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Are e-Readers Really Green?

By Leah Kaminsky

On the surface, it would seem that using an e-reader would be a sure-fire way to up your green factor. After all, they’re pretty much the Superman of the tree world, saving innocent victims from the paper mill. But as an electronic device, e-readers aren’t without their footprint. There are the carbon emissions that result from powering the device, and the consumer electronics industry is infamous for using toxic materials.

So given these considerations, are e-readers actually greener than paper books?

The answer is a resounding yes. Between the paper consumption and the carbon emissions associated with production, printing, shipping and disposal of paper books, there is no doubting the environmental impact of traditional publishing. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this powerful infographic, which explores the full impact of the two billion printed books produced every year. A few key facts:

  1. Printed books require 3 times more raw materials to produce books than e-readers and 7 times more water
  2. The 125 million trees cut down every year for the newspaper and book industries result in the emission of 44 million tons of CO2 each year versus just 7.3 million from cars.

In fact, the research this infographic cites estimates that e-readers will prevent the emission of 10 million tons of CO2 between 2009 and the end of 2012, which is the equivalent of the yearly emissions from roughly 800,000 cars. What’s more, when we leave more trees standing to absorb more CO2, our e-reading habit can help offset emissions from other high footprint technologies.

When considering the eco-credentials of e-readers, it’s important to take a look at the full supply chain as well as the raw materials. Fortunately for us book lovers, e-readers allow us to feed our book addiction while also doing something good for the environment. Though (sorry, I have to say it!) there’s nothing quite like the weight and smell of a good old-fashioned book…

DIY: Switching things up with switch plates

By Jeanne Romano

Ever look at a room and wonder what you can do to make it more fun? Paint? Wallpaper? Get all new furniture? Knock down a wall? Whoa, slow down.

All that sounds great… however you have a small budget (very small), you want to recycle, you’re renting,  and oh yeah, you’re scared to death to do it yourself. You’ve come to the right place. This idea is not only great for sprucing up a room; it’s new and unique party fun.

Let everyone decorate one and it becomes a party favor. This works for kids and adults!

Personalized plates make great gifts – especially from children to their friends and family. Think early drawings, handprints or even just abstract squiggles.

What you’ll need:

  1. Blank (plastic) switch plate. Of course you can buy a new one (they’re very inexpensive) but the idea here is to recycle, right?
  2. Sharp utility scissor http://www.drugstore.com/fiskars/qxb29286
  3. Craft knife
  4. Double sided tape http://www.drugstore.com/scotch/qxb21916
  5. A variety of papers, fabrics, glitter, pictures, trimming, stickers – etc.  As you’ll see, you can use just about anything to cover, decorate or paint a switch plate.

Like following a recipe, there are specific ingredients, or steps, to turn an average switch plate into something really unique to display in your home or to give as a personalized gift. Here are step-by-step instructions to cover a switch plate. For this example I chose my favorite wrapping paper, however you can use almost anything – a list of ideas and photos will follow.

  1. Turn the plate upside down and place on the wrong side of your paper then cut your pattern
  2. Allow at least ¾ to 1 inch all the way around the plate.
  3. Use double sided tape to line the inside edges of the back of the plate then wrap the paper around the sides.
  4. Finish folding over as if you’re wrapping a present

Turn the plate over – but wait, something’s missing.

Draw an elongated “X” as shown in step 6. Use your craft knife and cut along those lines. (Make sure you have something underneath the plate to help you avoid cutting through to the surface underneath. Place small pieces of double sided tape around the opening. Bend the triangles back until they stick to the tape.

Feel for the holes where the screws should go. Retrieve the screws and just pop them through. If you want to hide them you can paint them to blend in or in my case, I thought accent colors could be fun and painted them red. Then screw the decorated plate back on the wall

For another creative outlet – the outlet.

JUST A FEW IDEAS:


 

Wallpaper –

The plate is wrapped with the wallpaper that matches the wall

Photographs, illustrations, greeting cards (seasonal and misc…)

Hand-painted     Spray painted   

 

Decoupage collage  

or just plain goofy 

Get your kids’ involved – my neighbor’s daughter Rachel C. (11) created these:

 Original artwork  Duct tape  

Trims, beads, sequins and glitter and spray sparkles on a metal outlet plate!

