_I had a wee run in with some bleach fumes a couple of days ago. The bleach won that particular battle but I, fortunately, won the war...I hope.

Without going into a ton of detail, due to no fault of my own I unintentionally inhaled bleach fumes because of someone washing a floor nearby with a strong concentration of bleach and water. A lot of bleach fumes. Enough fumes to make me feel "loopy" - that being a technical term. It left me with an allergic reaction that lasted for a few days and believe me I felt and looked crappy. I was actually concerned there for a while. I was wheezing and sneezing so much and my lungs and throat hurt that I was afraid it might affect my singing voice. It's only been a couple of days but my body has done its work and has started to rid me of the toxins I inhaled. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made and I am trusting that everything is going to be OK.

I was looking online for some details on bleach, in particular inhaling it's fumes and came across the following -

Exposure to High Concentrations of Bleach can result in eyes burning, nose irritation and coughing. Exposure to extremely high levels of bleach, such as 500 ppm (a concentration significantly greater than household bleach), could result in respiratory damage, chronic bronchitis and airway hyperactivity. In some cases, death can occur. Always wear the appropriate equipment and protective masks when working near high concentrations of bleach. According to the Hazardous Substance Emergency Events Surveillance, a report published by the state of Maine, you should always report any symptoms that may occur, including coughing, nausea, shortness of breath, watery eyes, chest pain, irritation to the throat, nose and eyes, and wheezing.

Interestingly enough all of the underlined symptoms were my particular symptoms over the last couple of days.

Today, once I was feeling a bit more human I Googled some more, in between bouts of playing online Scrabble - SIDELINE NOTE: NEVER PLAY SCRABBLE WITH A DOCTOR - THEY KNOW MORE WORDS - and I came across this site. The Hidden Dangers of Cleaning Products. This is a worthwhile and quick read. Obviously the writer has read my prior blog posts., although he's not nearly as funny as me. As a matter of fact I'm sure he wears very sensible glasses. But, is this not what I have been preaching these past few months?

There is a better way. A cleaner, less toxic way to do things. One that doesn't leave you wheezing. One that you don't need to make sure the doors and windows are open for proper ventilation. I should say I do have bleach in the house. I use it maybe twice a year and in really low concentrations. For the most part I use vinegar and baking soda. I should buy stock.

Vinegar is a natural disinfectant. Straight 5 percent solution of vinegar—the kind you can buy in the supermarket—kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses).  You can drink straight vinegar - I don't recommend it, but you could. You can't drink straight chlorine bleach. Isn't that proof enough?

If people really thought about what they were spraying about their houses, mopping their floors with, washing their dishes, counters and bathrooms with, they would stop dead in their tracks. Please stop dead in your tracks and think before you drop dead in your tracks for good.

This Mama's Floor Cleaner

1 Cup Vinegar
1/4 Cup Baking or Washing Soda
1 Tbsp Liquid Dish Soap
Hot Water

Mop as usual. It's Clean. It's Fresh. It's Easy. It's Cheap. AND it works. No toxins.

Some of you may have noticed - I like to cook. I like to cook different types of food. Lots of different ethnic styles. Lets face it - my mother was Scottish and except for Scones, (pronounced Skawns by the way - there mom I made you happy) porridge (why would they take credit for that is beyond me) oh and lets not forget Haggis (no witty comment required) there isn't much to choose from. Being Canadian, I can't think of one national food. I guess there is maple syrup and smoked salmon. I put maple syrup on my oatmeal in the morning so I am covering all of my roots on that one. And I'm not a fan of seafood so the smoked salmon doesn't float my personal boat. That was a round about way of saying why I cook a lot of varieties of food. Which brings me to the reason of this post. Cooking odors.

Last night we had a party here in the neighborhood. Last year the men were all dressed as women and it was quite the sight to behold. This year only one male neighbor was wearing a dress and a new one at that, a black sequenced number, complete with hairy legs and chest. But that was about it. The other costumes were rather tame by comparison. There was the standard vagrant, pink flamingo and my next door neighbor walked around all night with a rubber chicken. Nudie Joe's costume was well .... clothes. It was a fun night.

