The Zen Cleaner

Go Beyond Baking Soda for a Cleaner Fridge

guy in gas mask cleaning refrigerator

"It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I'm wearing Milk Bone shorts." ~Kelly Allen

With all the hustle and bustle, our holidays were about as Zen as a common household refrigerator. (Is the light always on or is it just me? Similar to asking, "Am I conscious now?" or "Is my own inner mental light on or not?")

When it comes to refrigerators, for the record, men eat far more fruits and vegetables if they're stored on the same shelf as the Christmas time or otherwise. Similarly, storing fruits and vegetables at eye-level reminds everyone to mindfully eat them. But for some reason the crisper drawers are at the base of the fridge and we somehow always forget about the stuff we've stashed there. Cleaning out the crisper is a sad reminder of how good food turns into puddles of goo beneath other goodies -- and unless you compost, that goo ain't green!

Our new dog, a rescued 18 month-old Cairn terrier called Emerson (named after the author Ralph Waldo Emerson or the 80s band Emerson, Lake & Palmer -- your choice) is always sitting at the base of our opened refrigerator right in front of the crisper drawer. I'm convinced that lato was right when he joked, "Your dog is a true philosopher." That being said, Emerson's either contemplating his own mental light, wondering how he might joyfully clean the slimy mess that's growing in our over-crowed crisper or -- most probably - coveting the entire mess.

So if your refrigerator is a disaster hung over from this holiday season, remember that many people still swear by baking soda to keep it smelling fresh. Just tear the top off a new box and let it do its thing. After a month, if you can find it among everything else you forgot was in there, replace the old baking soda with a fresh one and use the old box in a cleaning project so that nothing goes to waste (e.g. just pour it down the kitchen drain to freshen the pipes or add some white vinegar to unclog them).

If you want to follow the most recent advice from some scientists who have looked at the issue, go for something even more powerful than baking soda, such as activated charcoal, which is more absorptive.

To remove that inevitable puddle of holiday goo, your crisper drawer will shine like new when cleaned with borax. Apply to a soft cloth or a dampened sponge and use as you would any commercial kitchen cleanser. Once cleaned, rinse with clean water.


Unlock the Natural Healing Powers of Your Pantry


Make a yummy salve for chapped lips with honey and olive oil (hey it's better than ear wax, right?). Or make a mild disinfectant with salt. Got a headache? Skip the giant pills and reach for vitamin C.

These are some of the suggestions from TDG Zen Cleaner blogger Michael de Jong, who has just released his latest book, Clean Cures: The Humble Art of Zen-Curing Yourself. Watch de Jong show you exactly how to concoct this natural remedies on this recent segent on Good Morning America Health.

Clean Cures has hundreds of remedy recipes, which de Jong hopes will help you protect the planet as well as your health and pocketbook. Not only can you avoid toxic chemicals and strong medicines, but you also can dispense with considerable amounts of packaging. For example, with his natural salve, you too can get kissable lips but without having to throw away all those empty tubes. de Jong worked with a physician during his research, and personally uses what he recommends (though of course no book should be considered a substitute for seeing a licensed doctor).

Want better skin and fewer trips to the pharmacy...all with natural ingredients you probably already have in your house? Visit Michael de Jong's website.

-Written by Brian Clark Howard


How to Wash Fresh Fruit

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana." ~Groucho Marx


Summertime, and the living is easy. What an incredible time of year to eat locally grown produce and support local organic and small farmers. Most urban centers now are lucky enough to have a farmers' market at least weekly. But the absolute best is to visit a farm and pick your own fruit, where you'll experience one of Mother Nature's most delicious and fascinating spectacles.

Blossoming and straining under the weight of sepal, stigma, ovule, anther, filament and petals, fruit is actually the ripened ovary, complete with its seeds, of a flowering plant. The floral fresh smell and the satisfying taste of either a solid, juicy crunch or the fuzzy, sweet tender crush of a buttery, succulent, softer specimen is unlike any culinary experience you'll get from fruit from a market. These guilty pleasures of sinking your teeth into the sun ripened warmth of any variety of sweet and luscious fleshy fruit is one of the best rewards of the summertime season. And it'll be a family memory the kids will remember all their lives!

