronically dehydrated. And in America, that level is even higher at 75 percent of the population.
More than two-thirds of your body weight is water. Without adequate water your body’s biochemical and electrical (yes electrical, read on!) processes begin to break down. The list of reasons your body needs water is as plentiful as the functions in your body, so due to space limitations, here are 10 good reasons to drink more water:
  1. Your blood is over 80 percent water and needs water to make healthy new blood cells.
  2. Your bones are over 50 percent water and, you guessed it, need water to make healthy new bone cells.
  3. Drinking more water actually helps lessen pain in your body by getting your lymphatic system moving. The lymphatic system is a network of nodes, tubes, vessels, and fluid that move waste out of your tissues. It requires water to function properly.
  4. Water helps to eliminate wastes and toxins from your body through the lymphatic system, kidneys, and intestines.
  5. Water lubricates your joints and helps reduce joint pain and protect against wear and tear.
  6. Water regulates your metabolism so if you’re overweight chances are you may need more water.
  7. Water balances body temperature.
  8. Water helps to ensure adequate electrical functioning so your brain and nervous system function properly. Your brain and nervous system send out electrical signals to function properly. Researchers estimate that your brain gives off about the same amount of electricity as a 60 watt light bulb. So, there’s some truth to the image of a light bulb going on when someone has a good idea.
  9. Water alleviates dehydration (and I’ve already mentioned that most people are chronically dehydrated).
  10. Every cell and organ in your body requires adequate water to function properly.

No-Sewn Clown Costume Made with a Pillowcase

If you haven't found a Halloween costume for your kids yet, here is a great and easy one for you: a no-sewn clown made with a pillowcase!

1.            Colorful Pillowcase
2.            4 Big Colored Pom Poms
3.            Elastic cording or 1/4 inch elastic
4.            Craft glue
5.            Scissors
6.            1 large safety pin / 4 medium safety pins
Dollar Store accessories

What To Do:
7.            Iron pillowcase to remove creases and wrinkles first.
8.            Fold pillowcase in half, lengthwise, and then cut a small opening, on folded side, for the neck .  Unfold and then cut a slit down the back, only, about 5 inches long from the neck opening.
9.            Across from the neck opening, at each side seam, cut away a 1/4 inch slice for the arm holes.
10.         Dab a bit of white glue onto the cut edges to prevent fraying, if desired.
11.         Cut a piece of elastic that will fit around your child's thighs, adding about 6 additional inches. 
12.         Cut a small slit on the inside of the double thick bottom border, making sure not to cut into the front layer of fabric.
13.         Attach the large safety pin to one end of the elastic and then insert this into the opening of the border.  Making sure to keep the other end free, weave the safety pin through the entire border, gathering as you go.  Tie off end, leaving a short tail and push into border.
Attach Pom poms to the center front of the costume or attach with hot glue if desired.  You can either make a big bow from a piece of fabric, folding over ends and tying in middle (attach to front of costume) or we found our clown nose, gloves and bow tie at the dollar store.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

RECALL ALERT: Spinach with Listeria

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Inc., is voluntarily recalling fresh bagged Washed Spinach 12oz, with the Enjoy by date of OCT 16 sold under the f&e™ label.

The recall notification is being issued out of an abundance of caution based on a random sample test, conducted on behalf of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). One bag of this product with the Oct 16 Enjoy by date was confirmed to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been associated with this product.


RECALL ALERT: Organic Eggs with Salmonella

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are investigating illnesses in at least six people in Minnesota that are connected with a recall of organic shell eggs due to contamination withSalmonella Enteritidis. The contaminated eggs were traced back by the MDA to Larry Schultz Organic Farm of Owatonna, where environmental testing confirmed the presence of Salmonella Enteritidis.  Larry Schultz Organic Farm is cooperating with the MDA investigation and has issued a voluntary recall of the products.
Eggs from Larry Schultz Organic Farm are packaged under the following brand names: Lunds & Byerly’s Organic, Kowalski’s Organic, and Larry Schultz Organic Farm. Eggs are packed in bulk and varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons). Full product descriptions and a list of grocery stores where these products were sold can be found at bearing Plant Number 0630 or a “Sell by” date are not included in this recall.