So, I made and brought Prawn Vindaloo (if some of you have read other parts of this blog, you will note that I had three bags of frozen prawns in my freezer) I finally found a use for them. :) Unfortunately, I woke up this morning to the smell of curry. Now when I'm cooking curry and having it for dinner I don't mind the lingering smell. It reminds me of my efforts. But the smell of curry with my morning oatmeal is not so appetizing. Instead of pulling out a spray of chemical who knows what with which I would inhale those same chemicals all day. And when it was all said and done, the spray would only mask the offending odor I made my own ...

"Smell Be Gone!"

Some Vinegar
Some Water (equal parts with vinegar)
Some Orange Peel
Some Cloves

I put it in a pot on the stove and let it simmer. Now for some reason instead of wanting to watch a Bollywood Movie I want to put on some Christmas music. Go figure. Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la .... Tis the season ...

Some of my loot from the farmer's market.
I love summer! The long days, the warmth. People seem to be in a better mood don't they? And then there is the food. Fresh corn on the cob. Juicy fruits and vegetables galore! Farmer's markets. I have to admit I am really enjoying my Sunday morning routine of the Farmer's market, once I got over the shock of the $2.50 head of garlic. I am getting to know the regular attendees and the Vendors. Getting to know who has the best produce at the best prices. Today, since I wasn't as restrained budget wise I bought more apples and nectarines. Fresh green beans. Carrots that are so crisp and sweet that they are breaking in half as you put them in the bag. I'm in love. I even found garlic at a good price! And I purchased the most gorgeous summer tomatoes, a bunch of different varieties. I asked the vendor to put together a sampler of his best. Oh my they are beautiful. I got home and sliced up some Mozzarella and put some baby tomatoes in a bowl. Heavenly. Yesterday I went to a different market, an impromptu idea from my girlfriend Wendy. The produce there still had dirt on it. The onions were misshapen and gorgeous. There I bought English Peas. That evening I sat on the porch, watching the sunset and shelling English Peas. All that was missing was a porch swing. I felt so old fashioned. The only thing is I ended up just a smattering of peas when it was all said and done. It will be a TBSP each at dinner tonight. Mind you, between the dogs, me, my husband and Wendy we ate our fair share of fresh peas from the pod. They were delicious. The taste of summer.

So I've been thinking ... oh oh ... I have my own package habit. I need to get off the can, so to speak. Mostly canned beans (black, kidney, chick peas) and canned tomatoes. I've had readers point out to me the nastiness of canned food. Will it never end people? Oh this and that leaches into the cans. Ok. Ok. I'm going to end up spending half of my life in the freakin' kitchen! After grumbling and complaining, I decided to give dry beans a try - mostly because I was out of money and had some dry beans in the cupboard - but I'm going to stick to grumbling and complaining - it reads better. So before I went to bed one night I threw a cup of beans in a pot and poured some cold water over it. Time involved 10 sec. The next day. I emptied the water and then poured some fresh water in the pot and turned on the element. Another 10 sec. When the water was boiling I turned down the stove to minimum and put on the lid. Another 5 seconds. I let it simmer for two hours while I worked in the office. (talk about efficient) Then I drained the beans and put it into a container and into the fridge. About 20 sec.  I was so proud of myself. Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away "I have made black beans!". They were so cute and looked just like their canned cousins. So the actual work involved in cooking the beans was about 45 seconds. A minute if I'm tipsy. I'm thinking that's not so bad. I'll do it from now on. No more canned beans for me unless it's an emergency.

Now for the canned tomatoes. I've decided next year I will attempt growing my own tomatoes. Then I will get together with my fellow farmer's market pal Wendy and can said tomatoes. That is if I am actually successful at being a balcony tomato farmer. Time involvement, probably loads, but I'll be with a friend and there will be wine involved on my part, and general whining I'm sure and lots of mess and laughs. We might even end up with some canned tomatoes ... who knows? But if I do? Then no more cans for me. I'll be off the can and free forever ... or at least until I run out.

However, I'm still looking for a challenge for right now ... any suggestions?
When I was a kid growing up we had a big ol' tree in our back yard. It was big enough for half of my family to climb into at once. Each one climbing as high as their ability would take them. I stayed relatively low, rebel that I am. It was a cherry tree. A Bing cherry tree. Each year it would be dripping with fruit. We would climb to our respective branches and gorge. I mean gorge. I mean purple hands, purple faces and running to the bathroom for two days kind of gorging. It was awesome. I still have to finger shoot cherry pit missiles each time I eat a cherry to this day. The cherry tree is a good memory. We did nothing to that cherry tree except eat its fruit. We didn't fertilize it. Never pruned it. (actually my dad did when I was older and it never bore the same amount of fruit again). Never sprayed it for bugs. At 6.99/lb the yield from that tree would feed my family for at least a week now a days. We were eating organic cherries. Who knew? Did you know that the regular succulent cherries you look forward to each year are laden with pesticides?

