Saving Some Green: DIY Household Products That Cost Less

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Getting things truly clean means using simple natural ingredients that are gentle on the earth and gentler on your pocketbook.

Harsh chemicals can be harmful to pets, small animals and, well, just about everybody.  The way that we have become obsessed with sterilizing everything has done more harm than good, doing damage to our bodies and impacting our water supply and food chain. 

The household product industry is an aggressive one that has convinced us all we need a proprietary cleanser for every aspect of our home – not only is it impractical, it’s also not true. 

The truth is, keeping the house clean doesn’t require toxic chemicals, and you can get excellent results by making some of these things yourself with really inexpensive ingredients. Yes, it does require a stint of time maybe a few times a  year, but if you make these cleaners in bulk and keep them in your garage, it saves you money and guilt: win-win! Bonus: making these products is a skill you can impart on your whole family. 

To start you off on the path to eliminating toxic chemicals from your house, here are some basic ideas that help to make your home feel wonderfully clean while you’re your household expenses.

Bleach-free laundry booster.  You do not need chlorine to get your whites really white and clean. This mixture eliminates stains by blending 2 cups washing soda and 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide in a container until it is granular.  For dingy whites and tough stains, let the whole load soak overnight with a quarter cup of your mix added.

Garbage disposal refreshers.  You know that drain funk?  Here’s the remedy for that. 

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • Sheet pan
  • Parchment paper
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap
  • 1 lemon
  • Small spoon or scoop
  • Sealable glass jar

Combine salt and baking soda in a bowl completely and grate in the peel from the lemon, then add the soap. Squeeze in juice from half a lemon.  Blend it all together thoroughly, and then make little spoon-sized scoops on parchment paper to dry over night.  The next day when these little guys are dry, pop them in the container and drop one in the sink every week.

Green carpet cleaner.  If you have wall-to-wall, you know how gross it can get.  Rather than renting a carpet cleaner, you can sprinkle this stuff on the carpet overnight and it will actually do the job for you.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • Blender
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Borax (optional)
  • Sprinkle-top container

We recommend blending these ingredients in a blender before adding them to a sugar container or something similar so you can disperse the cleaner easily.  Shake it all over the rug and let it sit overnight.  The next day, vacuum it up! You’ll have clean, sweet smelling, anti-bacterial carpets with little fuss.

Homemade furniture polish.  Get your wood looking beautiful again with this easy-to-make polish.

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Measuring cup and funnel
  • Small plastic container

Shake all these ingredients together and funnel them into a sealable container. Use a soft cloth to smooth onto wood.  Let it dry and then buff it out.  You can store the polish in your fridge for future use. 

Dusting wipes.  When you realize how simple and inexpensive dust wipes are to make, you’ll never go back . Cut up some old towels and stuff them into a container with some lemon peels and a stick of rosemary.  They smell wonderful and all you have to do is wash the dirty ones and pop them back into the container. 

Toilet bowl cleaner.  Shake some baking soda and about ten drops of tea tree oil into the bowl, letting it fizz.  Add a ¼ cup of white vinegar and scrub it out.

Anti-mildew tile scrub.  Speaking of vinegar, it acts as an alkalinizing agent so that funky fungus and other microbes won’t take over your shower.  Spray it on, let it sit for 30 minutes and rinse with warm or hot water. 

You will likely notice that many of these household cleaners have similar ingredients so you can save yourself some pennies that accumulate into dollars by buying things like baking soda and white vinegar in bulk. 

Another big advantage to making these cleaners is that once you make up a large batch, you save yourself time, trips to the store and reduce the plastic bottles and containers you would regularly throw in the recycle.  The idea is to cut down on the consumption altogether and over time, put far less of a ding on your wallet. Making these products at home is a fun project for the kids too, teaching them what the basic ingredients are for healthy, effective cleansers. 

Imaginary Friends: A Real Aspect of Development

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It is quite common for children who are three or four years old to have an imaginary friend. This may be another child, or a magical person or animal, and sometimes the imaginary friends change as the child grows older.

Psychology Today reports that 37% of all children develop an imaginary friend.  Interestingly enough, while girls create imaginary friends who are both male and female, boys primarily develop only male imaginary friends.  Many boys interact with their imaginary friends by incorporating game theory, or envisioning them as superheroes.[1]

When a parent first notices that a child has an imaginary friend, you can initially feel taken aback. But the truth of the matter is, it’s nothing to be concerned about, and is regarded as a normal part of development. Often children who have imaginary friends are only children or the oldest sibling in the family. However, having an imaginary friend does not generally indicate loneliness. Instead, it demonstrates the child is creative, and imaginative, and as he or she grows older and school begins, the imaginary friend tends to just quietly disappear. Also, sometimes changes in circumstances can cause children to create pretend friends so that they can self-comfort. For instance, a move to a new environment, a change in schools, or a divorce can precipitate the invention of an imaginary friend.

