What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Check Those Expiry Dates

My husband is down with a cold graciously shared by our youngest grandchild.  Given the fact we just recently spent time in a busy airport filled with holiday travellers, spent time in a couple of malls infested with germs, and we are tired from our vacation, it is little wonder a few germs could get the best of him.  Neither of us are big into using any medications other that dietary supplements.  I am officially on two prescription drugs but even my doctor knows I only take them if I absolutely need to.  Neither of us get the flu shot even though I am considered high risk.  Instead, we believe in healthy eating with dietary supplementation if necessary, adequate sleep, a bit of exercise, well you get the picture.

When my husband gets a cold, he insists on using Nyquil.  I personally don't like this OTC product because it even knocks him out and he is a large man.  Aside of that,  it doesn't help the body naturally clear itself of the viral infection, which is what the common cold is.  Drying up muscus secretions can lead to chronic sinus infections and other complications.  So tonight, my husband pulled a bottle of Nyquil from the medicine cabinet but before he could take a dose, I told him to check the expiry date.

All medications including dietary supplements have expiry dates.  Unlike the expiry dates on food where the quality is diminished and yet the food may still be safe to consume, the expiry dates on many prescription and OTC drugs mean the drug should not be consumed after that date.  One of the reason is, all these products are synthetically made and synthetic chemicals breakdown over time.  In some cases, one or more chemicals in the drug start to breakdown and they can form toxic by-products that can be quite dangerous even toxic when consumed.  In other cases, especially with sunblocks, the active ingredients breakdown becoming ineffective meaning you can get a rather nasty sunburn even though you thought you were protecting yourself with sunblock.

I'm very, very careful to go through our medicine cabinet every month.  Living between two houses makes it a bit more difficult because items travel back and forth but still, it is even more reason for me to check to be sure something doesn't get pushed to the back.  His bottle of Nyquil was expired.  He had pulled the bottle from his overnight travel bag likely because that's where he remembered it was and I had never thought to check that bag.  I gave him a fresh bottle of Nyquil and he is sleeping like a baby but this serves as a reminder.  Teach everyone in your home to always check the expiry date before consuming any prescription or OTC drug including dietary supplements.  Never consume either if past the expiry date.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

'Tis the Season

'Tis the holiday season for spreading joy, kindness, cheer AND germs!  We were at our vacation home in Florida until December 20, then spent much of our arrival day home in mall and other seedy places where germs like to hide.  It didn't help that we had spent time in a germ laden airport or on a germ infested plane.  Still, by the 26th when we hosted our family Christmas, there was no signs of illness other than our little grandson who had a cold.  They left on the 28th and we hosted a larger gathering on the 29th.  My husband woke up with a cold and our daughter, parent of grandson with the cold called to say she had flu-like symptoms.  I have been in serious overdrive mode between cleaning up from the holidays and germ control.  I should have been on top of it earlier but with the holiday rush, I forgot.

I'm considered high risk with brittle asthma and I refuse to take the flu vaccination.  My husband also does not take the flu vaccination either and before you say we should there are adverse side effects to the flu vaccination that can be long lasting resulting in chronic symptoms neither of us wish to deal with.

My first line of defence is rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle.  Everything hands can touch gets sprayed a couple of times a day until there are no signs of sickness in the house.  I actually start this when I first start hearing of friends or family coming down with colds or flu-like symptoms.  I keep the spray bottle ready so every time I think about it things gets sprayed.  Rubbing alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl) is one of the best anti-biologicals there is because it kills 99% of virii and bacteria on contact.  It's what we used on our lab benches to effectively control biologicals.

And so it begins....'tis the season...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Turmeric Facial Mask

turmeric facial mask

I have been battling melasma for a number of years so have done a fair amount of research as to how to deal with the condition.  Successfully treating this hyper-pigmentation skin disorder involves both internal (eg. dietary, dietary supplementation) and external (eg. chemical, skin bleach, chemical peels, natural ingredient masks, natural skin bleaches, sunblocks).  And, they must go hand in hand because while the problem is internal it manifests itself externally.  During my research, I came across using turmeric as a facial mask.  Ideally, turmeric should also be taken as a dietary supplement to help clear the skin, but use caution as turmeric can cause gastointestinal problems, and too much can activate the gene p53 that deactivates damaged cells in the heart.

Turmeric has long been used by Indians (Asia) as part of lightening the skin for wedding ceremonies.  It is combined with one or more ingredients and applied as a mask to even out skin tone while reducing skin blemishes as it brightens and whitens the skin.  Turmeric is one of the best things you can use on your skin!

Turmeric Facial Mask

turmeric powder
fresh lemon juice
plain yogurt
local, unpasteurized honey
graham flour (optional)
aloe vera (optional)
olive oil (optional)

There are no measurements for this facial mask.  What you want is a thick paste that will cling to the face.  I started with about a half tsp of turmeric powder (strong antioxidant, nourishes the skin, neutralizer) then added a little fresh lemon juice (natural skin lightener), about a quarter of tsp of plain yogurt (exfoliate, skin brightener) and about a quarter tsp of honey (humicant, moisturizer, antibacterial agent) .  I simply use the back of the spoon to smooth the paste over my face.  I have had good results both adding aloe vera (moisturizer, antioxidant) to the mixture and alone as a pre-treatment.  Graham flour helps to whiten and exfoliate but I usually don't use it.  Olive oil will slow the drying of the mask while providing Vitamin E that aids in lightening as it moisturizes.  I allow the paste to dry thoroughly on my face for 30 minutes.  Add it to the mask or use it as a post treatment following the mask.  I remove the mask with warm water and wash lightly with goat's milk soap.  It does make a huge difference in evening out skin tone.

