Mother Earth Living

Your Natural Home

Creating a cozy hearth for the family

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8/2/2016

DIY coffee station

Photo courtesy Kristin Marr

Most of us like to start our mornings with a hot beverage, whether it’s a French press full of coffee, a mug of herbal tea or simply a cup of hot water and lemon. A nice hot drink is just the thing to shake off the morning cobwebs and prepare us for whatever comes our way. We can honor this daily ritual and streamline our kitchens by giving our stash of coffee, tea and accoutrements its own special spot. This handsome DIY coffee station from the blog Live Simply can provide a functional space for tea bags, kettles, coffee grinders, mugs and more.



8/2/2016

Next time you whip up a quiche or bake a cake, you may want to think twice before tossing the eggshells in the trash. From deterring pests to making better coffee, practical uses for eggshells abound. Note that, except when using them in the garden, raw eggshells should be sterilized before using. To do this, place the shells in a pan on the stove, cover them with water, boil for 5 minutes, and let them completely dry on a cookie sheet.

eggshell planter 

1. Start seeds

Eggshells make perfect biodegradable containers in which to start seedlings. Tap the small end with a spoon to crack it, then carefully remove the top and empty the egg. Use a funnel or spoon to scoop potting soil into the shells. When the shell is nearly full, use tweezers to gently plant seeds just below the surface of the soil. Place the eggshell planter in a carton in a sunny window, and gently mist the plant daily. When your seedlings are ready to plant outdoors, simply bury the entire eggshell. The shell will break down and provide extra nutrients for your plants.

2. Calcium boost

Perhaps the most obvious way to reuse leftover eggshells is simply including them in your compost. Eggshells are an excellent source of calcium and micronutrients for plants. Crumbling eggshells and adding them directly to the soil is helpful, too. The added calcium can help prevent plant diseases such as blossom end rot in tomatoes.

3. Coffee mate

Brewing coffee with eggshells can reduce its bitterness. After sterilizing, add crushed eggshells to coffee grounds and brew as normal for a cleaner, milder-tasting cup.

4. DIY doodlers

Eggshells can form the basis of homemade sidewalk chalk. Using a mortar and pestle, crush sterilized eggshells into a fine powder. In another bowl, mix 1 teaspoon flour and 1 teaspoon hot water. Add 1 tablespoon of eggshell powder and mix into a thick paste. Use food coloring or natural dyes to color the paste, then shape it into a stick by rolling it up tightly in a paper towel. Let it sit for three days, then the chalk is ready to use!

5. Anti-itch treatment

Suffering from hives? Try relieving itchy, troubled areas with eggshells. Dissolve an eggshell in a small jar of apple cider vinegar for about two days, and apply the mixture with a cotton ball to treat minor skin irritations.

eggshells 

6. Homemade cleaner

Thanks to their abrasive qualities, eggshells can help thoroughly clean water bottles or vases. Simply add crushed sterilized shells and a little soapy water to the vessel you’re cleaning, and shake. Crushed eggshells can also be used as a nontoxic scrub for pots and pans.

7. Pet power

Sterilized eggshell powder is digestible, and can be added to homemade food or treats for pets to keep their bones and teeth strong. One teaspoon of eggshell powder contains roughly 800 mg of calcium. To find recipes for natural homemade dog and cat food using eggshell powder, visit Homemade Pet Recipes for Dogs and Cats.

slug 

8. Bug slugs

Soft-bodied critters such as slugs and snails don’t like crawling over sharp, uneven eggshells. To keep these unwanted visitors away from your plants, simply crush the shells and spread them around the base of plant stems.



8/1/2016

lunch love

Photo courtesy ECOlunchbox

1. Lunch Love

Ditch disposable bags and plastic containers with the handy and stylish ECOlunchbox Three-in-One. Its stacking food containers and separate snack pod keep midday meals tidy and fresh, and the food-grade stainless steel container and plastic-free lid are dishwasher safe.

To Buy: $26

better beverage 

Photo courtesy Uncommon Goods

2. A Better Beverage

Avoid artificially flavored beverages and make your own infused waters and tasty drinks with this glass carafe, which makes a party-sized batch of infused water, cocktails or coolers. It also comes with plastic-free attachments for muddling, juicing and straining fruit.