Imaginary friends can actually help your child in several important ways:

  • They can support children in dealing with strong feelings such as fear or anger.
  • They can allow a child to develop a private life that adults aren’t a part of, promoting autonomy.
  • They can help children deal with real-life stressful situations.
  • They promote getting along with others, and are a safe way for kids to test out actions and feelings.

Imaginary friends can also help parents in identifying problems with their children. For example, if the pretend friend is afraid of the dark, it may be an indication that your child is learning to manage that same fear.

How should you be a part of your child’s relationship with his or her imaginary friend? As always, communication is key, and you should let your child take the lead in how you respond. Imaginary friends can represent a very positive experience for a child, providing an opportunity for he or she to practice communication, appreciate companionship, and even understand behavioral limits. But, parents should always monitor such friendships:

  • Make sure the child also has “real” friends, not just imaginary ones.
  • Refuse to allow negative behavior to be foisted onto the imaginary friend.
  • Treat the imaginary friend’s existence with respect.
  • Don’t use the imaginary friend to manipulate your child’s behavior.

In summary, ultimately imaginary friends will vanish just as suddenly as they first appeared. However, during the time your child has one, just remember that while the pretend friend isn’t necessarily real, the reasoning behind it and the benefits it may provide are. Always support and supervise your child in the situation, and know that the existence of an imaginary friend is really just a part of growing up.

 Sources:

[1] http://nobullying.com/imaginary-friends/

Top 10 Classic Must See Family Movies You and Your Kids Should See

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Heading into the year ahead, there are still plenty of dark cold days that are perfect for movie night.

With the holidays behind us, indoor activities are going to have to hold us until that groundhog pokes his head up again. With the avalanche of new family movies coming out all the time, it’s easy to forget some of the classics that kids also learn from and enjoy. And for parents, these movies are either a fresh discovery or a walk down memory lane.

  1. Wizard of Oz (1939)

Filmmaking would never be that same after Wizard of Oz was released in the theatres in 1939. Based on the series by Frank L. Baum, this story is a magnum opus of otherworldly mystery. The use of color mixed with black & white (one of the first of its kind), the acting, the never-before attempted stunts, and special effects come together in a really magical adventure. Judy Garland plays Dorothy, a young girl at her height of innocence and determination, who is whisked off to another world where she must make friends and find the Wizard to get back home. Garland’s voice alone is enough reason to watch this masterpiece of fantasy, rich with humor and suspense, and teaming with things your eyes have never seen before.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

As our children mature, they start to absorb the complexities of adult interactions, the unfairness and the suffering that humans are capable of inflicting on one another. We often do not give our children credit for having a strong moral compass, but in fact, they are often the ones who cut through the social fabric to the truth. What is truly remarkable about Mockingbird is the sophisticated performances by child actors Mary Badham and Philip Alford. Juxtaposed with the subtle but strong hero Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), these children in the Deep South are beginning to understand the injustice of racism. This powerful and moving story touches on so many different truths about the way we do treat each other and how we should treat each other.

  1. Old Yeller (1957)

A painfully sweet golden retriever puppy practically melts the celluloid with his cuteness, and as he grows and his family grows with him, the antics and danger keep you glued to the action. All the trouble a boy and his dog can get into out in the wilderness happens: snakes, raccoons, and runaway plow mules. This one is a tearjerker, be warned, but it’s still so worth watching. The setting, the scenery, and even the color process used to shoot this film really draw you into another time and place.

  1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Roald Dahl must have known he had a hit with this book because he agreed to write the screenplay for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Very different but equally beautiful stories, the movie taps into a childhood archetype with his enchanted, infinitely productive candy factory. Gene Wilder is pitch perfect as its eccentric and elusive creator. They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore, with achingly beautiful hand drawn sets and dreamy, cheesy cinematography. Strange, funny, scary, wild, fanciful, Willy Wonka realizes every kid’s dream, to own a candy-making mansion where anything can happen.

  1. The Kid (1921)

Charlie Chaplin teamed up with Jackie Coogan in this silent black & white masterpiece about a street urchin and his small sidekick who find each other out of mutual need. Unlike many of the movies of its time, The Kidis about the down-and-out of society, rather than the crème de la crème. This flick is filled with moments of hilarious physical comedy and touching sentiment that modern movies cannot match.

  1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Though it is younger than many of the films on this list, this wackadoo mix of live action and animation is a feat of storytelling. During post-Great Depression Los Angeles, Roger is a cartoon who is owned by a big movie studio. He is falsely accused of murder and Eddie Valiant, played by the late, great Bob Hoskins, is brought in to investigate the crime. A wild goose chase ensues to figure out the evil plot to take out Toon Town. The story is a little complicated for younger viewers, but for those ages nine and up, they will recognize many of the cartoon cameos that pop up throughout the movie.

