Sunday, December 27, 2009

A fresh start

I suppose an ounce of prevention would have helped not have so much to clean out at the end of the year. More likely it is just time. No matter how good you are at prevention, there comes a time when it just needs to be thouroughly cleaned or cleaned out.

This afternoon, I'm going through my inbox and filing pile. This is just the start. I have a deep desire to clean out from top to bottom. Discard what is not needed or wanted- empty out, clean out, sort through, deep clean, recyle and get rid of. Whew-just typing those words feels good!

Is it the natural feeling we get after the holidays or does it come from the end of the year? Whatever it's source, it is a powerful force. The holidays are beautiful but I'm not sure I don't like this feeling even better. The feeling of a fresh start.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Are your holiday rugs color safe??

Happy holidays to all,

This morning as I was cleaning my own home, a thought came to mind. I wanted to remind you to be careful with holiday rugs. Little entry rugs and rugs to go around the tree are beautiful but they may not be color safe. With a little heat, a little time or a little moisture that bright red or green might just transfer to your own carpet or vinyl.

We have seen it a zillion times. So be of good cheer and be careful with those rugs,

Happy holidays,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Epoxy use safety article from NTCA

An ounce of prevention is good advice. Today I was reading my Tile letter magazine and came across an article called "Avoid the dangers of epoxy grouts and mortars". It is an article helping contractors be aware of a possible allergic reaction to epoxy. It reminds us to not let our skin and eyes come in contact with epoxy as you might develop an allergic reaction. Apparently, the reaction is like having 2nd degree burns. Once you get the reaction is seems to be permanent. Even the fumes could be an ongoing problem.

This article is a wise reminder to read labels and follow directions. This is good advice if you are a contractor or homeowner. Research your products and always remember to be healthy as you work.

It is easy to get caught up in working and forget about your own health. Please take care of yourself as you care for your client's homes or for your own home.

If you would like the full article, it is in the November issue of Tile Letter, page 12. You might also be able to find it at The article was written by Michael Whistler he is the Region 10 NTCA director. For more information or to find out about using the NTCA Contractor Safety Program contact Jim Olson. or by phone (601)-939-2071. Jim Olson is the NTCA's assistant executive director. NTCA is the National Tile Contractor's Association

Here's to being heathly as you work,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"The value of the dwelling is in the dweller"

"The value of the dwelling is in the dweller"
The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah pg166

I read those words and abruptly stopped reading to share this quote with you. It is so true. Over the past 19 years Dallas and I have been in many homes. In our early years, some of those homes were little apartments, now we are more likely to find ourselves in grand homes.

The value of the dwelling is truly in eye of the dweller. It's how we see our homes. If you love and care for your home. If you see it's beauty, the unique benefits, its charms you will find value in your home. If you see your home as a source of stress, of lack, or of frustration your home may become just that.

I have found the most extraordinary homes in every economic level. The true value of a home has more to do with the family that lives there than the structure itself. It is how a home is seen, treated, lived in that gives it its value.

Just a thought, now back to my book. By the way this is a great book!

Wishing you a healthy and happy home,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Faith in doing the right thing

It's Wednesday afternoon, I'm printing out our newsletter and while I wait I thought this is a good time to visit with you.

Today, we got a call for a great job, but we referred our client to another company that would better serve them. Why in the world would we refer a great job to another company, in a tight economy? Because we were not the best company for the job. There was another company, we have worked with and known for about 10 years, that would serve our client better than us. Sometimes the best way to be of service is not to be of service.

Dallas and I have been doing this for 19 years- giving away work. We try to match our clients with the best service company. Usually it is us, but sometimes it is another company and instead of giving our client a learning experience, we send them to an expert.

Today, we helped a company with a real need, researched a possible product for that company, and referred them to a company that would serve them very well.

It is really a matter of faith. Faith that, if you give away what you most desire, it will come back to you. If we hold on too tight it is usually detrimental to the health of our company and family. In any economy, faith in doing the right thing will be better than trying to be all things and grab all jobs.