Stickers, stickers, stickers….Tips:

  • If you’re putting the plate in the kitchen, bathroom or child’s room you’re going to want to use washable paper. Or you can always coat the paper with a gloss, flat or shellac type protection. Check the warnings, especially for the kids’ rooms.
  • Nail polishes (both clear and color) are great for this kind of project. It’s very shiny and usually dries quickly
  • Glue can be used instead of double side tape; however glue takes longer to dry and may not be effective with heavier papers or fabric.
  • Check copyrights on all photos, artwork and team logos.

There’s no end to the possibilities. You can make your design permanent or temporary. You can even use the same switch plate over and over again. Have fun and be creative!

 

A Journey With Breast Cancer Part 5: Nails

By Jeanne Romano

My whole life I bit my nails. I tried everything: icky tasting gunk, miracle cure creams, gelatin vitamins and even hypnosis. Oooh. Of course nothing worked. Finally in my 30s I turned to falsies. No not those. I had plenty of that –I’m talking about acrylics. I was so captivated by my fake nails that I changed my polish every day. Having beautiful nails opened a whole new world to me, not to mention a pop-top or two.

Fast forward 15 or so years: “Jeanne, you have breast cancer.” The terrible news was followed by all the gory little details. Blah… blah… blah… then, “And you’ll need to avoid manicures, pedicures and the use of artificial nails! No, not my nails!

I know what you’re thinking. How can nails be such sore spot in the grand scheme of cancer? To me it just felt like yet another assault on my body, on my femininity. I knew that my immune system would be compromised and apparently any little nick or cut especially on my fingers could actually create a serious infection requiring antibiotics and possibly hospitalization. So not only were manicures and my glorious fake nails out, I had to stop picking at the dry skin around my cuticles – extremely dry skin because of the chemo – oh the irony of it all.

The fix: I used a pair of sterile nail clippers. Never peeled or tore off any skin. Not that I had to be told that biting my nails or picking at my cuticles was bad habit (not just a matter of aesthetics). It had to stop. It was particularly important on the hand of the arm that had lymph node dissections. Remember, your skin and your fingernails protect your hand and arm from infection.

But wait, there’s more… Nail discoloration, nail detachment, and the less than groovy grooves. The medical experts writing for DermNet NZ lists onycholysis and onchomadesis as possible side effects of chemotherapy.

Big words and science alert:

“Onycholysis is the detachment of the nail from the nail bed, or the skin below the nail. The nail begins to detach at the top of the nail and progresses back to the cuticle. This side effect occurs specifically with the group of chemotherapy drugs containing taxane. Onchomadesis is the loss of the entire fingernail.

The development of “Beau’s lines” is also on the list of chemotherapy side effects. Beau’s lines are horizontal grooves that appear on the nails. They result from an interruption in the production of keratin. Fingernails and toenails, which you most likely know, consist of keratin, which is a fibrous protein.

Now that I was forced to go au natural I minimized these effects on my nails by soaking my hands and feet in ice water. It was cold but worth the discomfort.

I also messaged my hands and fingers everyday to increase the blood flow.  Because I used natural or organic products before my cancer I looked for the same (if not more intense) ingredients to help with my hands, cuticles and nails.

My three favorite brands were and continue to be:

Burt’s Bees Lemon-Butter Cuticle Creme offers calming combinations of natural ingredients, including vitamin E – which was wonderful for the intensive care of my chemo-dry cuticles, brittle nails and chapped, cracked fingertips.

de~luxe has a fabulous line of “healing” products, many using the nut of the African Shea Tree which provides powerful nourishment and healing to severely dry skin. According to their inserts, this particular hand cream is authentic “treatment grade” that is naturally rich in anti-oxidants and vitamins A & E.

Avalon Organics Hand & Body Lotion has a triple dose of rich lipid sources, certified organic Sunflower, Flaxseed and Coconut Oils. It’s long-lasting and easily absorbed. With an important bonus for chemo patients of Beta Glucan for cellular renewal.

It may take weeks to months, once you finish treatment, for your nails to grow out of these chemo effects and resemble your old nails.  I wish I could promise all the knowledge, ice water, creams and messaging will make your nails better – but I can’t. However I will say that I was able to keep my nails as healthy as possible while they were under attack. And while we may not be able to cure cancer, this critical interruption in my bad habit, cured my nail biting.

