Go Green Challenge: Don’t Leave Your Health to Luck

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photo by Takashi .M

Kent and I interrupt our ‘move across the country’ blogging break to wish everyone a very Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and present you with a go-green challenge.  As you put on your favorite green clothes and trinkets, make this an opportunity to grow more environmentally green as well.  We are going to take a moment to discuss a matter near and dear to our hearts because the luck of the Irish isn’t the only observance in town, 16 – 22 March is National Poison Prevention Week.

Did you know the average American uses about 25 gallons of toxic chemicals per year in their homes?  I didn’t until I read Prosperity Without Pollution, by Joel S. Hirschorn and Kirsten V. Oldenburg.  Most are cleaning products, but there are other harmful substances lurking deeper and often unnoticed in our homes, workplaces, and schools; One of these invisible substances is asbestos.  Most of us are familiar with the fact that asbestos is not a material we want to be around.  Exposure is so high risk that mesothelioma is often referred to as “asbestos cancer”.  Despite this, roughly 30 million pounds of asbestos are still used each year in the United States according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Asbestos Quick Facts

provided by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

  • The number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States is asbestos, even more than 30 years after its use was essentially halted.  View a list of at risk occupations (even hairdressers are on the list).
  • Since asbestos guidelines were issued in 1979, approximately 45,000 Americans have died of asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
  • 10,000 Americans will die this year of asbestos-related diseases (including lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer) and 200,000 are currently living with asbestosis.
  • Asbestos is still mined in several countries throughout the world, including Canada, and is exported to many industrialized and developing countries.
  • No amount of asbestos exposure is safe; however, the longer and more intense the exposure, the more likely an individual is to develop mesothelioma cancer or another asbestos disease.
  • Exposure to asbestos can also increase the likelihood of other types of lung cancer. Smoking also exacerbates asbestos-related diseases.
  • Asbestos can still be found in myriad homes, schools, and commercial or industrial buildings.
  • Asbestos was once used in more than 3,000 consumer products, including common household items such as toasters and hair dryers, some of which may still be in use.

So, now that you are armed with the facts, here is the go-green challenge.  This week, take the time to educate yourself about asbestos and eliminate your risk of exposure.  As regular Do-It-Yourself project undertakers, Kent and I are making it a priority to learn about the risks of our exposure during these adventures.  We think the first step is to figure out where asbestos is commonly found.

Places Asbestos is Found

courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

  • Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
  • Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Automobile clutches and brakes

Yikes, we just finished a few major drywall patching projects…I hope there wasn’t asbestos in our compound!  While the United States Environmental Protection Agency regulates asbestos use in products like these, no amount of exposure is safe.  Before you tackle any projects where you might encounter these materials (especially in older homes), be sure to have your home inspected by an asbestos professional.  If there is asbestos present, have an asbestos trained professional handle remodels near the material/removal.  If your inspection is asbestos free, consider keeping it that way.  With many safe asbestos alternative products on the market, there may be little to no reason to accept even a minimal exposure risk.  Consider using one of these green alternatives instead.

Green/Asbestos-Free Alternatives

provided by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

  • Non-PBDE (Polybrominated Dephenyl Ethers) Polyurethane Foams – insulation
  • Flour Fillers – crack and crevice fillers
  • Cellulose Fiber – insulation from finely shredded and treated newsprint
  • Thermoset Plastic Flour – insulation
  • Amorphous Silica Fabrics – insulation and protection

So this Saint Patrick’s Day, don’t leave your health to chance!  Remember to go green, use green building materials, and call a professional to help you with any asbestos issues.

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Easy DIY Ribbon Holder

Ribbon HolderNothing helps to keep those creative inspirations flowing like a peaceful area to work.  Imagine this: You sit with your latest project in front of you and smile as you sip from a warm cup of tea.  Your favorite song is playing in the background and everything you need is exactly where you can find it!  Sigh, what a lovely vision, but lets face it; us creative types are not always the “tidiest”.

Inspiration tends to comes in flashes, just like the cleanliness of our creative spaces.  The idea strikes and so does the hunt for the pink ribbon that you know you have somewhere and is perfect for this project.  The once nicely stacked pile is now strewn across the entire floor.  ‘Ah, there it is!’   I’ve been there before, and the last thing I want to do after expending all that creative energy is re-stack those ribbons!