Wishing you a happy and healthy home,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Teaching the science, history, saftey and value of cleaning

Friday, I was in downtown Tacoma at the main library. I was asked to teach a group of students about the science, history and safety of cleaning. The students were amazing. I think they ranged in age from 6-13. They asked fantastic question, some of which I didn't know, like the scientific name of a bed bug. They were attentive, fun and very sharp. It was a blast!
After I was done, I got to thinking, when does anyone but our parents acknowledge the value of our helping at home? When I was their age, I didn't understand my chores were actually important to our family. Watering the cows, dusting/cleaning, helping with dinner and dishes, picking peas, and lots of weeding were all necessary and helpful tasks.
I was the youngest and I thought my chores were less valuable than the chores my older brothers did. I was wrong. I hope yesterday I was able to convey to my students the contributions they make to the healthy and happiness of their home is truly an important benefit to the whole family.
By the way, the scientific name of a bed bug is: Cimex lectularius
Wishing you a healthy and happy home,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tonight I was scared to death by giant puppy.

Can you remain calm when faced with your greatest fear? Tonight I was running our flop eared smiler, also known as Sally our dog. About a mile from home, we had a giant, loose rottweiler dog run at us - at full speed!!! Out of the blue, he was there, no owner, no caller, and no place to hide. I did what I would normally do in this situation -panic. Sally did the same thing.

The two dogs circles, sally growled, yelped, and ducked her little behind. I let go of the leash so she could freely protect herself. The dogs went into the road, I yelled and tried to get the rot to go home. After my senses came back to me, a little, I noticed he was full grown in body but his brain was all puppy.

Sally didn't seem to care, he was big and aggressive and she was scared. Two nice teenagers came up and grabbed him telling us to go ahead, we took off, but with no collar the guys couldn't hold our new friend, within a few minutes he was back . For 2 blocks and what seemed like hours, the dogs circled. I did my best to keep Sally and myself calm while keeping the dogs out of the street or at least alerting the traffic to slow down.

By now it was dark, the cars coming home from work couldn't see the dogs darting in and out of the street. Thankfully I was wearing white and my neighbors drove slowly around. I'm sure they didn't know what they could do any more than I did. Finally, this amazing lady stopped and offered to let Sally into her SUV. The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing. Sally got in the back and didn't move a muscle.

With Sally safe, I relaxed for a second until our new friend shot across the street and tried to make friends with a lady walking her little dog. I know just how she felt- scared to death. By now I was pretty comfortable with my big, aggressive puppy brained friend. I couldn't leave this giant no-clue pet to his own wisdom-he had none. He was either going to get hit or scare someone to death!

Sally stayed in the car, our good Samaritan tried to call animal control and I went back to warning traffic. This dog was beyond clueless! He would jump right in front of the cars. Thank goodness they were going slow, no wonder, I was waving my arms around like a lunatic. Finally, a man drove up, said the dog's name was Gabriel and it was his dog, he loaded him in his car and drove away.

And that was it. the excitement was over, no blood was shed, there was nothing left to do but say thank you again, for the thousandth time and go home.

This could have gone so much differently, but just like in life, my own fears (and Sally's) were worse than the reality we found ourselves in. We were not attacked by a vicious dog, but by a great big puppy. I should probably learn a lesson from this. Don't panic first, you can always panic later -if needed. Next time this happens, I'll still panic but it is still a good lesson.

Wishing you a healty and happy home,


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The essence of natural stone

There is no such thing as perfection-thank goodness!!!! How boring would life be if we were all perfect? Wouldn't the act of being perfect take away our uniqueness, our quirky little traits, our spontaneity, our spirit ? This is what distinguishes us from machines. If you want to live with a perfect person you might as well get a robot. The same is true for natural stone. If you are lucky enough to have natural stone in your home -enjoy. There will never be a piece of stone exactly the same, anywhere in the world! Man made tile and look alike stones always have a repeating pattern. Natural stone is 100% unique - even if we can't see the differences.