Now churchgoer or not, it's that decadent bite into the ripe flesh of a perfect fruit that most of us know about Eve as she offered the illicit treasure from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to Adam one unfortunate afternoon back in the Garden of Eden; that object of desire whose appeal brought about our loss of innocence and hence the understanding of the difference between good and evil. They ate of the forbidden fruit and, oh we all are, still trying to figure it all out and usually getting it wrong.

Well, not just in Eden, but in California, Kansas, New Jersey and New York, each state actually boasts a town named after the goddess of fruit, fruitfulness, and abundance: Pomona, the impeccable hostess toting a heavily laden platter of fruit or an equally encumbered cornucopia of fruitful delights. In Roman mythology, she was the fleshy, voluptuous "goddess of fruit" and her name was often coupled with the blossoming of trees.


Knock Out Athlete's Foot with this Natural Cure

"I have little compassion for people in trailer parks who refuse to move after getting tornado warnings. How hard is it for them to relocate? Their houses have wheels." ~ Carlos Mencia

The Wicked Witch of the East; Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard and, yes, those be-dazzling ruby slippers (originally Silver Slippers -- oh that Adrian!).

 the wicked witch of the west from the 1939 movie wizard of oz

Despite her dreary, repressed, pig-slop smelling, pre-pubescent years on a poor family farm in Kansas, beloved orphan Dorothy Gale wondered what life might be like beyond her own picket fence. As with many adolescents, feeling no alternative but to run away in order to save her dog Toto from everyone's favorite mean neighbor, Elmira Gulch, she meets up with a crackpot magician, and -- as happens more often now because of climate change -- she finds herself caught in the winds of a giant tornado. Barely making it home, she gets clobbered by a windswept window and falls through the sub-conscious inward spiral of the twister, kicking off birthday boy L. Frank Baum's masterpiece.

Once awakened -- through the magic of Technicolor -- she meets a village of Munchkins and Glinda the Good Witch, who grants her the ruby slippers. Through one of the most memorable Hollywood musical numbers ever produced, Dorothy learns to follow that conscious outward spiral to womanhood -- the ever-famous yellow brick road.

In hindsight it's easy to recognize the irony of Dorothy fulfilling a Wizard's challenge to get home and then discovering that she had the ability to be there all the time, the Scarecrow hoping for intelligence only to discover he's already a genius, the Tin Man longing to love only to discover his heart, a Cowardly Lion who's actually fearless and the citizens of Emerald City discovering that their Wizard was actually an eccentric old man. That's the Hollywood version in a nutshell. (OK! OK! Aficionados needn't act on your urge to correct or comment on my interpretation, or misinterpretation...ya' know you're dying to and ya' know who you are!)

Much like Dorothy and her cohorts feeling the need to visit the WASH & BRUSH-UP CO. ("Rub, rub here, rub, rub there") to look their very best in preparation for meeting the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, the next time you've been away from home and need to tidy up a bit -- green skin or not -- you don't need to visit the Merry Old Land of Oz to feel fresh.

So if you've been out riding a twister, romping through fields of heroin-laden poppies, "liquidating" evil witches with water, or, more to the point, walking miles in someone else's shoes (ruby-encrusted or not, who knows what the Wicked Witch of the East had going on between her witchy toes??), your feet can become riddled with fungus instead of remaining lady-like-soft-n-sumptuous. In the event that yours do, put your best foot forward and treat your athlete's foot (Come on, chicks get it too!) by steeping your frazzled feet in warm, salted water (one teaspoon of salt per cup of water) for five to ten minutes every day.

The salt kills the fungus and reduces perspiration. When finished, dry each little piggy thoroughly before slipping your dogs back into your Manolo Blahniks, Chucky T's or even your ruby slippers.

Along her trip, Dorothy's search for home inspires us, while her ruby slippers represent the "amazing feats" of which we're all capable. So whether you're on a spaceship to Mars, a cross-town bus, or riding a twister to OZ, mindfully enjoy the sights and sensations along the way as much as those when you arrive at your final destination. Don't forget: it's all about the journey! While searching for your heart's desire somewhere over the rainbow, emulate Baum's Dorothy, and remember to have the "be here now" ability to use your brain, your heart and your courage simultaneously.