A Journey With Breast Cancer Part 4: Taking the bite out of cancer

By Jeanne Romano

You may be surprised by this but your dentist should play an important role in your cancer treatment. I happen to love my dentist, however I think it’s safe to say that having someone probe your teeth and gums with all sorts of pokey implements isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. Unfortunately it’s probably a good idea to check in with your dentist before starting your cancer treatments.

Cancer and your treatments will affect all parts of the body, including your mouth. Especially if you are on a high doses and simultaneous radiation; when the white blood cell count is lowest, oral tissues are most prone to damage which unfortunately could cause delay or even stopping treatment.

If at all possible prior to your treatments, have your teeth cleaned, have a set of X-rays taken, take care of any mouth problems and have your dentist give your mouth the once over to prevent side effects.

Just like common chemo and radiation “side effects,” mouth issues vary – a lot. You may encounter these common problems during your treatments or even for a short time after your treatment ends:

The weirdest problem during my treatment was a loss or change of taste and smell. Being from a home that started each and every Sunday dinner with a bowl of homemade ravioli (yup, mom made the pasta as well as the sauce).  Suddenly, even the smell of sauce made my lip curl. In fact I craved all sorts of unlikely food combinations like (creamy) peanut butter, avocado and hummus on white bread. I agree it does sound a lot like cliché pregnancy cravings.

Another important issue to watch for is dry mouth. It can hurt. Here are some suggestions I got from my dentist to protect my teeth and gums.  They worked!

I…

  • Drank lots of water
  • Sucked on ice chips – found this particularly helpful during my actual chemo treatment
  • Ate soft, moist food that was easy to chew and swallow; cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, etc…
    • When I did eat foods that required chewing, I made sure to take small bites, chewed slowly (unheard of in my home) and sipped liquids between the bites.
    • If I still had trouble swallowing, I softened my food with gravy, sauces, broth, yogurt or other liquids.
    • Gargled with a moistening mouthwash – I still use this every night before I go to bed.
    • Used and still use a fluoride toothpaste.
    • Brushed my teeth, gums, and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime.  Sometime brushing hurt, so I softened the bristles in warm water.
    • Hate not flossing my teeth. I still did it, very gently, every day. Please be extremely careful. Once in a while my gums would bleed and hurt – so it was key to avoid the areas that are ultra sensitive – however keep flossing your other teeth.
    • Did not use mouthwashes with alcohol.

Not all mouth problems can be avoided but the fewer side effects you have, the more likely you will stay on your cancer treatment schedule.

A Journey with Breast Cancer, Part 3: Skin is In

By Jeanne Romano

As you probably know both chemo and radiation treatments are very effective parts of your cancer treatment. However, in targeting cancer cells they can also damage healthy cells – anything that grows quickly, like your skin. So it’s no surprise you’ll probably encounter (if you haven’t already) itching, rashes, sensitivity to the sun and even an allergic reaction or two. Nice, huh?

MY OWN EXPERIENCE REVEALED TWO THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID. THEY’RE EASY TO OVERLOOK AND MIGHT WORSEN YOUR DISCOMFORT: 

If at all possible, only wear cotton clothing next to your skin –something made of natural fibers. Maybe wear an all-cotton camisole or T-shirt under other materials to prevent dry skin reactions.

TIP: Try washing your clothes in a mild, organic, scent-free or all-natural  laundry detergent. No bleach or fabric softeners.

You may want to avoid all scented soaps, bubble bath, etc… depending on the brand they may contain drying and irritating agents that could trigger or worsen dry skin.

If at all possible, avoid direct exposure to the sun. That lovely warming orb might trigger photo-toxic reactions in your skin which may cause some unpleasant swelling, redness, blisters, and peeling. “Gosh, when you put it that way…” If you plan to be outdoors, try using an organic sunscreen or moisturizer. SPF15 (or greater) is the usual recommendation.

It may help to wear special protective clothing that shields your skin from the sun. This type of clothing has special built-in SPF protection. You might also want to buy a product that adds sunscreen in the wash. The reason I mention it is because of those sneaky overcast days.