In our home we have a slate floor. We used 16x16 inch slate pieces from three different collections: California Gold, Autumn Mist and Imperial Forest. Each stone and each collection of stone is uniquely different. The California Gold stones are denser, darker and had more imprints/fossils of ferns. The Imperial Forest was a little more fragile but some of the stones almost look like rainbows, it is also more porous. Autumn Mist has a combination of light stones, purples and blacks. One of the Autumn mist stones look just like a sunset with a bird flying. Down our hall there is a California Gold with a little foot print in one corner. When we first unpacked the boxes of stone, some seemed boring, too light, too dark, but once we lived with the floor for a while we started see the beauty of each stone.

Each week while I vacuum, this floor amazes me. Each piece is like a painting- a work of art. I'm always making new discoveries. It's not just the colors and patterns but the textures. Sometimes, Dallas and I will calling each other into the kitchen to check out the stone. If you look from our front door to our back sliding door, in just the right light, the textures are incredible! Ridges, lines, bumps, left, right, diagonal, the textures can be just as beautiful as the colors.

When we go to homes where the stone has been coated or enhanced it makes us a little sad. The unique essence of the the stone was lost. In trying to create a look or something perfect the true beauty of the stone was altered, the colors distorted and the texture smoothed over. Each piece starts to look like the others-how sad.

It is true natural stone has certain characteristics which can make it a little harder to care for. You need to add more preventative maintenance and be aware of your cleaners and cleaning methods. But to be honest these should be done on all surfaces. Natural stone may not look exactly like the sample you chose, each piece may not wear the same, and it may require more care but in your home you have a little of nature's art-enjoy!!!

Wishing you a healthy and happy home,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taking the irksome out of showers!!

Showers cleaning can be irksome! Hardwater deposits, mold and soap scum - the three main soils of your shower.

What can you do? These three soils are just part of having a shower, right?? Without any prevention, then yes. Every shower is a little different depending on how often it is used, what it is made of, how good its ventilation & circulation are and what personal care products are used in your shower.

However, this is what we know about showers. Good daily prevention in showers is incredible about minimizing those 3 soils. We see showers everyday- old, new, stone, tile- you name it we see it. What we also see is the huge -giganitc benefit from good daily prevention. The difference between a shower with preventative maintenance and one with none is night and day.

If you like cleaning soap scum, killing mold and trying to remove hard water deposits then don't read any more, but if you want to minimize these three soils then read on...

After each use or the last shower of the day do 3 things:

1. Rinse your shower.

We rinse ourselves before hopping out of the shower, but what about the shower? Personal products should be rinsed off the shower walls as well as ourselves. If left to dry, those cleaners bond with hard water and become - soap scum!

2. Towel dry your shower.

Mold grows in wet places especially if there is a good food source ( skin, cleaners, hair). If you dry your shower you further remove soap, mold food, minerals and water. We recommend useing a towel, microfiber, or shammy. A squeegees for your glass doors is still good.

Why not squeegee? We find the squeegee is not as effective as towel drying. When you squeegee, if you don't go all the way to the ground, the ground acutally builds up more soap. You are just moving the upper soap to the bottom. A towel collects your soils and is a better detailing tool.

3. Increase your air circulation and ventilation

As soon as you start the water for your shower turn on your vents.
After you shower, continue to run your vents for 60 minutes
There has to be flow for your shower to dry. If you have a shower door or curtain, open them up and let the fresh air in.
(In the northwest, an open window may not remove the excess moisture- run your vents.)

I know this seems like a pain to do everyday but trust me those few seconds pay huge dividends to you and your family.

These little daily preventative steps will:
Save you time & money, while protecting your health & the health of your shower.

Wishing you a healthy and happy home,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The secrets to a happy home- from Reggie

This is Reggie, he came to live with us a couple of years ago. He is 16 years old. When he arrived, we thought he maybe had 6 months to live. His eyes were yellow, he could barely move, he was soooo tense.
Last night I was scratching his belly and noticed how incredibly relaxed he is, unbelivably relaxed. Now he can jump in the air about 2 feet, front legs only. His eyes are bright white, and he smiles a lot.
This morning I was thinking about what makes a happy home. If I take a lesson from our 16 year old miracle dog, this is what he does each day. He herds our cat Penny, a job he loves. (his cat herding is another story). Anytime he can, he plays. He loves to play. We take him on daily runs or walks. He goes crazy for this. We notice if he misses a day his legs get stiff. He goes outside and scrubs his back under the bushes and sniffs the air. Our home is pretty relaxed, he never gets yelled at which I'm sure has helped him relax. He gets lots of love and Dallas treats him to eggs every morning.
Mostly, I think his health improved because he is happy. He is relaxed, does things he loves and little things that are good for him -everyday.