Make a Soothing Natural Bath Soak, from the Zen Cleaner and CBS's The Early Show

Check out this fun clip of Michael de Jong talking about his new book Clean Body with Harry Smith of CBS's The Early Show. Learn how you can avoid toxic personal care products, and easily make your own with natural ingredients you already have at home!

Watch CBS Videos Online


Support Women Scientists and Environmentalists

It's not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it. ~The Golden Girls

We all get one -- a mother that is -- and it's no surprise that Mother's Day is one of the most commercially successful of U.S. holidays.

woman spreading her arms outside

What drives it? Is it guilt? When we recognize our female parents for their often under-appreciated responsibilities of raising offspring by toiling away to our benefit with steady and selfless love and support, can't we do it without being commercial? But in recognition of all that she did/does/will do/might do, etc., on this special day, we can pay her tribute with a bit of eco-this and eco-that -- potted flowers, herbs or decorative vegetation that can be planted in the garden, organic chocolate, socially responsible bling made from blood-free diamonds, shells or recycled materials, truly organic beauty products, or even soy or beeswax candles scented with essential oils with non-lead wicks.

But unfortunately, the flowers will soon fade and become compost. And in today's economy, the rock might just end up in hock. And her backside (along with yours too, buddy) will only get a size larger from all that chocolate, eco or not!

But Mother Nature is everyone's automatic second mom, personified as female for thousands of years and representing sustenance and nurturing -- so it's quite fitting that on Mother's Day we consider both our mother and Mother Nature as well.

Among those acknowledging the good deeds by women on behalf of Mother Earth, are the WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Awards. WINGS was organized a decade ago to demonstrate how women explorers and field scientists are underserved, and sought to remedy the sad fact that young people often lack the curiosity to explore the natural world.

This special honor recognizes outstanding contributions to our general knowledge in critical environmental areas, while providing important funding for continued research and expeditions. What a remarkable way to acknowledge environmental advances, to exemplify the work of some genius women, girls, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and mothers, and to showcase the possibilities for women to work as scientists.


Risky Runoff: How We're Poisoning Ourselves with Ritalin and Cleaning Products

"Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective." --Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

water coming out of showerhead

As the recent PBS Frontline story "Poisoned Waters" so vividly brought home, once pure and pristine, our extraordinary natural treasure of beautiful shorelines, waterways, estuaries, lakes, rivers and ponds continues to be polluted by the home and industrial waste that we persistently contribute to -- so much so that it now severely threatens our own health and that of the flora and fauna with which we share our planet. Wreaking havoc on global well-being, with animals and individuals becoming ill daily from contact with contaminated water eco-systems, without dramatic and fundamental action, it's a problem that'll only continue to grow exponentially. Point blank -- our water systems are being altered to the point of no-return by our own selfish activities.

Often invisible to the naked eye, the most destructive elements to our planet's life's blood, our water, are hidden, secret and malignant -- agricultural pollution and excrement in runoff waters, chemicals from home waste treatment systems, everyday cleaning supplies gurgling down our drains and flushing down our toilets, lawn care products leaching into the ground water -- plastics, lubricants, petro-fuels, body lotions, bug repellents, deodorants, soaps and even the decomposition of the soles of our shoes. With dangers to everyone and everything living and growing now being found in water, we all stand to be negatively impacted.

The particulates from our own medicated bodily fluids are so fine that there are no water processing plants in the world that can trap them, and so, to be perfectly frank, your neighbor's Viagra, your daughter's birth control, your uncle's HIV/AIDS medications, your grandmother's diabetes drugs, your minister's pain medications, your teacher's thyroid supplements, your dog's flea and tick protection, etc., are all ending up in micro doses in the water we all brush our teeth with every day.

The run-off from some agricultural livestock is so densely polluted that it creates dead zones in water masses that not only cannot sustain life, but also kill any life forms that unfortunately find their way into their morass.

