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Creating a cozy hearth for the family

5 Ways to Repurpose Old Leather

You probably have a million of them. A not-so-reasonable stash of leather belts you’ll honestly never wear again. Big buckles, punch designs, skinny, wide, battered or barely worn. Don’t worry! Below you’ll find five innovative ways to turn all that leather into creative, functional and unique items.

Of significant note are the many benefits for repurposing old leather. A non-sustainable material, leather is made from the hide of an animal. The tanning process utilizes highly toxic substances which off-gas directly into the environment. Detrimental to tanners individually, the physical area in which tanning plants function and our carbon footprint, hazardous effects of leather-production pollutants are far-reaching and severe.

Repurposing leather gives old product new use. Doing so in your home as a DIY project extends material life, eliminates fossil fuel transport costs, and let’s face it—saves you money. Never mind how much fun it is to design inventive items and revel in the wow-factor of their final form!

leather pieces and tools
Photo by Adobe Stock/279photo

1) Weave a New Chair Seat

Do you have a sturdy chair with classic lines but a worn seat? Consider a woven leather replacement. Using the current seat form as a guide, gather several belts and line them up to measure against both the length and width. You’ll want to leave enough length on each to allow for slack. Cut and weave leather strips basket-style. Staple each end securely to the bottom of the chair form, stretching first to reinforce weave strength.

If you use belts with different shading and design features, try to balance them out, so the finished product doesn’t look too piecemeal. For a more uniform look, check out leather paint options. Specialty leather paint products provide full coverage or can help you add specific artistic detail. Painting as a final step enhances conditioning and protection of your repurposed leather.

For this and other projects listed below, it’s best to use a staple gun appropriate for working with leather and a pair of heavy-cutting shears.

2) Customize a Camera Strap

Add vintage charm to your Digital SLR — single lens reflex—camera by customizing a leather strap. Measure belt length based on how you routinely carry and maneuver the device. At each end of the fitted piece, punch a hole and thread copper wire through. Attach the wires to your camera’s side clips and twist securely.

Holes can effectively be punched through leather with an awl, electric drill, Phillips head screwdriver, leather punch or — in a pinch — the corkscrew of a wine opener! Make sure you drill through the belt into a scrap piece of wood that is well-weighted to guarantee stability.

3) Design Drawer Pulls

Picture a farmhouse bureau or rustic kitchen cabinetry sporting specialty leather drawer pulls. Consider whether long, thin strips or boxier pieces would best accentuate your desired look. Grab leather colored to stand in direct visual contrast from the article in question. Darker belt shades will highlight well against light-colored drawers and vice versa.

Simply cut leather strips with scissors and attach with small nails or rivets. That’s all there is to it!

4) Hang an Indoor Terrarium

For this project, you’ll need two belts, one wide and one narrow. Gather a glass milk container or small-mouthed vase that remains relatively full on the bottom. You will build your terrarium in this receptacle with an air plant and some pebbles. Consider adding a bit of natural moss as well to regulate the watering process, which can be tricky.

Both belts will be fashioned into a unique hanger. First, glue the terrarium bottom to the middle of the wider belt. Once the glue has dried, pull the belt buckle up into an oval and glue along the terrarium sides, leaving enough free space on top for hanging. Think of the garden as sitting in a narrow hammock. To secure the jar, cut to measure and firmly fasten your narrow belt around the neck.

5) Fashion a Strapping Wreath

Purchase a wreath form from your nearest craft store and wrap belts about in a slight crisscross manner. Arrange buckles as ornaments. Garnish with greens, berries, fall foliage or hang as a fashion-savvy year-round piece.

Don’t be alarmed, as you get the hang of repurposing old leather, to note surprising belt junkie tendencies. You may compulsively ask friends and casual acquaintances for their old belts or systematically haunt thrift shops. It’s all good. After all, the more leather is reused, the more sustainable it becomes!

How to Keep a Healthy Home with Pets

Pets can add an immense amount of joy to the lives of their owners. No matter what animal you have, your pet quickly becomes your whole world. They love unconditionally and provide great companionship, which is why they deserve to live in a happy, healthy home, just like you do.