So why not give yourself a head start on that vision of the ‘Crafting Eden’ with a bit of creative organization?  Never hunt for that ribbon again and create a beautiful way to display them right where you need them with this easy DIY!

You’ll Need…

  • 1, 8′ piece of 1″x4″ pine wood
  • 4, 4′ long 3/8″ wide dowel rods
  • Miter Saw (or alternative saw…Home Depot can make cuts for you too!)
  • Drill with 1/2″ bit
  • Kreg Jig (optional, but the easiest method I’ve found!)
  • Screws
  • Clamp
  • Your favorite wood finish (Stain, Sealer, Paint)

Step One:  Make the Cuts

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You will need to cut your dowel rods in half making a total of 8, 2′ long pieces.  Your 1″x4″ wood will be cut into 4, 2′ pieces.  Tada, all done with the cuts!

Step Two:  Drilling Holes

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Grab your 1/2″ Drill Bit and two of your 1″x4″ pieces of wood. In the first piece, drill 7 holes all the way through, each 3″ apart.  In the second piece, drill 7 holes half way through the wood, each 3″ apart.

Step Three:  Joining the 1″x4″ pieces

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If using the kreg jig, pre-drill your holes into the top and bottom of the 2, 1″x4″ pieces we drilled the seven holes in earlier. Ensure the board with half drilled holes will have the holes face inward!  Using a clamp, hold the pieces in place while joining with the screws.  The boards with holes will form the sides, they set on top/below the solid boards.

Step Four:  Paint/Stain/Seal…then hang!

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The ribbon slides nicely onto the dowel rod and is now exactly where you need it, when you need it!  I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.  I’d love to see photos of your finished Ribbon Holders, please share them in the comments!  Also, if there are any questions or improvements concerning the directions, let me know.  I’d be happy to help clarify anything that may need tweaking. Happy Creating!

DIY Honey Mead: One Easy Technique, Endless Exciting Flavors

Honey Mead

Seeking Another Taste

When I made my first batch of honey mead with a friend, I was amazed at how simple it was to make!  I had prior experience brewing my own beer, and had come to understand that brew day can be quite the ordeal.  While mead takes longer to ferment than beer (months versus weeks), I am happy to say that making it is so much easier and quicker.  It doesn’t require anything fancy either…as you can see in this photo my first batch was made in a sanitized gallon jug.  I have an air lock and rubber stopper affixed to the top until the fermentation process is complete. This allows the air that is generated during the process to escape while keeping contaminants that could ruin your batch out.

Being the horribly impatient and curious person I am, I’ve been taking small tastes as my first batch continues to ferment.  After the first month, it was strong like honey vodka.  Now, over three months into the process, the mead tastes delicious!  It is growing to be an optimal balance of smooth and sweet that will be the perfect drink for summers on the terrace.  It will still take approximately another three months for the mead to fully round out, but it is on track and can only get better.  I can’t wait!  In the meantime, I decided that a one gallon jug wasn’t going to last very long (especially with me sneaking glasses) so I invested in a 6.5 gallon glass carboy and made a monster sized batch with my husband.

Honey Mead, Glass CarboyIf one gallon of sweetness is good, then 5 gallons must be a lot better….Say hello to batch number two!  This lovely batch took less than one hour to make (includes sanitizing and the time it took to carry it up two flights of stairs…ouch).  Equipment upgrades for a batch this size included a glass carboy and a large tube to create an air lock…there was also the optional upgrade of a drill bit mixer that attaches to the end of our power drill for mixing.  Well-worth the investment to make the process that much faster and easier.

So here is the breakdown…Sanitize EVERYTHING that is going to touch your mead, add honey, custom flavors, water, and yeast; then mix, add air lock, and wait for self-made deliciousness.  The options for flavors are endless, go wild and get all mad scientist on your tasty creations!  Brew your own magazine also has a great page of recipes to get you started!

Sanitize

Sanitize EVERYTHING

Measure

Be sure to measure things out for consistency

Add Water

Add Water

layers of honey

Yummy layers of Honey, Oranges, Raisins, and Water

Air Lock

Air Lock it and Wait Time