Through our toilets or from our tap, we're discovering that the most refined water processing doesn't always remove the new synthetic forms of pollutants, and with more and new kinds of contaminants being found in water, we no longer know what's lingering in the H2O we drink and bathe in. It's our failure to monitor and control what gets into our water that haunts this life force all over our planet.

Any investment in environmental science and the actions of well-meaning politicians and civic groups may solve some of these problems, but until we begin to seriously tackle what are even today insurmountable issues, this same "bureaucracy" may also indefinitely continue to keep the purity of our water tied up in a giant toxic bow of red tape.

The time is urgent and the stakes are high. The danger signs are everywhere and we have mountains of choices that need to be made. There's no question in my mind that we all need to make small and simple changes because, unfortunately, we're all polluters, and it's our shared responsibility to no longer be such.

I suggest that the answers lie within each and every one of us. Daily mindful actions carried out by each and every person -- all of us stepping up and taking responsibility to restore what we've already lost or are about to lose forever -- one person at a time, one family at a time, one block at a time, one neighborhood at a time, one city at a time and so on can and will make a difference. As oft quoted, the late anthropologist Margaret Meade emphatically stated, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

But here is where paralysis sets in -- the point where we all become deer caught in the headlights, unable to move this way or that, doomed to the fatal onslaught of our own making. We've been taught to believe that it's only the powerful, the wealthy, the political, the connected that have any real control over our lives and our actions. But again, the perceptive voice of Rachel Carson can powerfully move us beyond our complacency: "Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species -- man -- acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world."

So conversely it should also be true that in our present century, only our species can acquire the significant power to reverse the nature of this world for the positive. As the mindful, free-thinking, creative individuals we were born to be, please consider what Rachel Carson tried to instill in us 60 years ago: "If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life." The truth of the matter is however, that somewhere along the way we each self-destroy that power and validate it to "the powers that be."

Take just a few steps back and fully understand that until only 50 years ago, almost every chemical found under almost every kitchen and bathroom sink in the developed world today existed only in chemistry labs -- and now they are part and parcel of products that have been marketed to us as "new and improved," "germ-fighting," "antiseptic," and "essential" to modern life. So when asked to consider what you, as one mere individual can do to strengthen the environment, consider some of the following and surely you will tap into your own creative nature and develop other mindful adaptations.

For instance, the next time you're cleaning your kitchen or bathroom, consider sprinkling baking soda onto your nonporous bath and kitchen surfaces instead of chlorine bleach, cutting a fresh lemon in half and using the fruit side as your scrubby pad, wiping down the surfaces and then rinsing them with the freshest tap water available (micro-Viagra notwithstanding!) [Note: Also never use anything acidic on marble or similar surfaces. No lemony fresh scent, but no pock-marked counters either.]


Simple Ways to Care for the Earth

"Strange is our situation here upon Earth." ~Albert Einstein

April is when many of us can truly welcome the signs of spring -- the sound of songbirds; the once bare, leafless branches hosting buds at the end of every twig; the overhead migration of ducks; and the smell of part rainfall, Earth and ozone creating a scent that certainly defines springtime and, for many, Earth Month.

earth from space

With Earth Day under our proverbial feet, many consider their "green-ness." With the promise of a "green" economy as a growth economy, the majority of consumers agree with the popularity of "green," as more and more vendors offer these kinds of alternatives. With more information now than ever before available on how to become or go "green" on television, cable or on the Internet, many understand the recognizable benefits to individuals and society.

Everyone knows that buying and selling is good for the economy. But by buying "green," consumers are purchasing stuff not just because they need it -- they're buying eco-goods because they're also considered to be good for the planet. Of late, many consumers have even boycotted companies or products because of their undesirable policies and practices, and many have recommended environmentally responsible products or services to friends and family.

Hoping that environmental awareness will eventually convince people to buy "green" products, manufacturers now produce products that eco-savvy shoppers supposedly want. Granola cruncher or not, to some, "green" isn't just about a carbon footprint and rain forests, it's also about social responsibility and being aware of how businesses affect the environment, our society and our future resources.