Killer Ant
A few days ago, as I was walking into the house from work, I noticed on the pathway a swirl of moving black things. I squinted and saw that it was thousands of tiny ants. It looked as though the ground was moving. There was obviously an ant hill somewhere - I could not see where, and it was very close to the house and also in a high traffic area. Gross.

Note to self - don't tell my daughter, she has an incredible fear of ants. I've heard of arachnophobia. My daughter has anantnophobia. It's rare. Actually it is a real phobia named "Myrmecophobia". Go figure.

Anyone who knows me knows I love food. I love good food. I love to cook. I love to eat. I'm hungry just thinking about it.

As I said in an earlier post my journey has been a slow one. My changes didn't happen over night 'cause I'm cheap, lazy and I mull... and mulll... and mull. I started to become aware, like a sloth becomes aware of a piece of fruit dangling at the end of the branch. It takes me a long time to get there, but I do eventually. Which I hope will happen to some of you who actually read this. Is someone reading this? Someone? Anyone?

Anyways, after the death of my sister Joyce from Ovarian Cancer I started to make changes at home. Nothing like watching someone you love die to jolt you out of your complacency. It started with the way I cleaned my house. I got rid of the chemicals. Then I was thinking about my sister's eating habits and it got me wondering again. I decided to educate myself and read everything I could get my hands on with regards to nutrition. Nothing too heavy duty. If People magazine had an article on how Brad Pitt goes organic I was all over it baby. Over and over again I kept reading "Read the labels.". Reading the labels. Read the labels? I have to bring my glasses to the grocery store now? You want me to read the fine print? It's not like I'm signing a power of attorney ... or am I?

You see I was one of those people who just trusted that the food supplied on my grocery shelf was basically good for me. I mean I knew that if I ate Twinkies all day I'd get sick and fat ... ter, but that was because of the fat and sugar right? But eventually and sloth like I started to read some labels. And soon I was questioning- Why did my can of tomatoes have more than tomatoes in it? And the package of Taco Seasoning - I couldn't even pronounce half the ingredients and the sodium was through the roof. (I knew this 'cause Jennifer Aniston talked about sodium somewhere) Why did the spray can of Pam have propane in it? Are you serious? Propane??? I was shocked. The more labels I read the more I started to realize that I had been filling my body and my family for years full of stuff that I had no idea what it was and couldn't even pronounce. I'd always been told "garbage in, garbage out" so I couldn't help but ask myself could this stuff cause some of the illnesses that are so rampant today? Could it have had something to do with my sister's illness? Did I want to feed my family this junk? Did I want to feed me this junk? Did I want to take that chance with my family and my health?

And so I started. I took things slow, again. Little by little. Trial and error. Once again, I wanted to find natural foods and recipes that were easy to prepare and taste as good if not better than their preservative laden and more expensive counterparts. This is a work in progress and I am far from perfect. But I'm well on my way. I am not saying all of this to make you all think I am better than others. I just want to share what I have figured out. Hopefully help someone. Share the little I know with you. Nothing is new here. It's all be done before. You hear it over and over and over. Then one day it clicks. That's what happened to me, and maybe it will or already has happened with you.

Before starting this journey I constantly got migraines. I popped liquid Advil like they were candy. I was sick all the time with Colds, the flu and of course killer headaches. I noticed a while ago that I don't get the migraines anymore. It was like this slow realization. I hadn't had one in years. Doesn't take me all day. Don't get me wrong I'll still get a headache, but it's usually from lifting something too heavy earlier in the day. I hardly get sick either. It will start, I'll get that old familiar feeling and miraculously I'll be able to fight it off. It's rather impressive actually. And honestly I think most of it has to do with changing my eating habits.

What can you do? Start small like I did, just maybe not so sloth like. Start by reading labels. Go look in your cupboard. Next time you're shopping try to find canned or packaged goods with ingredients you can understand. That's a great place to start.