To Buy: $40

 pickle pal

Photo courtesy Pickle Pipe

3. Pickle Pal

The Pickle Pipe is a one-piece, reusable silicon fermentation airlock meant to simplify the fermentation process by eliminating the need for daily maintenance of fermentation jars. Able to screw on to any wide-mouth Mason jar, The Pickle Pipe’s design also makes it easy to clean, and allows for years of use.

To Buy: $22 for a set of three

wrap without waste 

Photo courtesy Abeego

4. Wrap Without Waste

Try this reusable plastic wrap alternative made from hemp and cotton fabric coated with beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil. Self-adhesive Abeego Flats can be used to cover dishes, wrap sandwiches and more.

To Buy: $18 for three (varying sizes) or a set of 6 small wraps

stasher 

Photo courtesy Stasher

5. Bag It Up

Cut down on trash and save money with this reusable, plastic-free alternative to sandwich and freezer bags. Made of food-grade silicone, Stasher bags are freezable, microwavable and dishwasher-safe. The nonporous surface also inhibits bacterial growth, extending the life of leftovers.

To Buy: $12



8/1/2016

refrigerator drawer

Photo by iStock

Fridge

• Try using a lazy Susan on a fridge shelf. The rotating function allows you to quickly see what’s on hand and keeps you from forgetting about that jar of pickles you bought weeks ago.

• Follow the “Noah’s Ark” principle for condiments: Store no more than two varieties of the same item in your fridge. Before your weekly grocery trip, do a quick purge. Toss expired items, and take stock of what you already have.

• Store leftovers in space-optimizing square or rectangular glass containers.

Drawers and Cabinets

• Make use of drawer organizers to tidy utensils and gadgets. Explore the array of options at The Container Store, or make your own affordable custom compartments. Find instructions: DIY Kitchen Utensil Drawer Organizer

• We often have wasted vertical space in cabinets, where short jars don’t require the full height of each shelf. Shelving products can help make better use of space. Spice rack options abound on the internet, or consider buying spices from bulk bins and keeping them in magnetic containers, stuck to a magnet strip on the inside of a cabinet door.

• Organize kitchen appliances and utensils according to how often you use them—put frequent-use items within easy reach and lesser-used ones on out-of-the-way shelves. This mindful approach to organizing also highlights items you can get rid of completely.

Under the sink

• Ditch the jumble of single-use chemical cleaners, and instead stick with multipurpose staples such as baking soda, white vinegar and castile soap. For a guide to natural cleaners, visit 8 Safe Ingredients to Clean Almost Anything.

• Convert the insides of cupboard doors into extra storage space by installing over-the-door caddies or small shelves.

• Take advantage of vertical space by stacking clear bins, keeping cleaning items neat and easily identifiable.

• Place a tension rod horizontally and use it to hang spray bottles, brushes and similar items, leaving space below for storage bins and trays.



7/27/2016


Photo by Pexels

A door is the first thing guests see when they enter your home. As a result, they can leave an elegant, lasting impression, especially on older, historical houses. Some are made of beautiful wood. Others have small but amazing details. Whatever their form, doors show off the personality of a home.

Unfortunately, they are also susceptible to the elements, year after year. If your house is aging, your door is aging even faster. It could have flaking paint or wood. The wood could be thinning out, making the entrance area draftier. What's worse, it could even have rot from insect or water damage.

Taking the time to restore your old door is worth it. You'll finish with a fine piece of craftsmanship to call your own that everyone will see the minute they walk up to your house. Let's get started.

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Time: Three days — overnight drying is required

Cost: Around $50

Remove Hardware

The first thing to do is prepare the door for restoring. This means you need to take off all the hardware — the hinges, the doorknob, the doorstop and any glass. Place the door on padded sawhorses in order to properly take off the hardware.

Strip Paint

Is your door painted? A painted door cannot be repaired until you strip off the old coat — you won't be able to sand it.

You should strip the paint outdoors, as this step can get messy and dangerous without proper ventilation. Make sure you have enough ventilation if you're working indoors.

Keep the door on the sawhorses, but put down some old shirts or cloths to catch stray paint drops. Apply a low-VOC paint stripper to the door, carefully following the directions on the can. Let it set in for the time specified on the can.

