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Make Every Day Thanksgiving!

Back by popular demand, Mary’s annual Thanksgiving message … 

I love Thanksgiving so much it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather, which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front-row seat on the very best time of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

I love all of those things. In fact, I kinda’ wish that every day were Thanksgiving! Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the fourth Thursday of November.

Giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Medical professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical science reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

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11 Things You Should Never Burn in Your Fireplace

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it’s likely that now and then you toss in things like cardboard, junk mail, and egg cartons. And why not? It seems like anything that burns should be able to go in because the smoke and fumes go right up the chimney. And that’s a really bad idea. In fact, each time you do that, you could be putting your home and your family at risk.

Fire in fireplace with a pile of log firewood

It seems like anything that burns should be able to go right in, as the smoke and fumes go right up the chimney. But the U.S. Fire Administration warns that some items can release toxic fumes into your home and neighborhood or become an out-of-control fire hazard. To keep your home and family safe, burn only dry, seasoned wood, never leave a fire unattended, and never put any of these items into your fireplace.

Wet wood

Wood that is wet, freshly cut or otherwise not completely dried out or “seasoned” can contain up to 45 percent water. When burned, wet wood is going to produce a lot more smoke than if it had been allowed to dry. That smoke can contain dangerous creosote, a substance the forms in your chimney as you burn fires, and it can pose serious threats to your health and household.

Painted or treated wood

When you burn painted, stained or varnished wood, the chemicals in those coatings produce toxic fumes. Pressure-treated lumber is injected with a form of arsenic to kill bugs. Set that on fire and you get a noxious burn-off.



Plywood, particleboard

These types of wood are manufactured with glue and resin, which release toxic fumes when burned.  If that air fills the house it can be dangerous for you and your family and can corrode your chimney and fireplace. 

Wood pallet

Shipping pallets appear to be well-seasoned and easily broken down into kindling and indoor firewood. But no. These days, many pallets are built from wood that has been treated with methyl bromide, a pesticide to combat ash borer disease in forests of living trees.

While treated lumber is required to be stamped and marked with codes to indicate said treatment, don’t assume that if you can’t find that information on a pallet that it’s safe to burn it indoors.

Christmas tree

Every holiday season it seems, local fire departments demonstrate the foolishness of attempting to get rid of the family Christmas tree by stuffing it into a lit fireplace. If you’ve seen that, it’s likely no one needs to remind you to not do it!

Here’s the problem that can easily burn your house down: In addition to that tree not being seasoned,  the evergreen wood of the tree contains high levels of resin. These resins burn quickly and can pop, causing a risk of a chimney fire that can take the entire house down with it.

Cardboard

Once ignited, cardboard goes up fast—so fast, it can create an out-of-control situation in a big hurry. If that’s not enough to scare you, that if cardboard has any printing or labels on it, that ink and paint will release toxic fumes

Dryer lint

While an effective fire-starter for your outdoor firepit or campfire, dryer lint can contain a lot of chemicals left from the laundry products and softeners many people use. Once ignited those fumes have to go somewhere. Knowing this could be released inside your home if you were to put dryer lint in the fireplace should keep you from doing that in the future.

Driftwood

Even totally dried out and fully seasoned, driftwood can be filled with salt, which when burned can corrode the fireplace itself and chimney. That can lead to expensive repairs.

Trash

It’s tempting to just toss items like bubble wrap, paper cups, plates, egg cartons and other trash into the fireplace just to get rid of it quickly. Stop. Just stop doing that. You could be releasing dioxins, which can lead to respiratory problems, headaches, even cancer when inhaled in a closed environment.

Lighter fluid

It’s cold! You want a fire going in a big hurry.  So, out comes the lighter fluid you use in your outdoor grill. That will do the job, but it’s not very smart to use it indoors. Any kind of charcoal starter fluid or another type of fire accelerant contain petroleum-based chemicals that produce toxic fumes—hazardous to breathe. They produce super hot fires, too, which can put your chimney in danger. Worse, that lighter fluid could set you on fire when used haphazardly and inappropriately.

Magazines and paper

The inks used to print in bright colors on paper of all kinds—junk mail, newspaper inserts, magazines, catalogs, gift wrap—can produce toxic fumes when ignited. Small bits of lightweight paper can float up and out of the chimney putting your roof and surrounding structures at risk of fire. These items should be disposed of properly in a recycle bin, not burned in the fireplace.

What can you safely burn?

While using a few sheets of black and white newspaper to ignite the kindling is just fine, remember this when building a cozy, crackling fire indoors: The best fuel for your fireplace is the fuel it was built for. Pellets for pellet stoves and dry, seasoned firewood or manufactured fire logs for a wood-burning fireplace. Burn other types of fuel and you run the risk of releasing toxic fumes or encouraging chimney fires.

UP NEXT

How to Avoid Christmas Debt When You’re Short on Cash

Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever, Healthy, Delicious, and Cheap!

No Need to Shiver: Easy DIY Ways to Cut Heating Costs This Winter

 

 

11 Things You Should Never Burn in Your Fireplace

How To Make Your Own Teeth Whitener—Cheap and Easy

According to a study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most important thing people want to change about their smile is the whiteness of their teeth.

woman pointing to her bright white teeth

There are plenty of ways to achieve beautifully white teeth with over-the-counter kits, whitening products, and whitening procedures at dental offices—all good ways to get white teeth. And that can get expensive.

But here’s the deal: Bright smiles and white teeth were desirable long before there were whitening kits, strips, trays, pens, toothpaste, mouthwash, and professional treatments. Homemade whitening pastes are cheap to make, easy to use, and remarkably effective.