Turmeric is very effective as part of your skin management system.  The simple thing is, turmeric works.  The problem with turmeric is, it stains everything a bright orangy yellow.  When you are using a turmeric facial mask, wear old clothes you don't mind getting stained.  Use old face cloths as well as they too will become stained.  Your skin will be stained as well.  You have two choices after removing the mask.  If you rinse with warm water only, the stain will fade in about 3 hours.  If you rinse then wash with goat's milk soap, the stain is removed quickly.

I find that using aloe vera as a pre-treatment to the turmeric facial mask increases the effectiveness.  I also use aloe vera as a post treatment after removing the mask.  I've had good results using an all natural goat's milk soap to remove any skin staining from the mask.  Goat's milk soap provides lactic acid which acts as an exfoliant.  As soon as my skin is dry from washing the mask, I apply aloe vera then sunblock.  The number one rule when doing any kind of skin lightening (eg. melasma patches) is SUNBLOCK.  The area being treated should only be without sunblock during treatment.  It should always be protected with a high SPF sunblock with the exception of the treatment period.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Downside of Sunblock

We live in beautiful Ontario, Canada where we have a boat, a pool and we vacation close to 3 months of the year in Florida.  The problem is I have melasma, hyperpigmented patches on my face.  The recommended treatment for melasma is to use some type of lightening system (chemical, natural) then protect the face with the highest SPF broad spectrum sunblock you can find.  I have gone all natural as far as actually treating my melasma including using a custom made turmeric mask (more on that in the next post).  I am still using an SPF 110 sunblock and therein lies one problem.

Aside of the melasma, did you know that strong sun exposure can cause your hair to turn grey quicker?  'Tis true!  It works in reverse of tanning by bleaching out the melanin that gives hair it's colour.  Both my husband and I noticed more greying after being in Aruba

Chemical sunblocks contain a few chemicals that can actually cause more problems then they solve including making your skin more susceptible to skin cancer.  I've been paying premium prices for the ultra high SPF protection and while I heard of some of the chemical warnings, I did not know that the skin cannot absorb anything higher than SPF 50 protection.  Essentially, I have been wasting my money for extra protection my skin wasn't able to utilize.

The second problem with sunblocks is it reduces the production of Vitamin D.  In fact, many living in northern climates as we do have a Vitamin D deficiency.  The body makes Vitamin D via sun exposure so it stands to reason that in northern climates where your are covered from head to toe during the winter months and your face is protected with a high SPF sunblock, sun exposure is blocked so your body can't make Vitamin D.

The third problem is some of the chemicals in sunblocks can make you physically sick.  Not only can they cause allergic reactions, they can cause gastrointestinal problems because they are absorbed through the skin.  The worst part is, as I found out, you might not suspect your sunblock is the cause of your gastrointestinal problems.

Finally, sunblock can block your pores creating rashes and skin break-outs.  They can cause you to feel hot and sticky even if they say they are dry.  Beware of those who say they are dry with a lightweight feeling as those sunblocks can really end up drying your skin as well.

We are moving away from using chemical sunblocks wherever possible.  There are a multitude of ways to avoid strong UV exposure.  Be aware that UV exposure comes through windows including vehicle windows and from indoor lighting.  UV exposure can also be strong between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM even with cloud cover.  We spent most of the month of October at our vacation home in Florida.  I was beyond pleased to be asked "Weren't you just in Florida?  Where's your tan?"  Now, those who live in Florida year round know how to avoid the sun.  I was also impressed during our Aruba vacation how folks avoid sun damage without resorting to using a lot of sunblock.  Here are a few things we are doing to avoid chemical sunblocks at both of our homes:

  • avoidance - We tend to avoid being outdoors when the UV rays are the strongest.  If we are in one of our vehicles we use the drop down shades on the side windows to block UV rays.  At home, we filter out direct sunlight so we still get the warmth during the winter months with greatly reduced UV exposure.
  • shade - I'm a shade seeker.  I don't like being in the direct sun.  If walking, I tend to walk on the shady side of the street.  If waiting, I stand under the shade of a tree and even at the pool both at home and at our vacation home, I'm the one sitting in the shade.  We have devised ways to create shade on the boat, at home on the decks and around the pool, as well as on the golf cart so we don't have to be in direct sun to enjoy the great outdoors.
  • clothing - Did you know there are actual SPF ratings for various fabrics?  What you wear especially during the strong UV exposure hours can make a huge difference.  Covering up is inexpensive and surprisingly can be cooling especially for women if you wear summer frocks that let the air in while blocking the UV rays.  During the heat of the day, put on a long sleeve, white cotton shirt to cover your arms.  Wear long but light weight pants or skirts as well.
  • hats - A broad brimmed hat is a must to keep the sun off your face.  I have several of them as does my husband who is an avid golfer meaning he gets a lot more sun exposure than I do.  I like the straw hats with wide brims because they tend to be a bit cooler on the head while shading the face and neck.  
  • parasols - Parasols are a fancy type of umbrella designed to keep the sun off your face.  They were very popular during Victorian times where milky white skin was seen as a beauty asset.  They remain popular in cultures cultivating the milky white skin (eg. Japan, Asian cultures) but can be seen world wide now as folks travel.  I was surprised to see several of them during our visit to Disney World this past October.  Now, parasols make perfect sense because they provide you with instant shade something that is difficult to find at theme parks.    They are available in ultra compact sizes and if you don't want to splurge on an actual parasol, an ultra compact umbrella will achieve the same thing. 
  • natural skin correctors - There are a number of natural skin correctors that reverse the damage from sun exposure.  They include: turmeric, honey, milk, lemon juice and aloe vera. Of those, aloe vera is very effective when used both before and after sun exposure.  Vitamin C, E and L-cysteing as well as pomegranate extract, ellagic acid and ferulic acid are natural ways to reduce melanin production as well.