To prevent illness, it is important for consumers to cook eggs thoroughly before eating in order to destroy any Salmonella or other bacteria. Consumers who believe they may have purchased these shell eggs should not eat them but should return them to the store where they were purchased for a full refund.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

New AAP Guidelines for Crib Safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations on Oct. 18 to promote safe sleep for babies and decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Infants should be breast-fed, when possible, and immunized with all their shots, the new guidelines say, because studies have shown both reduce the risk of SIDS.
The ideal baby bed consists solely of a firm crib mattress covered by a fitted sheet, according to the AAP. There should be no gaps between the mattress and the crib.
Bumper pads pose a risk of suffocation (if the baby rolls up against the pad and doesn't roll away), and strangulation (if the baby gets tangled in the bumper pad ties.). 

Other recommendations from the AAP include:
         . Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
         . The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room sharing without bed-sharing). This arrangement reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent, research shows.
         . Infants should not be fed on couches or in armchairs when there is a high risk that the parent will fall asleep.
         . Mothers should not smoke before or after pregnancy, as smoking is a major risk factor for SIDS.
         . Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Researchers aren't sure why, but using a pacifier is linked with a reduced risk of SIDS, even if the pacifier falls out of the baby's mouth during sleep.
         . Avoid covering the infant's head or allowing him to overheat.
         . Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS (there is no evidence such devices are safe, or that they reduce SIDS).
         . While awake, infants should spend some supervised time on their stomachs. This "tummy time" avoids putting constant pressure on the back of the skull. It also strengthens the baby's neck muscles, which reduces the risk of head deformities that can occur when the baby's head lies on one spot for too long.

Source: MyHealthNewsDaily

Non-Washable Listeria in Cantaloupes

No amount of washing, scrubbing, bleaching or peeling would have cleaned cantaloupes contaminated by Jensen Farms' packing practices enough to remove listeria bacteria that has sickened at least 123 people and killed 25 in the deadliest outbreak in a quarter-century.
"There's nothing consumers could have done," said Dr. Doug Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.
Federal Food and Drug Administration officials reported Wednesday that standing pools of water, inaccessible drains, hard-to-clean equipment and failure to cool cantaloupes fresh from the field before placing them in cold storage all likely contributed to the growth and spread of four strains of listeria bacteria at the Jensen Farms packing site in Granada, Colo.
In addition, listeria could have been introduced into the packing center from sporadic bacteria in the field or from a dump truck that hauled culled cantaloupe back and forth to a cattle yard and then parked next to where the whole melons were being processed. Cattle are known reservoirs for listeria.
The cold, moist environment maintained over time is exactly what listeria needs to thrive, said Dr. Mike Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Healthiest American Cities for Families

Check out the 10 healthiest American cities for families, according to

1. San Francisco
The City by the Bay rose to the top of our list in part because of its gutsy moves to bring healthier foods to schools. San Fran booted soda and high-fat, empty-calorie food out of its schools in 2004 (five years before the state did) and was one of the first places in the country to push for school gardens. Salad bars -- stocked with California-grown produce and whole-grain breads -- debuted in 25 city schools in 2007; now at least half have them. "Students are definitely eating more fruits and vegetables at lunchtime since we installed the salad bars," says Ed Wilkins, school nutrition services director.

San Francisco also goes the extra mile to keep kids active, running 182 playgrounds (including Golden Gate Playground, with one-of-a kind slides and a sand-castle-building area), 82 recreation centers, and 60 soccer fields. The Sunday Streets program creates miles of car-free roads during designated times so families can get outside without traffic worries. "My 3-year-old squealed when she rode her bike down the middle of the steep roads near our house," says Sumi Das, a spokesperson for the 4,300-member Golden Gate Mothers group.