One of the biggest issues with bringing an animal into your home is that it becomes more difficult to keep your living space clean. Each kind of animal presents unique cleaning challenges, most of which can only be dealt with over time. You’ll eventually build a routine around your pet and come to know how dirty they can get and just how to clean up after them.

The concern comes in when you consider how the filth pets create can actually harm your health and that of your pet. Germs are germs, even if they come riding in on the furry back of your best friend. There are some easy ways to combat the dirt and grime left behind by pets, so you can continue loving and living your life together.

labrador puppy with toy
Photo by Adobe Stock/Ilurii Sokolov.

Shelve Those Pet Supplies

The only exception to this rule is possibly fish food. Pet supplies make a mess. Picture your dog’s brush that’s full of hair or the hay you feed your guinea pigs that always ends up on the carpet. The best way to keep pet messes minimized is by storing whatever you can out of the way. Keep small pet supplies in a closet or cupboard. They’ll be out of sight, and the mess they create will stay in a small space.

Clean Carpets Often

Owning small animals that live in cages may make you feel like you’re exempt from cleaning your carpets, but that isn’t true. Dirt brought in on pet paws or bacteria left by what’s tossed out of small animal cages will live and multiply in your carpet, especially microscopic bacteria too small for the eye to see. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly clean your carpets twice a year if you own pets.

Vacuum and Dust

Cleaning up after animals results in the need to vacuum and dust more regularly. As all pet owners know, pet hair and dander get everywhere, and that includes on top of ceiling fans and underneath rugs. A big part of keeping your home healthy is vacuuming and dusting.

If you have a dog, one time you may not think to vacuum is after washing your pet. Getting dog fur wet makes it much easier for loose hairs to come out. Groomers recommend drying your dog with a safe dryer in a small area that’s easy to vacuum. This will minimize what you have to clean while keeping your dog happy and healthy.

pets eating together
Photo by Adobe Stock/Monika Wisniewska.

Designate an Eating Area

When dogs and cats eat, food can get everywhere. Whether you feed them dry or wet food, it’ll always get outside the bowl. Water will, too. If you change up where your pet eats, the mess will travel, so keep your pet’s eating space to one spot — and maybe even raise the bowl — to make cleanup easier on yourself. For owners with small pets, try getting heavy bowls that can’t be tipped over or ones that can be hooked onto the side of the cage.

Keeping pet mess to a minimum will not only keep you happier, but healthier too. When living with pets, be aware of the germs and bacteria that can multiply from what your furry or feathered friends leave behind. No matter how cute they are or how much they love you, pets need to be taken care of and it’s better for everyone if owners know exactly what they need to do.

How to Start Cleaning with Essential Oils

When my daughter was born, I made the decision to switch to a more natural life style. Starting out, sounded like an expensive and lengthy process. Overwhelmed by the amount of work this required, I turned to bloggers and websites like Mother Earth Living. I spent hours researching the best options. I made trips to the natural stores. Read every label (this drove my husband crazy!).  Here is a tiny sliver of what I discovered.

1. Smalls steps are easy on your pockets and on your anxiety levels.

When you first start out, you feel like everything you own is going to hurt you and your family. Take it easy, one day you will look back and the small steps you took, may have flipped everything to the lifestyle you wanted.

2. Start with stuff you didn’t even know you already have.

• White Vinegar
• Baking Soda
• Lemons

These three items go a long way. You can use them in your laundry, kitchen and bathroom! The best part about them is that they are VERY affordable. Even if you don’t have them now, you’ll spend $10 at the most. My clothes look amazing since I started using white vinegar. The washing machine benefits from the white vinegar as well, the inside is clean and doesn’t have any odor.

essential oils
Photo by Pixabay.