I'm going to post a few recipes over the next little while that I've discovered. They will be easy to prepare and can easily replace some the of the 'packaged' stuff we pick up all the time. Give one of those a try. I promise there will not be any recipes for Tofu or Quinoa. (although quinoa is quite good) Why not experiment with new recipes or seasonings. Don't just grab the can of mushroom soup, or packaged seasoning. Think about it first. There is a different way. A better way. A better way for you and your family. Be aware. Don't think that just because its on the shelf its OK for your body. You'll be glad you did. Honest.

Oh - I'd be happy to see one of your recipes and post it for others to see (after I've tested it myself of course) . No seafood recipes though ... I hate seafood and it's my blog :)


So this is the final installment in my cleaning arsenal. My Funky De-Gunky. I don't use this all the time, but I wouldn't be without it. It is awesome! It's chemical counterpart would be like Fantastik (not the musical - the cleaner). The only thing is that it requires rinsing, which I have stated earlier I only do if I have to. I am typically lazy remember? This spray is great in my old stainless steel sink. Whenever I use it I think "Wow! This stuff is awesome!". If you want to whiten something and make it gleam, this is the stuff. It cuts through grease like nobody's business. (What does nobody's business even mean?) Anyways, I use it on my fridge, my sink, walls, stainless steel appliances and the list goes on and on. But it doesn't contain vinegar so no disinfecting that I'm aware of and it requires rinsing. Sho is awesome tho.

Funky De-Gunky

1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2    tsp Borax
1/2 tsp Liquid dish soap
2 Cups Hot Water
1         Spray Bottle (Find them at the Dollar Store)

Mix 'em up in the Spray bottle. Put on some funk and get rid of de-gunk.

So that's it. You can basically clean your entire house with the following ingredients.

Vinegar (I use the vinegar especially for cleaning, but regular white vinegar is fine)
Baking Soda (more uses than you can fathom)
Liquid Dish Soap (I use a natural one - but any will do)
Olive Oil
Several Spray Bottles (I buy mine at the Dollar Store)
Microfiber cloths (I got mine from Wal-mart in the car wash section)
Squeegee (for outside windows)

It's easy. You'll feel good about getting the chemicals out of your house and being good to your family. And THEY WORK as good and in some cases BETTER than their chemical laden and expensive counterparts! Your house will be clean, gleaming and most of all chemical free. No need for gloves. No need for paper towels. You may need  a new piggy bank to put in all the money you'll save. You may even find over time you have less headaches - even less migraines. I promise you won't turn into a hippy. You'll still be you only cleaner, naturally.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!


I hate cleaning bathrooms. I'm sure I'm not alone. And I have to say this one worried me a bit. I mean, you have to disinfect. There's soap scum to deal with. Toilets. Blech. I have been doing this routine for years and it works like a charm.

Scrubby Tubby

Baking Soda
Dish Soap
Tupperware or Gladware with lid
Sponge (one side scrubby)

Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner - (See "All Purpose Cleaning")
Microfiber cloths

Pour some baking soda in the container. Now here's the tricky part. Pour just enough dish soap in the container to make a paste. You can even use your finger to mix it together cause there is nothing in the container that is going to hurt you. It's kid like fun. You can finger paint with it if you like. No one will know.

The TUB AND SHOWER - This one's is pretty easy. Wet the sponge and squeeze out the excess liquid. Dip the clean sponge into the container of Scrubby Tubby and take out a small amount. Scrub your tub. If there is some tough soap scum use the scrubby side of the sponge. Most of the time it's not necessary. To disinfect you can give it a spray with your Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner (See All Purpose Cleaning). Turn on the water and give it a rinse. If you want to polish pull out your microfiber cloth and polish everything dry. Sparkly clean bath and shower.

The TOILET - Inside of the toilet I use a little bit of the scrubby tubby and the toilet brush. You can pour some straight vinegar in there too if you like. I usually just give it a spray with the Vinegar cleaner. The rest of the toilet, you guessed it the Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Just make sure that this is the last thing that you do with that particular cloth and the off to the laundry it goes.

THE COUNTERS AND SINK - For the counters and mirrors I use the Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner (See "Do You Love Salt 'n Vinegar Chips?" in All Purpose Cleaning for recipe) and the microfiber cloth. If the sink or counter has dried on icky stuff, you can use the Scrubby Tubby on it too. I just hate rinsing, so I only use it on the tub and shower, unless I absolutely have to.