Wishing you a healthy and happy home,

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cleaners Can Look Like Food!

  In 2007, I attended an 8 week program from King County to become a MRC-Master Recycler Composter.  Part of the course was on having a healthy home.  This included chemical safety.

  One product of concern was Pine Sol, not for what was in the bottle but because Pine Sol looks like juice.  I didn't think much of it until I was in Costco one day and saw a man with 2 containers of "juice" in his cart.  When I looked a little closer I realized the "juice" was acutally Pine Sol!! They were right, those two bottles could have easily been confused with juice.  For a child, the look is more important than the label.

  Keep in mind, cleaners can look an awful lot like food.  Another cleaner that can get mixed up is Parmasan cheese and Comet.  Please keep your cleaners safely away from children, especially on cleaning day.  

  As an added note:  Did you know Pine Sol Original has a pH of 3.  This is an acid and can etch marble, travertine, grout, onyx, and limestone.  Always know the pH of the cleaner you are using.
     Wishing you a happy and healthy home,

The picture shown is an end display of Pine Sol at Walmart.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The power of your nose

Can your home be clean if it doesn't smell like...lemon, Pine sol, bleach, flowers, orange, cucumbers, Windex or vinegar? The power of scent is incredible. How often does a scent bring back vivid memories of a past events. This fall running in the woods smelling the leaves and autumn, I'm instantly transported back to running cross country in Colorado when I was a teenager.

Our emotions and scents are often mistaken for the same thing. Growing up when your home was cleaned it usually felt better. A freshly cleaned home just feels good. Sometimes, we mistake this relaxing and refreshing feeling with the scents/frangrances of the cleaners we use. We tie the cleaners/fragrances our parents used with how clean we think our own home are. Clean = Memory and Scent

Clean doesn't actuality smell. If you open your windows and breath in fresh air, you will notice it doesn't smell like a chemical, nor a strong smell of citrus. Sometimes you will get whiffs of pine trees, freshly cut grass, the blooms of flowers or even the sweet smell of blackberries. These are natural scents not concentrated natural or synthetic. Clean doesn't really have a smell it just is.

Personally, I can't be around many synthetic or even naturally added scents, fragrances or deodorants. My throat tightens up, my nose stuffs up and sometimes my eyes water. This comes from being over exposed years ago with "naturally citrus fragrances". After cleaning for 19 years "stuff" happens. What I want to help you prevent is that "stuff" from happening to you and your family.

Fragrances/scents do not make a home clean. Be aware of how you might link the smell of clean to actually being clean. Try to use non-scented cleaners in your home. At the very least notice how you feel as you clean. Open up windows, turn on vents and run fans. In the process of cleaning your home you want to not only have a clean home but you should be healthy in the process.

As an alternative to fragrances, scents and deodorants. Start to notice what just plain clean smells like. If you want to add fragrance to your home open up windows, bake something scrumptious or use qualty essential oils.

Wishing you a happy and healthy home,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

H1N1 Prevention Series #3: Build a healthy immune system

Swine flu prevention part 3.

The other night I got a chance to hear EJ Hook from the Woodland Park Zoo talk about natural yard care. His main focus was on how to have healthy plants. A healthy plant has a much better chance of surviving, even if exposed to a disease or attacked by a predator/bug. This got me thinking about part three of our series on preventing flu and colds this season.

We can't disinfect the world, there are going to be germs and viruses around no matter how careful we are to wash our hands or clean our homes. This leads into my number one prevention tip: build a healthy immune system!