Unfortunately, Earth Day for many has become yet another narcoleptic occasion to enact pointless environmental rituals while denouncing the greed and excesses many also find themselves ankle deep in. (With President Obama commemorating Earth Day this year with a trip to Iowa -- one of the largest wind energy production states in the country -- perhaps he might also inspire us away from our greedy, over-consumptive, egotistical selves, organizing us to make a personal sacrifice for the greater good.)

Although many sing dirges to global warming, I'll guess that few really care to do anything. If they did they might start whistling another tune by starting small and making mindful alterations to their purchasing habits, minimizing travel, changing light bulbs, insulating/caulking homes, cleaning with environmentally safe materials and purchasing used stuff instead of new when available. Only by starting small and personal can we begin to grow and work up to noticeable improvements.

With the "green" industry growing -- one of few that are -- it's a marvelous opportunity for us to grow bigger and better. For this Earth Month, don't use meaningless gestures to show the world that you care, but instead, plant seeds that show how you also take care.


Remove Grass Stains with this Easy Green Cleaning Recipe

"If you drink, don't drive. Don't even putt." ~ Dean Martin

When the Earth was young and cavemen beat the ground with clubs and danced the boo-ga-loo, crowds gathered round in silent awe. Today the same kind of nonsense is simply called golf (April 10 is Golfer's Day).

golf ball on green near hole

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you've ever overheard conversations on the green -- to amateurs who play -- sand seems to come alive, clubs become possessed by mischievous sprites, and expensive equipment somehow mystically finds its way into the deep end of ponds.

To those of you who have never chased a puckered ball from here to kingdom come, golf is a sport in which players use assorted clubs including woods, irons, and putters, in an attempt to hit small dimpled spheres from a tee into nearly invisible holes on a putting green in the lowest possible number of strokes. Outside of being a swell way to spend time out of doors, usually in beautiful surroundings, it's also one of the few ball games that doesn't use a standardized playing area. Instead, the game is played on uniquely designed golf courses consisting of either 9 or 18 holes.

Golf is the rare sport that can be played by people of any age, and taken up by people of any age (infirmities aside). And motorized golf carts assure the minimum amount of exercise per hour than any other sport except perhaps fishing. Men, women and children alike are drawn to the lure of the lawn. Take for instance golfing superstars like Jack Nicklaus, who began playing golf at age ten, Phil Mickelson, who began playing golf at age three, Michelle Wie, who began playing golf at the age of four, and Tiger Woods -- possibly the world's most famous golfer -- who began swinging a club when we was only two years old, and went on to become the youngest Masters winner ever.

So whether you spend your day chipping away at the putting green, excavating sand traps, fishing "escapees" out of water hazards or crawling around on all fours looking for lost orbs in the tall grass, don't get "teed" off about grass stains. Remove yours with a mixture of one-third cup white vinegar and two-thirds cup water. Apply the solution to the stain and blot with a clean cloth. Repeat this process until you've removed as much green chlorophyll as possible from the spot, and then launder as usual.

Whether you're an amateur lost on the back nine looking for your ball markers, a sweaty caddie in his shack, or a cocktail-swigging old pro who rarely leaves the clubhouse -- with a little bit of luck (and white vinegar) you'll always look your best while daydreaming of your next bogey.

>>What if golf courses were synthetic?


Dancing Shoes and My Dad's Secret Double Life

"Please send me your last pair of shoes, worn out with dancing...
so that I might have something to press against my heart."
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

couple dancing

Perhaps you're able to dance like John Travolta, Savion Glover or Fred Astaire. But for the rest of us who persistently need a helping rhythmic hand, dance lessons continue to be über necessary.

Not only a place to dance, have fun and make new friends, Arthur Murray Dance Studios were and continue to be the perfect place to shake your booty to the measure of the music. If you're determined to dance or you're just interested in learning a few new moves for that upcoming wedding, Arthur Murray's is a great place to learn the latest steps.

Arthur Murray was a dance instructor and businessman, whose name is most often associated with the dance studio chain that bears his name. His birthday was April 4, 1895. At the age of 17, Arthur Murray began teaching dance at night while working as a draftsman by day. When the Arthur Murray dance studios were finally opened, others followed. His slogan was "If you can walk, we teach you how to dance."