Try not to indulge in long, hot baths. Even though a hot soak sounds so relaxing (even therapeutic) than let’s say a lukewarm shower, hot water has a tendency to dry out sensitive skin.

OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE TONS OF PRODUCTS OUT THERE TO HELP YOU THROUGH THIS. HERE’S WHAT WORKED FOR ME:  

HYDRATE. I can’t say recommend this enough. Try drinking at least two to three quarts of water or non-caffeinated, alcohol-free beverages every day. I know what you’re thinking. You’ll probably spend half your day in the bathroom. Annoying yes, worth it? Absolutely.

Hydration also means your skin. Organic moisturizers such Aloe Vera are the way to go. They’re formulated to promote moisture in skin cells and create a barrier on the outermost layer of your skin. This layer is designed to protect your sensitive skin. The old standby baby oil might be just the ticket for slavering on after taking shower. Baby oil is made to penetrate baby skin and create a protective seal, locking in much needed moisture. If it works for baby, it just might work for you.

It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves when washing dishes or handling cleaning products. During chemo and radiation your hands might be sensitive and showing signs of irritation. For an additional barrier, try thin cotton gloves beneath the rubber or vinyl gloves to further protect your skin.

TIP: Inflammation often responds well to the application of a cool, wet (cotton) cloth.

I sprinkled simple cornstarch on my skin to relieve itching. You may prefer cornstarch to talcum powder, which may cause some irritation.

Don’t forget to chat with your doctor and/or medical team about your skin. If you experience some tenderness it might be possible to reduce your dosage of chemotherapy or radiation – remember your medical team is there to help you – and you are the most important part of the “team.” Don’t be silent about your discomfort; there are alternative drugs. Be sure to let someone know if you feel burning in your skin during the administration of chemotherapy. Burning may be an allergic reaction to the intravenous tubing.

Take extra care to protect your skin if you receive radiation before chemo. Your skin might develop something called radiation recall –which might cause (more good news) painful blistering or peeling.

When therapy is over your skin should rebound, although not immediately. It might take a while so be prepared for the possibility of some lingering irritation and/or soreness. There might also be some scarring. The best product I found (and still use) for reducing the look of scars and rejuvenating skin is Strivectin-SD.

According to the American Cancer Society, it usually takes six to 12 months for the skin to return to normal. Just so you know, my skin was back in less than that. Yes, there are still some dry patches but for the most part, because I asked questions and did some additional research, I took extra care. Some patches are still a bit rough however in general my skin is in fine condition. And soon, yours will be too.

A Journey with Breast Cancer, Part 2: Chemo Hair Scare

By Jeanne Romano

When I heard I was going to have chemo, I have to be honest… one of the first things I thought about was my hair.  We all have something about ourselves that we flaunt. Our eyes, our teeth and smile, our ass… maybe it’s all of those. With me it was my naturally thick, shiny, red hair.  My whole life I was asked if it was natural. I loved that.  In fact my mom told me that when I was a kid, strangers would stop us and go on about my hair.

I am sure you don’t need me to go over all the scientific reasons why we lose our hair.  And, if you’re anything like me the last thing you want is more info from the “experts”. I have been where you are and although this is your cancer, your chemo and your hair (or lack thereof) I am hoping my experiences with what seemed to work (and what clearly didn’t) will help out during this rough time.

You probably know this drill however it really is key; exercise and eat a well-balanced diet. I know, I know it seems like eating a “well-balanced” is the answer to everything. There’s good reason for that; it is the answer to everything. Remember, just because you are taking a great multivitamin (which you should anyway, not just for your hair, but for your cancer recovery) doesn’t mean you don’t need to get all the good stuff from your food.

Fruits and vegetables are great ways to get all of the vitamins your body and needs.  And once you have these vitamins, the hair can hitch a ride making it more likely to grow.  Personally, I ate lots of beans, which are high in both iron and protein. It’s important to eat foods that contain protein and iron, because they are both essential for the hair, nails and teeth.  We’ll talk more specifically about the last two in future blogs.

Apparently prenatal vitamins are believed to work wonders for both hair and nail growth.  However, this one can be tricky because depending on other medications that you may be taking, it’s possible that you may be prohibited from taking prenatal vitamins. My doctor did not want to blend my meds.  Since everything situation is different, it won’t hurt to ask.