2. Boston
The city has more than 400 kids' docs, a state-of-the-art children's hospital, and one of the largest pediatric research facilities in the U.S. "The level of care here is extraordinary," says Jill Rosenthal Notkin, founder of the popular Boston blog The Daily Grind of a Work@Home Mom. "My daughter had dozens of office and lab visits before her first birthday, and the doctors and their staffs were universally clear, timely, and caring." On the food and fitness fronts: Boston recently added 33 miles of bike lanes and launched a program to educate families, youth organizations, and other groups about alternatives to sugary drinks.

3. Honolulu
It really is paradise. Honolulu has the least ozone pollution of any U.S. city, according to a recent report from the American Lung Association. "We're fortunate enough to have low humidity, cooling trade winds, and very little industrial pollution -- all of which makes the city's air pristine," says Ross Tanimoto, deputy director of the department of environmental services. In fact, Honolulu families spend tons of time outside. All the city's gorgeous beaches are public property so they're free to visit, and many have grassy areas nearby where kids can run around. Plus, the city offers 225 playgrounds and 22 swimming pools. "Organized sports are a big deal here for both kids and adults," says Marcella Kopa, a NICU nurse and mom of two. "I love that my kids see practically all our neighbors, whether they're 6 or 60, being active."

4. Seattle
Kids aren't as likely to get hurt in this safety-minded town. Seattle has one of the lowest death rates from childhood injuries in the U.S. "Washington was the first state to pass a booster-seat law, and it's since updated that legislation to make it among the best in the country," says Katharine Fitzgerald, director of marketing and health promotion at Seattle Children's Hospital. In the last year, the hospital provided 480 car seats at low cost and gave 2,500 bike helmets to local families. Alayne Sulkin, publisher of, a website for Seattle moms, points out these other perks: an annual fun run for 3- to 5-year-olds, forward-thinking companies with parental paid leave and flexible work schedules, and a downtown farmers' market.

5. Providence, Rhode Island
This small, tight-knit community thinks big. Providence has as many playgrounds and ball fields as cities two to three times its size, plus its own top-notch children's hospital. The food scene is superb, with lots of mom-and-pop cafés in town, many serving up local seafood. "It's not unusual to see 3- and 4-year-olds digging into clams or shrimp here," says local restaurant owner Ellen Gracylyny, a mom of two. A recent perk: Farm Fresh Rhode Island, a group of 40 local family farms, has set up a "local food guide," which lists all the nearby farmers' markets, farm stands, pick-your-own farms, and community-supported agriculture programs. It also highlights restaurants and private schools that buy locally grown food.

6. Des Moines, Iowa
It's easy to live in this Midwestern town, which happens to be the home of Meredith Corporation, publisher of Parents. You can drive from the 'burbs to downtown in less than 20 minutes -- even during rush hour. The city also offers free yoga classes at some public parks, daily recess for all elementary-school students, 40 miles of fitness trails, and enclosed downtown skywalks so families can keep active even in bad weather.

7. San Diego
Your kid is more likely to eat his fruits and veggies here. Every public elementary school has a salad bar and is aiming for 25 percent or more of produce to come from local growers. Plus there are 40 city farmers' markets. "That's where my kids discovered that they like heirloom tomatoes," says Debbie Anderson, founder of the blog San Diego Momma. The low crime rate, year-round mild weather, 33 beaches, and a new autismdiscovery center at the local children's hospital also helped the city make the list.

8. Denver
Welcome to the most active city on our list -- nearly 85 percent of the city's residents exercise and more than half get at least the recommended amount per week. Among them: Colorado governor and dad John Hickenlooper, who was Denver's mayor for nearly eight years. "I've been taking my 9-year-old son, Teddy, rock climbing a lot lately," says Hickenlooper. "We're also hoping for a kayak trip on the South Platte River, which runs through town." The governor's family also enjoys the city's 240 urban parks, bike paths, and, in the winter, free downtown ice rink. Plus, every fifth-grader in the state gets a free ski pass.