In the early eighties, after his 30-plus-year marriage to my mom ended, my dad floundered until he discovered the very same Arthur Murray dance studios in a neighboring town. Once there, he quietly and privately took classes. Although he continued to work nights at a neighboring steel mill and fish at every available moment, little did we know that he had also become obsessed by the lure of the ballroom floor. Unfortunately, it was not until after his death did my sister and brother and I finally come to know about his secret passion for the Fox Trot, the Hustle, the Jitterbug, the Mamba, the Quickstep, Rumba, Salsa, Swing, Tango, and even the Two-Step.

While dismantling his bachelor-pad (complete with waterbed -- I said it was the 80s!) did we discover his secret stash of dance-duds -- a walk-in closet entirely committed to his ever-growing collection of tuxedo jackets, coats with tails, overcoats, and dinner jackets in orchid-lavender, chocolate-brown, fuchsia-pink, sunshine-yellow, platinum-silver, periwinkle-blue, bubblegum-pink, cherry-red, turquoise, purple, scarlet-red, royal-blue, sage-green and Champagne, each with satin-trimmed matching pants, and color-mated bow ties, socks, fluorescent patent leather dance shoes, fancy cufflinks, silky handkerchiefs, cummerbunds and mountains of crisply laundered and ironed ruffled and flat fronted shirts.


Sonnet to a Secret Slob

April is National Poetry Month. And in honor of this upcoming tradition, I give you:

Your dishes are piled like skyscrapers.
Your sink makes strangers step back.
Rather than bubbles you're content with troubles
From the housekeeping skills that you lack.

messy house

Your dust bunnies corral under couches
Creating powdery white filth and light grime.
It's not your quirk to go completely berserk
Because dirt in your home's not a crime.

Your bath wears mold like a parka,
Housing microbes you could never outswim.
Your toilet is frightening; your sink could use brightening.
Your germs sing their own national hymn.

You've owned a Bissell, a Dyson and Hoover
Though your vacuum now hides in the closet.
You once screamed "Oh heck," when your cherished Oreck
Exploded in a cloudy deposit.

Your recycling and garbage are ever growing.
Your refuse overfills each wastebasket.
You'd rather grow bitter than make room for your litter
Or consider to organize, sort, bundle or mask it.

Your laundry's never sorted by colors.
Your whites are often light-pink.
You're nothing but smiles while you're clothes sit in piles
And your dainties linger under your sink.

Your gauchos, white sandals and nude nylons,
Lost scungies, tube socks and shoulder pads,
Your hangers scamper while you dig through your hamper
'Cause your closet's filled with dated doodads.

Your grooming skills are not quite polished.
The wrinkles you wear leave you rancorous.
Your trousers are rumpled and your shirt's clearly crumpled
Some might say that you're ironing-cantankerous.

Your stove-top is covered with drippings
From the dinner you made yesterday.
Your spilled coffee has thickened, the rest leaves you sickened
Your home is a worrisome display.


Messy or Dirty Desk? Try This Organizing Tip

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, Then what are we to think of an empty desk?" ~ Albert Einstein

Overflowing ashtrays, piles of books, coffee-stained napkins scribbled with half-baked theories, mangled envelopes, semi-scribed journals, purloined pens, dog-eared dailies, notebooks, piles of paper and mountains of unopened letters...the strictness of order and the opposing efficiency of chaos? Well, I dunno' about that. Albert Einstein may have been brilliant, but to this neat-nick, I think he must have been a complete and total slob. (And turns out his birthday was March 14.)

 legare bamboo desk, green office furniture

Theories of relativity aside -- nobody needs to drop an apple onto my head for me to notice both sides of the tidiness fence: those who see the advantage of having a messy desk and those who slip into flames when a pen is left askew. (Okay. I admit it. I just described myself.)

While revealing your true inner being, if your desk is nasty maybe you're just disorganized by nature, maybe your productivity skills are rusty, you've decided to cozy up to your own special brand of disorder or perhaps you're the kind of person who -- when finished with something - lets it spiral into a whirling abyss of invisibility. Although your mass-of-mess is mounding into Mount St. Helens, Mount Fuji or even Mount Everest, you've become blinded - and to your delusional sightless eyes, your chaos ceases to exist.