3. Incorporate Essential Oils

I know, essential oils can be expensive, and not knowing what they are for is overwhelming. That’s why I said, small steps. No need to go crazy and order the most expensive kit out there, just because you want to use essential oils. Maybe you will work yourself up to that point. It took me two years to make an actual investment. You have time, you can do this. So, where to start you ask? I’ll tell you!

Lemon Essential Oil 100% Pure – We talked about using lemon; well, the essential oil (EO) is a concentrated form that doesn’t expire for a long while. You can use a drop or two, in your laundry detergent (I use a free-fragrance option; you can make your own or purchase one at your local natural store). You can use it to clean wood furniture (diluted with a carrier oil, like almond or fractionated coconut oil). Use this guide to make the most of cancer-fighting, mood-boosting lemon essential oil.

Lavender Essential Oil 100%  Pure – a very popular choice, that shouldn’t hurt your pockets.  Lavender is very versatile; you could also use it with your laundry or with a diffuser to calm your mind and body in the evening hours. This one is great for my daughter. She is sensitive to synthetic fragrance, and we have been able to use this in her baths and lotions. I simply add 15 drops to a 16oz lotion bottle. I also use a roller of lavender for mosquito bites. You can purchase premade rollers or make your own with carrier oil. I usually fill the roller halfway and add 5 drops of lavender.

Peppermint Essential Oil 100%  Pure – Peppermint is a topic of controversies, so make sure you are choosing an option that aligns with your ethical values. You can make a cleaning spray and add lemon. Usually, I take an 8 ounce spray bottle, mix 6 ounces distilled water and either 2 ounces alcohol or 2 ounces witch hazel. Add 20 drops of peppermint and 40 drops of lemon.

(The dilutions explained above, are methods that have worked for our family, always make sure to test on a small patch of skin to find out if you have a reaction, most honest and ethical sellers will give you information regarding how you should dilute your essential oils. Make sure you are using carrier oil when using topically. Essential oils are extremely concentrated)

In my opinion, Edens Garden does a wonderful job of educating the consumer. Their Intro to Essential Oils is a great way to start. There are other wonderful companies in the world of EOs, so feel free to research others and decided which one work best for you and your family.

Essential oils are packed with antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Find out how to choose the best essential oils for cleaning your home naturally. I sincerely wish you the best and hope you reach a more natural approach to your home. Remember to take small steps, no need to break the bank or stress your family out. Take it from someone who has been there done that.

Queren is a Digital Content Assistant for Ogden Publications, a freelance photographer and a mother of a two year old daughter.  Recently, she moved to a farm, after living in the city all of her life. During her free time, she enjoys researching essential oils, listening to podcasts, walks, and a good TV show.

Renovate Your Spare Room into a Wellness Center

Between traffic, social media, and work, there’s probably not one among us who couldn’t use a little extra R&R. And what better place to decompress than in your very own home meditation room or spa? Converting a spare bedroom into a wellness area like this allows you to create a peaceful retreat away from the hubbub of the rest of your home. But to really get the rest you need, it’s best to take an intentional approach toward your design. The tips below will help you transform a spare room in your home into a place of rest, ease, and spiritual nourishment.

woman meditating peacefully

Embrace a Minimalist Aesthetic

Of all the things a wellness room may be, it should never be cluttered. Not only does clutter look chaotic, it can also have a negative effect on your well-being and mental health. In a crowded space, your brain attempts to process multiple stimuli at once, fails, and becomes stressed. In fact, some studies have shown a connection between the number of objects in a home and the amount of cortisol—the stress hormone—present in the body. To avoid this issue, keep surfaces clear of knickknacks and excess objects, and opt for furniture with a clean, slim profile, rather than pieces with lots of extra decorations and frills. Don’t go too far in your minimalism, though, because a stark or empty room can also trigger feelings of fear and emptiness. A sense of balance is always best.

Choose the Right Color Palette

Color is tricky, because all of us have our own unique personal associations with different hues. However, in general, reds and oranges stimulate and excite the emotions, so they make a poor choice in a meditation room. Most people find soft blues, greens, and grays to be the most soothing options, but muted pinks, beiges, and lavenders make a nice alternative as well. Consider painting one wall as a decorative accent wall that can be seen immediately as you open the door. This makes a good place for more focused meditation or gratitude practice, and it can be a nice spot for your home altar (more on that below).