Years ago I was not very healthy, if I got a cold I would be down for 3 weeks or more. There was no such thing as a little cold. I didn't realize it at the time but my immune system was weak. Over a period of time I rebuilt my immune system. I remember the first time I caught a little cold while I was rebuilding. At first I panicked, but it turned out to be a 3 day itty bitty cold. I was shocked!

Here is my personal top 10 list to being healthy.

1. Go outside, and get fresh air for at least 15 minutes everyday.
This applies to all seasons and all weather.My mom used to call it getting the stink blown off.

2. Eat real food. Limit sugar, processed foods, and empty foods. Eat lots of fresh, organic fruits and veggies.
For me these 3 seem to depress my immune system.

3. Breathe deeply and drink lots of good water.
We can only live a couple of minutes without air, a few days without water. This tells me how important they are in my health.

4. Sleep. Dallas and I both have found when we start getting run down,there is nothing more powerful than going to bed early or taking a nap.

5. Move. The more I move the better I feel. After working in the office all day, nothing feels better for my health than to move again. I don't always feel like going, sometimes I have to force myself to go but rarely do I not come home feeling like a new person.

6. Relax. Stress tightens up everything. Take time to relax. Take a few moments after driving, talking on the phone, being on the computer or any other stressful event to take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. I'm tense by design, learning to relax

7. Have fun. When I was a kid we showed cows at the fair each summer. During that time, I did everything wrong for good health but I never got sick. The only reason I can come up with is I was having a blast. I loved whatI was doing. Norman Cousins has a whole book on this very subject.

8. Create a healthy home. Your home should be a place for you and your family to relax, rejuvenate and thrive this should not be the cause of ill health. (Don't worry there will be a lot more of articles on this subject)

9. Eat light, especially before bed. If you eat a heavy meal,follow it up with a light one. When my digestive system is happy, my health is usually just as happy.

10. Listen to yourself. This is my last tip but it is the most important one. No one knows how you feel better than you. Learn to listen and trust
yourself. If something doesn't feel right, listen!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

H1N1 Prevention Series #2: Disinfectants

This is part two of our series on the prevention of flu and colds in your home. Of course there are never any guarantees you or your family will not get sick, but if you can prevent a cold or worse then why not?

My heart sank as I heard the mounting worry of the swine flu. It wasn't so much the flu but the fear of what comes with this news - wild and aggressive disinfecting. It has been our experience most disinfectants are over used and not used correctly. Don't get me wrong in certain situations disinfecting and killing germs is important but here is what usually happens.

1- Disinfectants are often used incorrectly, which means they don't do what you are expecting them to do - kill viruses and germs.
2- Disinfectants are overused. Disinfectants are meant to kill living organisms. In case you forgot: you, your kids and pets are also living organisms. Spraying in the air,over your head and on every surface can be detrimental to you and your home's health.
3- The directions and labels are often not read or followed carefully.

Disinfectants can be detrimental to your health if not used safely and correctly.

How to best use disinfectants:
1. Make sure the disinfectant you are using kills what you are trying to kill. In the case of H1N1-swine flu strain "the EPA believes, bases on available scientific information, that the currently registered influenza A virus products will be effective against the 2009-H1N1 and other influenza A virus strains on hard, not-porous surfaces".
2. Read the labels and follow the directions. Please use caution when working with disinfectants. Mix and use according to the labels directions- more is not better!
3. Use in targeted locations. Keeping a clean house a good practice for a healthy home. You don't need to disinfect every surface. Focus on areas where your hands touch most frequently. This would be door knobs, light switches, handles, faucets, areas around toilets. Also, use only on non-porous surfaces - not in the air or on surfaces like fabric.
4. Use your disinfectants correctly. Disinfectants work better on clean surfaces. They usually need to sit on the surface for approximately 10 minutes. Spraying and wiping are not usually effective means of disinfecting. There are some disinfectants that are both a cleaner and disinfectant together but still they work better on clean surfaces and if you read the label most still need that 10 minutes of dwell time.
5. For those of you with natural stone and sensitive surfaces check the pH of the disinfectant you are using. You don't want to damage your surfaces in the process of disinfecting.