  1. The Parent Trap (1961)

Two girls go away to summer camp and meet– except when they come face-to-face, it’s like they are looking in the mirror! They figure out, over the course of the summer, that they are actually twins separated at birth, one living with each divorced parent. They hatch a plan to swap places and try to bring their divorced parents back together. Hayley Mills was just a teen when she picked up this great double role, and Maureen O’Hara who plays the mother, lights up the screen.

  1. The Muppet Movie (1979)

Jim Henson was a master at making parents and their kids laugh together, but for completely different reasons. This feature takes Kermit and his whole cast of loveable characters on the road to Broadway, where every theatre in town slams a door in their faces. Loaded with tongue-in-cheek jokes and celebrity appearances, this movie was the first in a long line of successful Muppet movies.

  1. Babe (1995)

This one is a little young to be considered a classic, but the story is so timeless, it is sure to become one. A runt in the factory farm is selected for a game at the county fair and Farmer Hoggit guesses his weight. So Babe is raised among the other farm animals for Christmas dinner, until Hoggit realizes his special talent. Definitely a modern nod to the likes of Charlotte’s Web, this movie is silly, scary, and utterly adorable in its portrayal of rural life.

  1. The Yellow Submarine (1968)

If you have yet to introduce your children to the Beatles, start young and show them this baffling and brilliant cartoon by artist Peter Max. Paul, John, George, and Ringo-like fellows go on a discombobulated journey that is essentially there to support songs from the album like “All You Need is Love.” It’s a bizarre ride to the far side that is entirely it’s own trippy experience.

Movies are a great way to broaden our horizons, to examine the darker side of our nature and to inspire the triumph of our lighter side. This is something we can so easily share with our kids, and because they are classics and will always ring true, your kids will watch these films with their own children one day.

Labor of Love: 9 Tips for Pregnant Executive Moms

Congratulations, you just got the most difficult and rewarding job you will ever have. There will be days you are so tired you can barely stand, and days when total strangers walk up to you on the street to tell you how radiant you look.  As a professional, you know how to roll with whatever comes your way, but if this is your first baby rodeo, there are some strategies that can help you stay in the saddle.Motherhood is at once a lot like running a company and nothing like it.  It will require knowing when to organize and when to let chaos pass over you.  You will learn (in a whole new way) that taking care of yourself so you can make good decisions sits at the very top of your priority list.  These suggestions are worthy of experiment, not to be taken as gospel, but simply to try.  And if all this seems dubious, well, welcome to parenthood.  

1. Nap. 
You are likely laughing at your computer screen right now, but those first 12 weeks when your body is growing another major organ (your placenta) to feed the tiny thing, your body is working double time.  If you have a couch at work, shut the door, take off your shoes, and lie down with closed eyes for 15 minutes.  Even a quiet catnap can help you recharge and make it though the rest of your day.
2. Keep whole foods on hand at all times.  
Again, for the above reasons, you need to keep something in your stomach at all times, especially if you are experiencing morning sickness.  Hard-boiled eggs and whole avocados are your friends.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
3. Walk.  
Even if you are very athletic, walking is the easiest and safest way to get your blood moving and avoid injury.  From the halfway point of pregnancy on, the body produces a hormone called Relaxin that loosens the muscles and joints in preparation for birth[1].  For some women, this can make them more susceptible to pulled muscles, soreness, and acute back pain.Support your body by taking a stroll around the office, a walk around the block, or a cruise through the park throughout the day.  You’ll sleep better
too.  
4. Stand, stretch, and use the ball.  
As you take calls or attend meetings,alternate between these three options.  Moderate lunges, hip rolls, and heart opening stretches are something you can do throughout the work day when you are on speakerphone, and if you need to sit, use the ball to encourage a straight spine.  Gone are the days when you can sit at the computer for hours at a time.  And let’s face it, that wasn’t good for you before you got pregnant either.  
5. Notify the key players.  
Even if you aren’t comfortable making the big announcement until you are farther along, confide in a few close, trust worthy co-workers.  This way, if you have mood swings or a sudden bout of morning sickness in the middle of a meeting, someone can cover for you.  And the sooner you notify your team, the more fully they can accommodate your needs.
6. Turn the volume down.  
When you are building a whole new person, your system is on alert.  Smells and sounds will be more distinct and you will find yourself more sensitive than usual to certain kinds of input1.  If you watch a movie, make it a comedy, and give the news a break.  Limiting the stimulus will help with sleeping, eating, and concentration.  
7. Yoga.  
Even if you have never done yoga, it has a host of benefits for expecting moms.  In a study that compared a daily 30 minute yoga practice to just walking alone, women who practiced had lower rates of pre-term labor,higher birth weight, and the reduced their time laboring[2].  Pregnant women who practiced also report feeling more mentally prepared for labor because of yoga.  Most cities have a certified instructor and it’s better to go to a teacher because there are some poses that pregnant women want to avoid.  
8. Plan a gradual exit.  
Many high-power career women work full-time up to the last minute, trying to squeeze in as much productivity as they can before the baby arrives.  Often too, these same women don’t realize just how much effort it takes toward the end of the third trimester.  Your blood volume increases by 50%, your heart is working 40% harder at rest, and to get an idea, a flight of stairs for a woman in her third trimester is like climbing basecamp at Everest.  Talk to your staff, be reasonable about your expectations,and taper off your involvement toward your due date.  
9. Take the time to get to know your baby, even in the womb.  
Remember that you begin forming a relationship with your child right away, that he or she is hearing your voice, accustomed to your movements, and getting to know you.  With the hard work of labor at hand, those preceding weeks are a chance to go inward, to nest and prepare as much as you can to bring this new life into the world.
For executive and professional women, stepping back, even if only temporarily, can feel very precarious.  Check in with yourself about your accomplishments, your goals, and let out a sigh knowing that work will be there when it’s time for you to re-emerge.  The new skill set you acquire in those first few weeks of motherhood will blow your mind and they are skills that you can take with you back to the workplace.  But right now, you have an even bigger job to do.   