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5 Easy Ways to Make Homemade Laundry Softener

Laundry softeners are designed to reduce the amount of static in synthetic fibers and make clothes and linens come out feeling soft and smelling great. So why would anyone opt to go to the time and trouble of making homemade fabric softener when the commercial stuff works well? Consider these three reasons:

family folding laundry softened with homemade softener

1. Allergies

While I’m blessed to have a very healthy family, all of us are sensitive, if not allergic, to fabric softeners, which is common. Commercial fabric softeners are composed of various chemicals, some of which can be major irritants on the skin and body.

If you or your kids develop a skin irritation like a red rash or bumps, itching, pain, tenderness or a localized skin rash, prepare for the dermatologist’s first question: Do you use fabric softener? According to this Mayo Clinic study, the offending ingredients in fabric softeners include quaternium, cobalt chloride, and formaldehyde, which can cause skin irritation, and rash or hives (small swollen welts) to form on the skin.

The fragrance or “fumes” from fabric softeners can irritate some people, leading to tiredness, difficulty breathing, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, faintness and memory problems.

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6 Easy Spa Treatments You Can Do at Home to Pamper Yourself

This post may contain affiliate links, some of which are intended to show you what I am describing, not necessarily to advise you to buy. However, should you make a purchase, this site may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I only recommend items I love and have had a positive experience with. Thank you!


If you don’t happen to have an extra hundred bucks to enjoy a day at the spa, don’t sweat it. There are lots of easy DIY spa treatments you can do for yourself, at home for less. A lot less!

14873611 - beautiful girl after bath touching her face skincare

Salt scrub

You can pay a small fortune for a jar of salt scrub body exfoliant, or make your own for about a buck.

Find a nice container (a small glass jar or with a tight-fitting lid works well) and fill it about 3/4 full with Epsom salt. Now slowly mix in either almond oil (better) or baby oil (cheaper) and stir until the mixture looks like wet snow.

It’s optional, but you can add your choice of aromatherapy-grade essential oil to add a lovely scent. Lavender is a great choice! And you can substitute sugar for Epsom Salt.

TO USE:  Massage over wet skin in a hot shower with hand or washcloth. Rinse. Scratchy, scaly skin is suddenly gorgeous. Do not use on broken or freshly shaven skin.

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More Amazing Ways to Use Hydrogen Peroxide Around the House

In response to an earlier post,  I heard from one of my readers who wrote to describe her experience with hydrogen peroxide—something I’ve written about in the past, but not so much in the context of this reader’s personal report.

 

woman-using-hydrogen-peroxide-for-mouthwash

Caren’s story and outcome (below) captured my attention, but I needed first to confirm that hydrogen peroxide is safe, reasonable and recommended to be used as a mouthwash. In the process I ran into a whole lot more than I was looking for—so many more uses for hydrogen peroxide around the house—some new some not so new but perhaps forgotten.

MORE:  The Wonders of Hydrogen Peroxide

Kitchen counters

Clean your counters, table tops with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters.

Cutting boards

After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour hydrogen peroxide on it to kill salmonella and other bacteria. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer.

Teeth whitening

The most affordable way to whiten teeth at home (and the remedy supported by the most significant body of research) is the main ingredient from most tooth-whitening products: hydrogen peroxide.

To whiten teeth with hydrogen peroxide: Mix salt, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to make a paste for brushing your teeth. Not only will this help to reverse the early stages of gingivitis, used regularly, it will also remove stains and whiten your teeth.

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Fabric Softeners are the Problem Not the Solution

In the laundry room, most of us are prone to overkill. We want beautifully clean, brilliantly white, soft, and fluffy laundry results. And we don’t measure. We pour stuff out of jugs, straight into the washer, often adding a second big glug just to make sure.

 

Supermarket aisle shelves filled with laundry softening products

We use liquid fabric softener by the gallon and dryer sheets by the hundreds because there’s no such thing as too soft when it comes to towels and sheets. And when things come out looking gray, and feeling stiff and crunchy, what do we do? More detergent, more softener—even more dryer sheets!

Grungy build-up

The problem is product build-up that never gets rinsed out. Every time you do the laundry, more and more product gets left behind. This build-up of detergent and softeners can make appliances stink, colors look dingy, whites turn gray and linens feel stiff and scratchy. Towels, especially, can turn sour and stinky no matter how much you re-wash and re-soften. The detergent and softeners that aren’t properly rinsed away begin to harbor odor-causing bacteria. The washing machine gets stinky, too. But that’s not the worst.

MORE: Stinky Laundry, Smelly Machine: How Nasty Germs Survive in Your Washer and What To Do About It

Health and respiratory issues

The medical website, WebMD.com reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems—from itchiness to full-blown dermatitis. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which can appear as dry, flaky, chronically itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness. Read more

How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

A previous post, Fabric Softener Products are the Problem Not the Solution, struck a chord with thousands of readers. I know because you send me messages and letters, which I love—even ones from some who are not 100% satisfied making the switch from problematic laundry softeners to what I find are amazing wool dryer balls.

But first, let’s review the problem:

Wool dryer balls how and why you should use them

The trouble with fabric softeners

The medical website, WebMD.com, reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which appears as dry, itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain fragrance and volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness.

Why wool dryer balls?

These things look like overgrown tennis balls, made of 100% wool yarn, that over time becomes “felted,” making them especially durable and not at all prone to unraveling. One set of wool dryer balls will last what seems like forever, softening thousands of loads of laundry—no batteries, refills, repairs or reconditioning required. It’s one [purchase] and done! Read more