Start scraping off the paint using a wide putty knife. While this will remove most of the old paint, you'll need a high-quality paint scraper to finish the job. For flat surfaces, wider scrapers are better. For the tight corners, pointed scrapers work best.

The paint stripper should then be neutralized with a liquid specified on the can so that it doesn't damaged the exposed wood.


Photo by Pixabay

Sand Flats Down to Bare Wood

Get rid of the remaining varnish and paint flakes by using 80-grit sandpaper on a random-orbit sander. Sand the entire door again, first with 100-grit paper and then 120-grit paper. Don't go any further, though — finer sandpaper will close the wood's pores. This means that when you go to finish the door, the finish won't adhere to it.

Sanding these areas also works for rotted and damaged wood. All you need to do is sand it down and fill it with a polyester of epoxy resin filler. Then sand it smooth again.

Scrape and Sand Moldings and Profiles

Using a sharp, pointed scraper, reach into the corners and profiles of the door to get down to the bare wood.

Once that's done, take a sheet of 100-grit paper and fold it into thirds. Sand the profiles in long strokes across the door, back and forth. In the places where your fingers can't reach, use a sanding sponge. Then, brush and vacuum your work to get rid of any dust that could affect the finish.

Apply Finish

The first place you should apply finish is on the bottom and top edges of the door — one coat is enough. Then, re-hang the door before applying finish to the whole thing. If you skip this step, you run the risk of damaging the finish when you re-hang!

Pour your finish in a bucket and dip a new China-bristle brush lightly into the finish. Begin with the door panels, then move to the moldings and profiles. Finally, coat the rails and stiles. If any finish accidentally hits a dry surface, use a rag to wipe it off right away. Leave the door to dry overnight.

Apply New Paint

Once you've finished the door, sand it smooth. Start with 120-grit sandpaper and end with 220-grit. Use a brush and then a soft cloth to wipe away dust.

Next, apply a coat of primer and let it dry. Sand the dried surface with 220-grit. Remove the dust again using the same method.

Using a two-inch-wide brush made for enamel paint, apply your enamel top coat and let dry. We recommend using a low-VOC exterior paint, such as Benjamin Moore Aura Grand Entrance.

Reattach Hardware

Your masterpiece is complete! Just reattach the hardware and it'll look picture-perfect. If the door (or your house) has some history, choosing period-specific hardware instead of the old, beat-up hardware will add great historical charm.


Megan Wild is a gardener who is the process of cultivating her first succulent garden. She loves visiting local floral nurseries and picking out plants that she struggles to fit into her yard. Find her tweeting home and garden inspiration@Megan_Wild.




7/5/2016


Photo by Fotolia

Instead of throwing used wood pallets and old tires away, repurpose them to make a comfortable and beautiful seating area where you can enjoy yourself the whole summer. Of course, you can always buy a new bench or an outdoor sofa, but that will cost both you and Mother Earth. Recycling the clutter sitting in your backyard is much more fun, creative, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. Here are three easy projects to try:

Wood Pallet Sofa

When it comes to making things with pallets, the options are practically endless. They can be used to make anything from a dining table to a swing chair. Regardless of the form, this kind of furniture is very decorative, and lends rustic yet modern feel to your outdoor space. To make a wood pallet sofa, you will need 3 pallets, some screws, a nail gun and drill, and seat cushions. One pallet will be used for the seating structure, and one for the back support. Make sure they are the same length. Lay one pallet on the ground, and put the other on top so that edges and corners are aligned. Drill through solid parts of both pallets and attach them with 2-inch deck screws. Unnail the planks from the third pallet and use them to fill in the gaps on your sofa. Attach them with the nail gun. Sand all surfaces. Finnish it off with colourful cushions, made from the decorative outdoor fabric and throw some pillows. If you prefer, add ropes to the sides and hang the sofa to transform it into a swing chair.