Finding the middle ground between what's tidy and untidy can be slippery. A study at Columbia Business School found that people who keep a dashing desk actually spend more time shuffling through stuff than those who keep it mildly messy -- systematizing and salvaging stuff takes time. And when it comes to a messy desk, time is of the essence -- for it was our sloppy scientist who once said, "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."

Ebbing and flowing like the tide, when your desk is out of control, wrestling your stack of stuff can be absolutely aggravating. Slob that he was, our birthday boy also once said; "Out of clutter find simplicity; from discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

When your messes reach maximum density, make a hole into your Himalayan-sized-hysteria, a gap into your Alpine-shaped-mishap, by keeping your tidying trouble-free. Simply commit yourself to digging through your disaster for just five minutes a day.


Ironically, It's National Peanut Month, Despite More Recalls

"There's nothing like unrequited love to take all the flavor out of a peanut butter sandwich." ~ Charlie Brown

Always oily, sticky and gloppy, creamy to extra chunky, pedigreed-and-pricey or down-and-dirty-cheap-o -- who among us doesn't just completely dig the taste of peanut butter?

peanut butter and peanuts

(Of course, that's part of why the recent avalanche of peanut recalls has so many concerned parents and others upset. In fact, already as of this morning there have been four more peanut recalls. Nearly 300 brands of peanut-based products have announced recalls due to fears of salmonella contamination since Feb. 1, and dozens more were announced in January. Affected items include jars of peanut butter, energy bars, cookies, candies, baked goods, processed foods, dog treats and more. Get a full list here.)

Because of its immense popularity, peanut butter is one of our nation's numero-uno delicacies. It's so beloved that the month of March is now named National Peanut month. (Unfortunate for those who suffer from Arachibutyrophobia -- the hysteria from peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. But most especially unfortunate for the millions who suffer from allergies to nuts!) Interestingly, November is also Peanut Butter Lover's Month.

By 1903, Dr. George Washington Carver, considered by many to be the Father of the Peanut Industry, began his peanut research at the Tuskegee Institute. Peanut butter had already been invented before Carver began his horticultural experiments, but many wrongly credit him as being the Father of Peanut Butter. Despite missing out on that really big patent opportunity, the ingenious Dr. Carver did, however, create hundreds of uses for the luscious legume.

Today, the West Coast of the United States prefers chunky, while the East Coast favors creamy brands, but regardless of texture, the average American boy will have consumed approximately 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches by the age of 18. And just one acre of peanuts supplies enough of the legumes to manufacture 30,000 sandwiches.

Today, millions of people pine for peanut butter, and while it's a common staple in most homes, and it's relatively inexpensive, it's not just a condiment for kids. For instance, Demi Moore cures her sugar cravings by snacking on peanut butter, Al Roker has a spoonful of peanut butter every morning, and second First Daughter Sasha Obama loves her daily dose of peanut butter as well. Although it's virtually every kid's bread and butter, other well-known "Big Kid" fans include Barbara Walters, Bill Clinton, Billy Joel, Cher, Jack Nicholson, Julia Roberts, Larry King, and even Madonna.

My partner, Richard (whose favorite brand happens to be 'Crazy Richard's'), easily downs half a jar of the stuff with a spoon every afternoon, while I, on the other hand, enjoy a double-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Using three slices of bread, I smear peanut butter (chunky style, of course!) on the inside of the two outer slices, followed by spreading jelly or jam onto both sides of the inner slice. Sounds complicated but making it this way eliminates the outside of the sandwich from ever becoming soggy. (Truth be told, it also eliminates my need for a second peanut butter and jelly sandwich!)

But if you happen to get a glop on more than your knife, spoon or bread, remove peanut butter stains from just about any non-porous surface by scraping it up and then wiping it away with warm sudsy water. For excess oil, pile on the baking soda. Sprinkle the area liberally, wait for about ten minutes, wipe away the excess and you're good to go.