9. Portland, Oregon
Consider it bike central. "Many families use their bikes more than their cars," says Olivia Rebanal, cofounder of "They take them on errands, to the supermarket, even to school." Portland sponsors low-cost summer and after-school bike camps for kids as young as 6, to help children learn the basics. Biking has become so popular with families that some elementary schools in town have recently added more bike racks, and the New Seasons Market supermarket has just as much bike parking as car parking. Another eco-idea that's beginning to take root: community gardens. Portland has 37 of them, and some offer free gardening classes for kids. Says Peggy Acott, community-outreach director at Portland Nursery: "The children's gardening program has donated more than 1,000 pounds of produce to local food banks over the last three years."

10. Lincoln, Nebraska
It's gone green. Through its "Cleaner Greener" program, Lincoln installed 13 hybrid buses, maintained 130,000 neighborhood trees, and is close to having a park within a half mile of every house in the city. That's on top of the excellent air and water quality; Lincoln didn't exceed the ozone or particle pollution levels on any day in 2010. And families can feel safe while being outdoors on the city's 128 miles of trails. The crime rate is low and the average commute in town is 17 minutes, so you have more time to spend with the kids.

Source: and Yahoo

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Release: "Media Use by Children Younger than 2 Years", by the American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a revised report on "Media Use by Children Younger than 2 Years". It is a must read for parents!