2. Cinder Block Bench

On their own, cinder blocks are a pretty ugly and uninspiring building material. But with some creativity, you can put them to good use and make a very stylish bench. You will need 18 cinder blocks, all-purpose construction glue, paint, and three 4x4 wooden beams. First, paint the cinder blocks into any shade you like. You can even use a couple of different shades. Give them a few hours to dry. In the meantime, cut the beams to the desired length, sand and varnish them. Once the paint has dried, arrange the cinder blocks into a 3 by 3 form, and glue them together. Repeat it with the remaining 9 blocks. The block assemblies should be placed apart so that they can support the 4x4s on both ends. Now, put the beams’ ends into the holes on the blocks, and voila! Your bench is done. You can adjust the height of the bench by moving the beams from the top row of blocks to the middle. For enhanced comfort, put seating cushions on top. Put the bench against a wall, add some pillows, and you get a sofa. Pretty cool, right?

Tire Stool Chair

Old tires usually sit around in the garage for years, collecting dust, before we finally decide to throw them out. Even though it may not seem like it, they can actually be repurposed and transformed into chic stool chairs, which are excellent for decks or around fire pits. All you need to do is cut a round board from plywood for the bottom of the chair and make a cushioned centre. Take that old tire, splash some paint on it, place the round board into the centre, and add the cushioning on top of the board. These low stools have a hippie appeal. If you want the stools to be a bit higher for practical reasons, stack another tire on top and make a bigger seating cushion. Do them in multiple colours for a funky touch.


Zoe Clark is an environmentalist, home decorator and DIY enthusiast. She is a visual storyteller and aesthetician at heart who often writes about decorating and DIY ideas. She loves sparking creativity in people and giving them ideas for their own spaces.



6/23/2016


Photo by Fotolia

Insulating your home is a vital part of your quest for energy efficiency. While you can definitely invest in a programmable thermostat, robust metal roofing, and energy efficient windows, making sure that your home is insulated can keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter without any major renovations. According to Energy.gov, “Insulation in your home provides resistance to heat flow. The more heat flow resistance your insulation provides, the lower your heating and cooling costs. Properly insulating your home not only reduces heating and cooling costs, but also improves comfort.” It can reduce half of your heating and cooling energy and effectively patch up that leaky hole in your wallet.

Tip #1: Get Expert Insights from a Certified Energy Auditor

As much as we try to be home energy efficiency gurus, there are just certain things you can’t see with your naked eye. An energy auditor not only examines your house room-by-room, but also evaluates those hard-to-get-to places (like under the deck) to give you a comprehensive evaluation.

Furthermore, an energy auditor has professional tools such as a thermograph, which is an infrared scanning device used to detect thermal defects and air leakage in building envelopes. As Energy.gov points out, an energy assessment takes the guesswork out of your hand and replaces it with practical feedback to help you save as much as 30% in energy bills.

Tip #2: Affordable DIY Seal Up

Doors and windows may serve as a great entry point as far as sunlight and fresh air are concerned. However, improper house sealing can cause your cool air to leak out of the house, making your AC to work harder than ever. Once you test your windows and doors for air tightness, you can caulk and weather-strip leaky doors and windows. To make sure that your new caulking will be effective, it’s important to apply a caulk softener to your old caulking 2 hours before its removal to prevent any damage to your foundation and ensure the new caulk adheres.

DIY Network recommends homeowners to caulk at a 45-degree angle, smooth out the calk with a wet finger, and give it 12 to 15 hours to dry. According to House Logic, caulking is a great way to seal up openings that are less than 1/4-inch wide, saving roughly a third of your family’s annual heating and cooling budget

Tip #3: Work on the Walls

Insulating the walls around your house is all about making your living space more comfortable and economical year-round. The process is not that daunting either. All you need is a utility knife, a straightedge, and a little patience.

When choosing your insulation materials, Energy.gov suggests homeowners to use foam sheathing rather than wood sheathing products. This is because foam sheathing provides “a continuous layer of insulation, which reduces thermal bridging through wood studs, saving energy and improving comfort.”

Insulate Your Home Inside & Out

Insulation is a top to bottom, inside and out job. From your attic to your crawl space, and from the walls to the basement, there are always ways to close the gaps and avoid unwanted air infiltration and leakage. As a general tip, start with the easy, accessible areas of your house and work your way up to a more complex insulation project.


Paul Kazlov is a “green” home remodeling enthusiast and an industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation. Paul writes for the Global Home Improvement blog and strives to educate people about “green” products such as metal roofing and solar. Follow him on Twitter @PaulKazlov.



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