Nutritious and versatile, glop-alicious and good, this month make Dr. Carver proud -- remember to go nuts over peanut butter.


Why Rechargeable Batteries Are Smarter

"Mind is the battery cell, Intelligence is the switch." ~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba

No, National Battery Day is not meant to give you permission to assault people. Thankfully, there is no holiday when that is acceptable. This year's National Battery Day (February 18) was brought to you by the companies that produce those things that are "not included" whenever you buy your kid a toy that needs a power source.

usb cell rechargeable batteries

Yearly, Americans buy approximately three billion batteries to juice-up their cell phones, computers, radios, toys, watches, hearing name it. At an average length of two inches, strung end to end, those "disposable" energy sources would be 94,700 miles long -- enough to circle the equator almost four times!

And although mercury was banned in the manufacture of alkaline batteries many years ago, many still contain small amounts of this troublesome material and -- for some stupid reason -- this is an unavoidable part of the mining and manufacturing processes. Ya' see, when the other metals in alkaline batteries, like zinc and manganese, are mined, small amounts of mercury end up in the raw ore and aren't removed.

While some establishments accept rechargeable batteries for recycling, most refuse to take the alkaline variety, wrongly assuming that because they "supposedly" don't contain any toxic metals, they can just be put into the trash with all of our other garbage.

But when tossed out with the trash, those batteries eventually pollute lakes and streams -- they can leach from landfills and therefore expose the environment and ground water to lead and acid and mercury. But between you and me -- I think that we can and should recycle all those AAA, AA, C and D alkaline batteries.

And I'm apparently not alone in my thinking. Programs like the Big Green Box are doing what they can to keep alkaline batteries out of landfills by recycling and recovering the metals in every type of battery. From their U.S. collection locations alkaline batteries are sorted and shipped to a Canadian facility that crushes them to recover the zinc, manganese, mercury and steel.

Walgreen's, IKEA, Best Buy, Whole Foods and Green Depot are among other businesses that offer collection sites for your used alkaline batteries. But in the states that "require" consumers to recycle their alkaline batteries, there are many more businesses that participate.


How to Clean Marks Off Walls (Without Toxic Chemicals)

"Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else." ~Ivern Ball

Some fables -- ancient or modern -- ooze with the doe-eyed dedication of imagined perfect individuals, fairy-tale characters, supermodels or movie stars, and the empowerment gained by a sweetheart's strength.


Syrupy romance or not, such tales prove that affection, devotion, tenderness, obsession, and -- dare I say love -- is eternal. Take for instance Guinevere and Lancelot, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe (well maybe not the best of examples), Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (again and again and again), John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Sir Elton John and David Furnish, J. Howard Marshall and Anna Nichole Smith, and even those star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria or their Elizabethan role-models, Romeo and Juliet.

The name Romeo has become synonymous with "lover." But it's Juliet who has deeper feelings and genuine emotions, beyond his puppy love. She shatters Romeo's shallow view of love, moving him to speak some of the most beautiful love poetry ever written..."When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew." "Love goes toward love."

Notes of infatuation, memos of obsession or passionate communications new or old have appeared throughout time as scribbled romantic words, hearts-n-arrows and tangled initials -- even on the walls of Juliet Capulet's house in Verona.

The celebrated balcony where Juliet pined for Romeo has for centuries been a pilgrimage for lovers, and the tourist facsimile remains one of Italy's most visited sites. Lovers' graffiti left on the house's walls and doors include passionate scribbled words, letters, doodles and even post-it-like notes stuck on with bubble gum. As an act of preservation, Juliet's house is regularly scrubbed clean of its love notes.

On this Valentine's Day, if your personal Romeo (or Juliet) should leave missives of love scrawled or meticulously written in either crayon or pencil, breathe easy in knowing that baking soda can remove both from walls. To remove your sweetheart's sonnet, just make a paste of baking soda with a bit of water, scrub the lovelorn area, and then rinse with clean water.


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Michael de Jong

Michael de Jong

Michael de Jong is the author of a forthcoming series of books on clean, green living, the next of which is Clean Body.
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