As for exercise, it cracked me up when I was told I needed to exercise to decrease the stress in my life – really? Ya think? We all know stress is bad for your health.  What I didn’t know it that stress might prevent hair from growing back faster after chemo. So I tried to relax.  I was tired.  The thought of exercise (no matter how beneficial it was to relive stress) sounded like torture. I needed something simple and relaxing.  Like so many, I discovered yoga.  You might also check out a community center with a pool. I swam as often as I could.

  • I used T Plus Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo Original dandruff-shampoo. It’s thought that zinc (found in dandruff shampoo) increases hair growth. Who knew? I never had dandruff, however I still use it … I’m sorta scared to quit.

    Walgreens T Plus Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo Original

  • Horsetail.  I used both the lotion and the supplements. My oncologists suggested this herb. It was supposed to prevent my hair from growing back brittle and dry. I had good luck with it. My hair was neither. Of course with the all the other things I was doing, it was hard to tell what was working and what was a myth.  Horsetail is pretty easy to find, it’s real easy to take and easy on the wallet. So, why not.

    Zia Skin Basics Herbal Moisture Gel with Horsetail Extract

  • I massaged virgin-olive-oil-moisturizer into my scalp every day.  It made me hungry for crusty bread.  It also made my scalp very soft.  Like the Horsetail I’m not sure if it actually helped promote quicker hair growth — it didn’t hurt either.

    Olivella All Natural Virgin Olive Oil Moisturizer For All Skin Types

  • If you want to color your hair after chemotherapy – personally – I made this mistake. I should have waited the recommended six months to a year… Let’s just say “purple” was not a good look on me.

You will probably agree that once you’ve had chemo, there is no such thing as a bad hair day.  It did grow back. It’s a bit different. Not better or worse, just different. With a few easy adjustments and readily available and holistic ingredients I learned what I could do to give my hair follicles a fighting chance and so can you!

A Journey with Breast Cancer, Part1: Chemo and Radiation Rescue

By Jeanne Romano

There are many wonderful blogs and articles, even full websites, dedicated to the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Most of these works cover the doctor recommended remedies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure your doctor knows what’s what when it comes to your hair, skin, teeth, nails and even the infamous “chemo brain” fog.

Being a breast cancer (double mastectomy) survivor and being all too familiar with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, I’ve tried and tested many of these recommended products.

In a series of blogs I’ll go over all the major chemo and/or radiation concerns and share what’s out there (and there’s a lot) to help you heal the external you while you’re focused on the internal you. Each blog will go into detail and name names. Yes, real products that actually work, where to get them, how to use them and even how much they cost.

Jeanne and friends at a 3-day walk in support of Breast Cancer

YOUR HAIR

This is probably the most feared chemo side effect and rightfully so. It’s also the most misunderstood. While chemotherapy is different for each person – and hair loss is pretty common, it’s still an awful feeling when large clumps of hair suddenly fall out or are left on your pillow. It can be very scary, even traumatic. Not having hair (especially for women) is a constant reminder of what’s happening to your body. And isn’t funny how we all remember our hair as being our beautiful crowning glory –even if it wasn’t?

In the “Hair Blog” we’ll go over some cool things that might help speed the re-growth of your hair once your chemotherapy is complete.

YOUR SKIN

Like many of you, I experienced all sorts of skin reactions from both chemo and then again with radiation. My problems ranged from rashes and cracked skin to blisters and peeling – even some bleeding. Not pretty and often painful.

In the “Skin Blog” we’ll explore organic skin care –available products that should go a long way to protect and regenerate your skin.

YOUR TEETH & MOUTH

Chemotherapy packs quite a punch. What I learned and according to Cancer.gov, chemotherapy often plants that punch right in the mouth. Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, is a condition of insufficient saliva. Saliva, of course, aids in cleaning, neutralizing acids, speech and alerts us that we’re thirsty. Dry mouth can lead to an unclean mouth which invites cavities.

In the “Teeth & Mouth Blog” we’ll discuss the many options designed to keep your mouth happy and healthy. And with everything else you’re going through the last thing you should be dealing with is repeated trips to the dentist.

YOUR NAILS

Not everyone experiences damage to their fingernails. However, many of you might notice superficial effects – ridges, breaking, thinning. Radiation is also a risk for nails.