Click here to access the complete report

Yet More Surprising (and Unusual) Uses for Vinegar

We all know that vinegar is a "multi-tasker", but I've just learned about 20 very unusual (and eco-friendly) ways to use vinegar that I've never thought before. Check them out!
1. Condition hair
Silky, shiny, buildup-free hair using a single cheap, natural product? Sign me up! It may sound odd, but using apple cider vinegar as a rinse after shampooing really does work like a dream. It removes residue from the hair shaft and closes the cuticles. Just add half a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of water, plus a few drops of essential oil if you like. Pour it on in the shower and then rinse it out. Sure, your hair will smell like salad dressing for a while, but once it’s dry, the smell dissipates.
2. Kill weeds
A few rogue weeds can wreak havoc in an otherwise flawless lawn, vegetable garden, or flowerbed and are especially annoying when popping up in the cracks of a sidewalk or driveway. Forget pricey weed killers full of toxic ingredients -- household vinegar really does kill unwanted plants; stronger vinegar made for horticultural use, which is 25% acetic acid, works even better.
3. Remove underarm stains
Unsightly sweat stains can really ruin an otherwise beautiful blouse. Ironically, if you use aluminum-based antiperspirants, they’re even more likely to appear, thanks to a reaction between aluminum compounds in these products and salts in your sweat. Spray full-strength white vinegar on the stain before washing, and it will disappear.
4. Soften fabrics
Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle, and not only will it prevent lint from clinging to your clothes and keep colors bright, it’ll also remove soap scum from both the clothes you’re washing and the washing machine itself. Vinegar is also recommended in place of dryer sheets -- simply add 3/4 cup to your washer during the final rinse cycle.
5. Remedy sore throats
Many people recommend sipping or gargling with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water to soothe a sore throat. Add a few tablespoons of honey (also a seriously versatile product!) to this mixture in order to make it even more effective and far more palatable.
6. Deter ants
Got trails of tiny ants weaving their way around your home? These annoying insects aren’t big fans of vinegar, so spraying a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water anywhere you have seen them can help encourage them to move out. The vinegar also erases the scent trails that they use to indicate sources of food to their brethren.
7. Soak sore muscles
Apple cider vinegar helps draw out lactic acid, which accumulates in muscles after exercise, causing that sore feeling. Mix a few tablespoons of vinegar into a cup of water, dip a cloth in the mixture, and apply it to sore areas for 20 minutes.
8. Freshen air
Whether it’s smoke, mildew, pet odor, or lingering whiffs of burnt casserole, bad smells can make a home less than welcoming. Store-bought air fresheners just cover up the smell with strong, clearly artificial scents, creating disturbing hybrid smells that only serve to worsen the situation. Acetic acid in vinegar absorbs odors, so spritzing it around the room will neutralize the smells. You can also use it to wipe down surfaces in the room that needs freshening.
9. Remove stickers
If you’re just getting around to removing that Kerry/Edwards decal from your bumper, or trying to peel a price tag off a new purchase, you’ll never guess what magic ingredient is about to make your life a lot easier. Warm a little bit of white vinegar on the stovetop or in the microwave and then dip a rag into it. Hold the rag over the sticker until it’s thoroughly saturated, and it will peel right off without leaving sticky residue behind. This trick also loosens wallpaper adhesive.
10. Cure hiccups
Most doctors claim that hiccup cures don’t actually work, but tell that to the thousands of people who swear by vinegar as a way to ease these involuntary spasms. It’s not clear how a shot of vinegar would actually help -- other than to distract you with its acidic flavor -- but next time you’ve got a bout of the hiccups, give it a try.
11. Clean crusty paintbrushes
So you forgot to clean your paintbrushes last time you used them, and now they’re so stiff and crusty, it seems that you’ll have to throw them away. Not so fast! Fill a saucepan with undiluted white vinegar and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Dip the paintbrushes into the boiling vinegar, one at a time, dragging the bristles along the bottom of the pan. Continue this process until the paint is dissolved.
12. Dissolve rust
The acetic acid in vinegar reacts with iron oxide to remove rust from small metal items like hinges, nuts and bolts. Simmer them in a saucepan full of vinegar, then rinse well with water to prevent the vinegar from further affecting the metal.
13. Eliminate stale odors
You know how lunchboxes and other food containers can take on a funny smell after a while? Vinegar can take care of that, too. Either wipe down the surface well with white vinegar or, in severe cases, leave a cloth soaked in vinegar in the container for a few hours to absorb the odors.
14. Remove mineral deposits
Calcium and lime deposits from hard water don’t just stain coffeemakers and bath tubs, they can actually clog showerheads and reduce dishwasher function. Run a mixture of half water, half white vinegar through your coffee machine to remove them. Use straight vinegar as a rinsing agent in your dishwasher to prevent buildup, and wrap a vinegar-soaked cloth around stained faucets until the deposits can be easily scrubbed away. To clean a clogged showerhead, remove it from the pipe and place it in a saucepan full of white vinegar. Simmer for just a few minutes, being careful not to allow it to boil, and then wash off the stains.
15. Neutralize spice in foods
You’ve got a dinner disaster on your hands: One too many shakes of cayenne powder has turned your award-winning chili into an inedible five-alarm blaze, and your guests are waiting at the table. Vinegar to the rescue! Add white or apple cider vinegar to your food, one teaspoon at a time, to neutralize the spice.
16. Prolong the life of cut flowers
Bouquets of cut flowers brighten a room all too briefly, often wilting after just a few days. Squeeze a little extra enjoyment out of your arrangements by adding two tablespoons of white vinegar per quart of water in the vase, which will keep them perky just a little bit longer.
17. Clean glass, plastic, chrome, and floors
A half-and-half solution of water and white vinegar will cut the grime on the shelves and walls of the refrigerator and eliminate spoiled-food smells too. Full-strength vinegar will remove tough smudges on glass and make porcelain sinks shine. Make it into a paste with a little baking soda to scrub chrome, or mix 1/3 white vinegar with 1/3 rubbing alcohol, 1/3 water, and 3 drops of dishwashing liquid for an economical floor cleaner. Just be sure not to get vinegar on marble, granite, or slate surfaces.
18. Treat fungal infections
Fungal infections like athlete’s foot, toe nail fungus, and dandruff are definitely no fun. White vinegar and apple cider vinegar can both be applied topically to affected areas of the body to kill fungus. For foot-related ailments, soak in a solution of one part vinegar to five parts water for about 30 minutes a day.
19. Tenderize and kill bacteria in meat
Marinate meat overnight in apple cider vinegar, and it will be delectably tender. This can reportedly also kill the bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses, including e. coli.
20. Open drains and freshen garbage disposals
Clear a clogged drain without the nasty, headache-inducing chemicals. Dump about 3/4 cup of baking soda down the drain and chase it with 1/2 cup white vinegar, then plug the drain. Leave it for about 30 minutes before rinsing with a kettle full of boiling water. You can use the same trick to clean and deodorize garbage disposals, or freeze vinegar in an ice cube tray and grind them up in the disposal to clean and sharpen the blades at the same time.