Pay Attention to the Lighting in the Room

Of course, other factors can influence your mood, too. If you’re able to get it, a source of natural light can do wonders. The effects of sunlight have been studied extensively, and it’s been universally shown to boost productivity, focus, and happiness, and to help normalize sleep cycles. No window in your room? You may want to consider having one installed. A panoramic window wall or floor-to-ceiling layout bring a nice, natural harmony to the space. If that’s not an option, though, a sunlamp or table lamp with multiple color warmth settings makes a good alternative—try warm yellow or white settings for a peaceful vibe in your room.

Add Some Natural Elements

Exposure to nature through windows also restores fraying nerves and bring a special awareness to your meditation sessions. Researchers have found that spending time gazing at views of nature improves attention and concentration, suggesting that we’re hardwired to feel more peaceful in a natural setting. Here again, a room with wide, open windows will serve you well—particularly if those windows are finished with high-efficiency glazings that will keep you comfortable in the space all year long. If windows aren’t available, be sure to add some potted plants instead. Graceful, draping species like spider plants or golden pothos make an ideal choice, since both are easy to grow indoors. They also improve the air quality by removing harmful pollutants from the air you breathe.

Give Yourself Plenty of Inviting Cushioning

If you want to design a space you can really relax in, you’ll need to make it an amalgam of different soft textures. Curved, cushioned furniture has an effect on our minds. Too many angles in a room can trigger the amygdala in the brain, bringing feelings of fear and anxiety to the surface. Pick out plenty of pillows, bolsters, and meditation cushions—this will help you find a comfortable position for yoga or meditation practices, and it’ll invite a sense of comfort to the space, too.

Bring in Soothing Scents

Scent, much like color, is very personal. Everyone has their own attachments and memories associated with different smells, so it can be difficult to name one that’s universally loved. However, in surveys, vanilla is generally rated as a calming and soothing smell. Other research has shown positive results from lavender, which is believed to improve mood and soothe anxiety. Regardless of your scent preferences, always opt for an essential oil diffuser over commercial candles and perfumes. Many of these commercial products contain artificial ingredients that could be potentially harmful for your health, so it’s best to keep them far away from your meditation space. Find essential oil blends and tips for creating your favorite natural scents in "The Naturally Aromatic Home."

Create a Meditation Corner or Altar

An altar in your wellness area offers a visual reminder to practice gratitude, allowing you to embrace the day’s events with an open, welcoming heart. It’s a spot to meditate or do some deep thinking, or even just to appreciate the peace and quiet. To design your altar space, look for a low table, shelf, or other clear surface that you can position in a prominent spot in the room. Decorate this table with items that you consider personally meaningful or “sacred.” That could mean a memento from a special time in your life, or just an item that makes you happy or brings up feelings of peace and well-being. Your wellness space should be a place that’s uniquely you—so be sure to incorporate elements that really resonate. After all, if you can’t express yourself in your meditation room, where can you do it?

Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time as a heating and cooling expert for Modernize HVAC, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

Home Water Conservation: Save the Earth and Save Money

“Water conservation is an important issue — and not just because we want to be environmentally responsible and because we want to keep our water bill as low as possible,” explains Sujoy Bhattacharya, Founder and CEO of Falls River Soap Company, a natural soap company based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

water with ripples and grasses
Photo by

Large appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, consume the most water in your home, so they are important places to start any water-conservation efforts. Set the water level on your washing machine to match the size of your load. Try to avoid doing frequent small loads; whenever possible, run the machine only when you have a full load.

Did you know: You don’t need to rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher! No, really. Hand rinsing dishes under the faucet uses 15-18 gallons of water per load. If your dishwasher has a pre-rinse cycle, try using it instead of hand rinsing. If a dish or two isn’t completely clean after the dishwasher cycle, finish the job by hand. Like the washing machine, only run the dishwasher when it’s full. If you have only a few dishes, you should try washing them by hand in the sink, rather than under a running faucet.