In the “Nail Blog” we’ll chat about common issues of “chemo nail” and look into possible problem solvers for care and feeding (yup, vitamins are a thought) of your nails.

YOUR COSMETICS

It’s tough to feel good about your looks when your eyelashes and eyebrows are gone, you’re bald, feeling bloated and you may even have reddish dry chemo-skin. The emotional reaction can be very difficult. And contrary to common acceptance, it’s not always as simple as throwing on a wig, using make-up or applying false eyelashes.

In the “Cosmetic Blog” we’ll look into makeup and cosmetics that just might help fight the blahs – which can go a long way (it did for me) to restoring a sense of self.

YOUR BRAIN

When I first heard about “chemo brain” or brain fog I thought it was a joke. Not true. Many patients, including myself have reported being frustrated with a type of cloudiness that can occur before, during, and after their treatments.

The “Brain Blog” will be a bit different; only recently have legitimate studies been conducted to try and clear up the confusion. We’ll investigate.

YOUR PEACE OF MIND

Pampering you. While medications for nausea, diarrhea, mouth pain and other side effects are often necessary, creating a resting place with cozy sheets and pillows to make your sleep comfortable is equally important.

In the “Pamper” blog we’ll discuss resources to hopefully make it easier to let go: listen to music, journal (if that’s your thing) or just figure out simple ways to relax.

 

DIR-DIY: 7 Simple Rules for DIY

(Do It Right … Do It Yourself)

By Jeanne Romano

I’m the youngest of three girls. I’m not sure if my dad taught me how to do “things” around the house because I was his last chance for a boy or I was the only one who constantly asked him questions like, “What’s the difference between a Phillips head and a flathead screwdriver?” Either way I’ve always been happy that my father took the time to infuse me with the passion to do it myself.

I would love to say that Pops taught me the correct way to do things, unfortunately he was one of those dads who didn’t read instructions, made things fit when they didn’t, had left overscrews and duct taped the unintentional gap or two.

As an adult I learned the hard way how to do things right (don’t ask) and now I’m thrilled to be able to work on my own home. It’s a real money saver, it’s lots of fun and I love when I can say, “I did it myself.”

So, let me share a little of what I’ve learned with a few simple rules for any DIY project:

  1. The scope:
    1. Did you bite off more than you can chew? Make sure to choose a project to match your abilities.
    2. If this is your first toe in the water I strongly suggest you take it slow and small. For example, if you’ve never painted walls, pick one small wall. Once you complete that one if it went well and you feel encouraged to move on… move to a larger area and paint away!
    3. Give yourself plenty of time. Try not to leave this to a Friday before someone is coming visit on Saturday or Sunday. If you’re a cook, you often try recipes before serving it to guests. Same should apply to DIY projects.
    4. Weekend projects are often a good idea. Block out the whole weekend. Involve kids, friends and/or your spouse. It can be really fun. One caution though; if you involve your children please supervise and make sure everyone knows their job and how to succeed.
  2. The budget:
    1. One of the main reasons to do something yourself is to save money.
    2. Shop around for professionals and get quotes. Your goal becomes clear; beat their number.
    3. Remember to include the cost of your time as well as ALL supplies.
  3. Instructions:
    1. We’re so lucky to live in a time where instructions are merely a click away. Your project will most likely be online somewhere.
    2. Most products, like paint, varnishes, stains and finishes, as well as all tools come with a full set of instructions. Read them.
    3. Instructions are especially important when it comes to ventilation and drying time. Many of the newer products are safe and green – however all manufacturers are required to spell out the hazards (if any) on both their labels and in any available literature. You can find this online on sometimes, in an attached pamphlet or in the box if there is one.
    4. Believe me, you’ll end up spending more time and money correcting your errors if you take short cuts or are impatient when it comes to manufacturer directives.
  4. Select the right tool for the job:
    1. Even something as seemingly simple as choosing the correct brush for the texture of your surface and product you want to apply to the surface.
    2. We often spend more money than we should because we apply the “overkill” approach to our project; we get sucked into the more expensive, bigger or a designer name. It’s rarely necessary. Get what you need and get out of the store!
  5. What’s the worst that could happen?
    1. This is one of my constant mantras. If you look at your project with the knowledge that you can always change your mind or return it to its prior state, or if all else fail get someone to help you – you’ll approach your endeavor with confidence.
  6. Magazines and photos:
    1. Like bringing a picture of a haircut to your hairdresser, it’s a good idea to gather photos and examples of items, color and design that speak to you. You may need to adjust certain things to fit your budget and space, however it’s often easier to have a visual in your head.
  7. Opinions:
    1. Like everything else, your friends and family will have opinions. Careful. There’s nothing wrong with involving others, especially those who have done this before. Just make sure your project stays within your vision and you actually do it yourself!