Just like most cleaning, less is usually more. Please use carefully, follow direction and use only where needed. Think of disinfectants like you would antibiotics, use only as necessary not for everything. Sometimes thorough cleaning is all that is needed. Each disinfectant is different so read the label carefully but if possible, after the recommended dwell time rinse and dry leaving your surfaces residue free.

Sources: Antimicrobial products registered for use against the H1N1 Flu and other influenza A viruses on hard surfaces. Environmental Protection Agency

Germ Reduction and Pesticide Exposure Prevention Checklist. Healthy Schools Network

Preparing Your Organization for H1N1 Pandemic Influenza (Swine Flu): Planning and prevention.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

H1N1 Prevention Series #1: What is it and old advice

Today starts a series of 3 blogs we will be posting for the prevention of the flu and overall good health in a home.
This morning I learned my 7 year old niece may have the swine flu. News of the flu is everywhere and you can't help but wonder how at risk are we? There are never any guarantees but a ounce of prevention may be in order this season.

Recently I read an article called "Preparing your organization for H1N1 Pandemic Influenza ( Swine Flu): Planning and Prevention" by Roger McFadden Senior Scientist Staples Facility Solutions Inc. There was information in this article I found valuable and wanted to share with you.

"What is pandemic flu: "The flu also know as influenza, is a contagious respiratory virus that affects millions of Americans each year... A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity, and for which there is no vaccine."
How does the flu spread? "Like any contagious flu or virus, H1N1 can spread by an infected person through coughing or sneezing. You can also become infected by touching something-such as a surface or object- that is infected with the virus and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. Studies have shown that influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces and can infect a person for 2-8 hours after being deposited on surface."

A good friend of mine has a saying "don't panic everyone stay calm". This is probably the best advice we could hear with the swine flu. That said, an ounce of prevention can do no harm but it just might keep us and our families safe and healthy.
In a later blog I will discus disinfectants and cleaning but first I always like to start with the mildest means possible- awareness and prevention:

Most of the following suggestions are old and wise, there is nothing earth shattering about this advice and yet sometimes the simplest is the best.

Flu prevention 101:

1- Wash your hands. I know this is basic and yet this is the most important prevention step you can take.
a- when you wash your hands use warm water, scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or until you are done singing the alphabet song. Rinse thouroughly and dry with a clean towel. Shut off the water with paper towel or use your elbo if possible- don't use your clean hands on the faucet.
b- Wash you hands anytime your come home from shopping or being out. As soon as you walk in the door - go wash your hands.
c- Before you eat- wash your hands. We tend to snack as we run around. This is not as healthy as washing up for dinner and sitting down at a table.
d- If water isn't avaiable use a hand sanitizer.

2- Keep your germs to yourself
a- If you are sick stay home.
b- Don't sneeze or cough into your hands.
Sneeze/cough into a tissue or your elbo pit
Throw the tissue away and then wash your hands -for 20 seconds

3- Keep your hands away from your face.
Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless you have just washed your hands.

I know the prevention tips listed sound like your mother, As I was writing I heard my mother's voice: "Go wash up for dinner, sneeze into a kleenix, get your hands away from your face." Our fast paced lifestyle is not always condusive to good health but listen to your mother and be healthy.
These simple and old tips are also extremely effective in prevention of ill health.

Wishing you and your families and happy and healthy season,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

An ounce of prevention!

Yesterday afternoon, I had a call from a lady with travertine floors. Her dog had thrown up and in certain light she could see an etch mark. During our conversation I explained the care and characteristics of travertine. Travertine can be both acid sensitive and scratch sensitive. As we visited a light when on and she realized her house cleaner had just cleaned all of her travertine floors with vinegar! Her heart sank and so did mine.

Calls like this come in much too often. I love my builders, retailer and designers who call on me to teach their clients the care and characterisitcs of there new surfaces. This customer's frustration and future expense didn't have to happen. My caller could have provided her house cleaner with the correct cleaner and a phone number to us for any questions.

She voiced her frustration of not being taught the proper care and characteristics. I felt for her- I hate these calls. I love teaching and helping to avoid this very situation.

An ounce of prevention should be what we call our education services.

May you have happy homes,