After you conquer savings with these major appliances, the bathroom offers the next biggest opportunity.

Make sure your toilets are all working efficiently. According to the American Water Works Association, the average American home loses 14 percent of all water used to leaks. While you are at it, it is important to remember, the toilet is not a garbage can.

When it’s time to get yourself clean, keep your showers as short as possible or turn the water off while shaving or scrubbing. Consider installing water-saver showerheads and faucets.

When taking a bath, close the drain while the water warms up then adjust the temperature. Watch the tub as it fills, and turn the water off.

Its summertime and I totally get that nothing is as refreshing as a cold glass of water, but don’t let the faucet run unnecessarily to get it. Put a container of water in the refrigerator instead; this way, you can have chilled water anytime you want.

Avoid running hot tap water over frozen food to defrost it; put it in the refrigerator the night before. Rethink any of the various activities you usually perform under running water—like washing vegetables or brushing your teeth. (A gallon of water a minute flows through a tap that’s only half open.) Use a dishpan or bowl of water instead of letting the tap run. Then pour the water from the bowl when watering your houseplants or garden.

Before pouring that half-filled glass of water down the sink, ask yourself where it could be put to good use? How about pouring it in the bowl for your favorite pet?

Each of us can make a big impact when it comes to water conservation. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors. If everyone can make a few basic adjustments in household water consumption, you can save gallons of water and lots of dollars each year.

Touch-Free Technology to Reduce Germs in Your Home

When you talk about germs that are spread by touch, most people might think of bathroom handles and doors, or household surfaces. But you might not realize that your mobile device can be as dirty as the bottom of your shoe, according to research discussed in The American Journal of Infection Control. People take their mobile devices into bathrooms and public restrooms, handle them with dirty hands while eating, wear them inside sweaty clothes, and share them with other users who don't wash their hands. You can take steps to deter the spread of germs such as wiping down your devices with a moist microfiber cloth, or a sterilizing agent for more serious bacteria, but it's easier not to accumulate germs at all.

young boy with dirty hands
Photo by Shutterstock.

That's where no-touch technology is helping combat the spread of contamination. Thanks to technology advances such as connected devices and voice control, you can reduce the number of times your hands come into contact with dirty surfaces. Here are some ways touch-free technology is helping stop the spread of germs in your home.

Touch-Free Bathroom Technology

Fighting household germs starts in your bathroom. The same type of no-touch faucet technology increasingly used in public bathrooms can also be applied to your home. Many automatic faucets cost hundreds of dollars, but for less than $50 you can get an iFaucet EZ Faucet Automatic Touch-Free Faucet Adapter. Powered by four AAA batteries and activated by an infrared sensor, the adapter turns on your faucet when you place your hands in front of it. The unit is drip-free so that it only runs water when you need it. For the same price or less, you can also install a simplehuman sensor pump, which can dispense soap or lotion.

Showerheads and bathtub faucets can be another source of germs. You can cut down on shower germs with a no-touch showerhead such as SmarTap. SmarTap lets you use no-touch technology to set your shower's maximum temperature, flow rate and time range, reducing the spread of germs while also conserving water and electricity. You can control SmarTap remotely through your mobile device or by using Amazon Echo.

Then there's toilets. American Standard has made using the toilet more hygienic by introducing no-touch ActiVate toilet flush technology. Just waving your hand lets you avoid touching a dirty toilet handle. The toilet and seat also use an antimicrobial additive that reduces germs.

No-Touch Kitchen Technology

The kitchen is another place where germs can spread to hands from faucets, sinks, counters, tables, food and garbage cans. Reduce germs from your faucet and sink by installing a no-touch faucet. For a little over $50, motion-activated faucets are already available. These devices are useful both for fighting germs as well as assisting people who have trouble reaching or handling faucets, such as disabled home owners and arthritis sufferers.