Just make sure you’ve done your homework, that you carve out enough time and have enough money to finish the job. It feels so good to be able to point to something and say, “I fixed, painted or replaced that myself.”

By the way, the difference between a Phillips head and flathead screwdriver is the Phillips head has a crisscross tip that fits into the screw head and a flathead has a single edge for single slot screws.

The Who, What & Why of EARTH DAY

By Jeanne Romano

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970 was wildly successful. For the first time, a diverse group of modern environmentalists gathered together: youthful idealists, liberal Democrats, middle-class women, scientists, professionals, and representatives of conservation groups, labor unions and churches.

Over 40 years of protecting health and the environment. A proud anniversary. However, with longevity unfortunately often comes complacency. Earth Day, every April 22, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay so on that one day we all make sure not to litter, turn off the TV when we leave the room and, of course, we absolutely, positively remember to recycle.

Activists John McConnell and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Al Gore was just a smidge over 20 at the time) have been credited with creating Earth Day. McConnell brought the idea of a global holiday to the United Nations in 1969. Environmental activist Senator Nelson is responsible for inspiring celebrations at thousands of colleges, universities, schools and communities all across the United States as well as the widespread grassroots legislation. Ultimately Nelson woke up Washington and forced the issue onto the national agenda.

Regardless who “invented” Earth Day we the American people finally had a public forum in which to voice our concerns over what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and we did so with spectacular exuberance. Our unwavering demand for cleaner water, air and land, led Richard Nixon (one of our more infamous presidents) and Congress to sign into law The Clean Air (and Water) Act which ultimately led to establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream and it was perfectly legal. The newly formed EPA was tasked with the challenging goal of repairing the damage already done to the environment and to establish guidelines to help Americans make a cleaner and safer environment a reality.

Through our daily decisions and lifestyle choices to make our homes and communities more environmentally friendly, every person on Earth can do plenty to preserve our planet’s finite natural resources today and for future generations. Here are a few ways to renew our commitment or to start in the way you live your life.

Barring any colonization of the moon, which I doubt will happen before this blog is posted, Mother Earth is still the one and only common denominator in the life of every human being. After 40 years of Earth Day celebrations it’s as important as ever (if not more important) to remember what Earth Day is all about. And how it’s something we can all do to leave a clean, healthy, thriving planet for the generations to follow.

It’s Only Natural to go Organic

By Jeanne Romano

As I push my smallish shopping cart (because I will buy less. Yeah, right) around my local super market I am struck by how many companies these days are promoting the healthy aspect of their products.

So what is the difference between “All Natural and Organic?”

The rule is that only products or produce stamped, “Certified Organic” are allowed to claim that their product is produced or manufactured by methods that are stick to USDA Organic Standards.  “Organic farms avoid using any chemical pesticides or fertilizers that contain synthetic ingredients. These farms employ renewable resources; seeking to conserve water and soil.  Organic farming is not just about producing for today’s market; it’s also about sustaining and improving the soil for future generations. When meats, dairy products, poultry and eggs are labeled organic it means they are produced by animals that have been raised without using growth hormones or antibiotics”.

That sounds good.  However what about products made or grown in Mexican, Central and South American, and South East Asian markets that are faking it? Until very recently there was little or no punishment for this fakery.  According to the Organic-Farming-Compliance-Handbook, “Any operation that knowingly sells or falsely labels an agricultural product as “organic,” may be (may be?) subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation.  Phew, the Feds are on it.

That still leaves us with “all natural.”  Manufacturer’s hope you think this means “healthier.” I have little to say about this other than, “There are all sorts of things that are natural that are not even close to being healthy.”