References:
1. http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-hormones/hpl.aspx
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15865489 

Ring in 2016 Right: 7 Marketing Dos and Don’ts for the New Year

 

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You hopefully made the most of your marketing endeavors amidst the holiday shopping rush.  However, it’s important to remember those efforts shouldn’t stop when the 12 Days of Christmas are behind us.  In fact, using the time following the holidays wisely can actually propel you into a successful New Year.

So, what’s important to consider as you plan marketing activities and goals for 2016?  Before you don your party hat and get out your noisemakers for the upcoming celebration, consider these important tactics and ideas to properly prepare:

1. DO stay consistent.

Your messaging, positioning, and look should line up across all platforms.  Any new fans or clients you won over during the holidays will know what they can expect from your business in the New Year.  Also remain consistent in your timing; you don’t want to use social media to post eight things in one hour then disappear for two weeks.  Planning will ensure that you are reaching your target on a consistent, steady schedule.

2. DO develop an editorial calendar.

In order to maintain your consistency in both messaging and frequency, it’s essential to have a plan in writing.  Working a month or two out, you can decide what your themes and goals will be.  This will allow you to see the bigger picture, and when it’s best to leverage certain themes (perhaps like the upcoming Valentine’s Day?) to drive promotions, social media posts, or e-newsletters.

3. DO welcome a New Year with juicy new offerings.

New Year’s is prime time to add new products and services, particularly with the heavy ad campaigns leading up through the month of December.  Creative marketing ideas abound here, such as holding an after-midnight special New Year’s Day sale, in which you unveil your new product and offer big discounts on old stock. 

4. DON’T forget about customers’ resolutions.

It seems everyone has at least one New Year’s resolution.  Give your customers an extra resolution to follow with your direct-marketing campaign by pointing out key areas where your company excels versus the competition.  Do you offer a superb customer experience?  Try a headline like: “This year I resolve to not waste time on hold with customer service.”  Whatever you can promote about your company or exploit about your competition’s flaws can become a great resolution for your customers to have in the New Year.

5. DON’T neglect mobile.

Smartphones and tablets are increasing in popularity by the day — and not just in terms of sales.  As we press forward into 2016, consumers are using mobile devices more and more to conduct transactions, research brands, visit their favorite sites, and read and reply to emails.  So, if you’re still under the impression that it’s absolutely fine not to worry about optimizing email campaigns and websites for mobile, it’s time to modernize and make some headway in improving your mobile presence.  

6. DO revitalize your content strategy.

Now is a good time to evaluate a variety of content types that could work best for your inbound campaigns.  You can review analytics from the previous year and also engage in continual A/B testing so that your path is going in the right direction for the New Year.

7. DO revisit your customer personas.

What good are these revamped game plans for 2016 if you don’t know for whom you should be creating campaigns in the first place?  Now is the time to reexamine your customer personas.  Truly understand your audience by conducting thorough research on them.  Create online surveys or quizzes to get a better, updated grasp on who they are and what they want.  The bottom line is, you’ll need to comprehend as much about your target demographic(s) as possible to know how to effectively develop your content production, offers, and email and social strategies, among many other efforts.

A new year gives everyone the sense of starting fresh, and clearly this is true in terms of marketing as well.  Don’t let the opportunity pass you by!  By preparing and getting organized now, you can put strong New Year marketing ideas into place, and it can be your business’s best year ever!