One more thing you might want to try. Do you like those Clorox wipes? I have a cheaper and chemical free method.

Daily Bathroom Cleaning

Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner
Coffee Filters
Tupperware or Gladware

Put a few coffee filters flattened out in the container.
Pour some Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner over the top until they are thoroughly soaked.

For daily cleaning - open the container, grab a coffee filter and give your bathroom a quick wipe. It works great. If you want to polish anything, grab a microfiber cloth and polish away.


Well, not really, but sort of.

When I'm running about cleaning and polishing my humble abode, I carry a few things with me. My All Natural Disinfectant Vinegar Cleanser, a few microfiber cloths and my oil sprayer.

Ok, the oil sprayer. This isn't a food blog, but have you ever read the contents of Pam? Go look in your cupboard and read the ingredients. Go ahead. I'll wait. .... Can you believe that you are putting that into your body? Propellants isobutane and propane .... yummy... ummm ... no thank you. I bought an oil sprayer, filled it with Olive Oil and it is now part of my arsenal.

What you need:

Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner (See All Purpose Cleaning for recipe)
Oil Sprayer filled with Olive Oil (or a bottle of oil)
Microfiber cloths

How to do it:

Make Salad Dressing. Spray the table with a light spray of vinegar. ( I use the same cloth I have been cleaning the counters and glass with), then spray with a light spray of the oil. (That's where the salad dressing comes in)
Give it a wipe with the microfiber cloth. Polish with another clean microfiber cloth. After a while the first wet cloth has absorbed enough of the oil that you can just wipe down the rest of your furniture. Play it by ear. You'll know what works and what doesn't.

What you get? A clean, shiny piece of furniture. What's in it? You know what's in it. If you threw some lettuce on your table you could have called it lunch. Its safe. No chemicals. And it's very effective. Why would you want to use anything else?

Just a note, you can used something other than the Vinegar cleanser. Lemon juice is a good alternative. I just like to keep things simple and use only a few items. It makes things easier for me. Plus, it's cheaper ... unless you have a lemon tree out back.

When I was a kid there was a lady who cleaned the church bathroom. Sister Redekop was very diligent in her work. She also had severe body odor and hairy armpits. Actually, she was generally hairy, at least the parts of her that were visible and I dared to look at. She also used vinegar to clean the bathrooms. For years the smell of vinegar reminded me of body odor and Sister Redekop. And still...

Miracle All Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner

1/4-1/2 Cup Vinegar (I use the type specifically for cleaning - balsamic is not recommended)
1/2 tsp. Liquid Dish Soap
2    Cups Water

Put it all in a spray bottle. (I got mine at the Dollar Store)

1 Package of lint free microfiber cloths (I got mine at Wal-mart)

You can clean so much of your house with this product it's nuts. I sound like the father from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with the Windex. But it's true. This stuff is great!

Use on:
  • Glass Tables
  • Mirrors
  • Stainless Steel Appliances
  • Counter Tops
  • Bathroom Counters and Sinks
  • Furniture (but I'll talk about that later)
  • Windows (use a squeegee)
  • Floors (depending on type of floor) I use a damp mop method.
  • Walls and more ...
Some examples ...

I have glass tables in the living room. Spray it on, wipe with the cloth. Flip the cloth over to dry, and you're done.

Windows are a snap. Get a squeegee and you'll have a big job done in no time. Spray the window with your miracle cleanser. Give them a wipe with one your handy dandy micro fibre cloths. Then squeegee away. Streak free shine.

Bathroom - Spray it on the counters and sinks. Leave it on for a bit. (I clean the mirrors while it sits) and then wipe. Sparkly clean.

The value ...

This cleaner is cheap like borscht. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant. It works! And, if you imagine you're eating salt and vinegar chips while your cleaning it's rather fun and filling. The thing is, you know what is going on your surfaces. It's vinegar and some soap. You can drink vinegar (I don't recommend it unless its on a salad) and you can eat soap (unless you said bad words I don't recommend that either). The thing is it won't hurt you, but it cleans like a trooper and gets rid of the germs. It's good stuff. Try it. You'll get use to the smell. Remember Sister Redekop? If I can do it, so can you.