Meanwhile, plumbing fixtures provider Pfister recently introduced the prototype for the no-touch, voice-activiated Auris faucet as part of its Water Over Wire (WOW) initiative. The Auris is the first kitchen faucet that lets you use your voice to turn water on and off, select hot and cold, provide on-demand filtered or boiling water, pour digitally-precise volumes of water and automatically fill your sink.

Touch-Free Controls for Other Household Appliances and Devices

Devices such as Amazon's Alexa give you touch-free control over a range of other household appliances. For instance, in your living room, you can turn on your lights, change TV channels or adjust your thermostat. You can also control your smart home with your voice through most recent mobile devices using voice control technology such as Siri.

You can also use wireless technology to avoid germs on your property outside your home. Once you set up a wireless Lorex home security camera system, for example, you never have to touch your cameras again because any subsequent adjustments can be made using the app. And with a new technology called Dogdrones, you can even deploy a drone to scout your backyard and send out a robot pooper-scooper to clean up after your dog.

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

Go Greener: 5 Tips for a Green Home You Might Have Missed

According to the EPA, 80 percent of Americans' exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and up to a dozen measurable pesticides are detectable in the air within a home. An average family household in the U.S. has the potential to pollute their home and environment simply through the products that they use, Redfin says. It's no longer enough to just recycle; in order to maintain a truly green home, you have to dig a little deeper. To live a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle, homeowners must assess their homes with a keen, "green" eye and make eco-friendly choices in all areas of their lives. Here are five ways to go greener.

green, eco-friendly home tips
Photo by Deposit Photos.

Avoid High-VOC Products

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. When people use products containing VOC, they expose themselves and others to high levels of pollutants. VOC cause respiratory irritation, headaches, skin rashes, nausea, among other ailments. Use low-VOC or VOC-free cleaning products and paints in your home and check the following products for VOCs:

• Paints and solvents
• Aerosol sprays
• Cleansers
• Disinfectants
• Air fresheners
• Automotive products

Choose "Certified" Coffee

Though a small act, you take a big step toward supporting sustainability when you choose to brew only coffee with the USDA Certified Organic label. This label means that the coffee was grown using sustainable standards, and is therefore considerate of and compliant with the environment.

Go Greener by Planting More Green

It's easy to become so focused on the inside, that you overlook the immediate exterior. Planting trees around your house, specifically on the west and south sides can decrease your heating and cooling expenses. Combine that with placing trees strategically to shade the AC unit and your household will save $250 annually, Good Housekeeping says.

Turn Off Electronics Completely

If you plan to continue using your computer but will be away from it for more than 20 minutes, switching the machine to "sleep" mode is recommended. When retiring for the evening, any electrical items left plugged in, even if they are not being used, can create "phantom" electrical draw and encourage electrical surges. If you plug devices like the computer and printer or the television and DVD player, into a certified power strip, then all of the machines can be switched off simultaneously for the evening.

Buy Low-Toxicity Furniture and Decor

Your sofa, canvas painting and dining table have a secret life. Some furniture and artwork pieces release substances into the immediate air during a process called "offgassing." Though nearly everything offgasses, synthetic and synthetically treated materials offgas toxic chemicals. If you have taken steps to insulate your home well in order to conserve energy, it is actually more difficult for these offgassed toxins to disperse and exit your home, says Redfin. In order to improve and maintain good indoor air quality, consider the following when deciding on furniture and decor:

• Select untreated furniture or furniture treated only with natural stains and finishes.
• In artwork, pieces created with organic cotton are generally not treated with toxic materials, so opt for a colorful tapestry over a painting to be more eco-friendly and experience less toxic offgassing.
• Buy second-hand or vintage furniture because most offgassing has already occured.

Rinsing out your aluminum cans and taking your own canvas bags to the market are great decisions in improving the environment, but to optimize your impact on environmental well-being and the well-being of your family, use these tips to take the next step in going greener.

Jayme Cook is a writer and English professor living in Phoenix. She enjoys punctuation marks, sashimi and the smell of wet paint. Dislikes: people who cut in line.