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Spring Cleaning Tip #1: Vinegar All Purpose Cleaners

My camera isn’t working and I’m just dying to get this out to you, so no pretty pictures for this one…you’ll just have to imagine them!

My Dad had me cleaning the house almost every weekend throughout my teenage years, then I cleaned houses during my first two years in college. Dad leaned towards less toxic cleaning supplies, but in college I used more toxic ones because that’s what people had on hand and I didn’t know how cheap and effective the alternatives were. I hated the smell, the way the vapors burned my nose and the back of my throat, and disposing of the containers always made me feel terribly guilty.

Since then, I’ve learned that vinegar and baking soda can take care of all of my cleaning needs, so I don’t have any other cleaning products in the house. I even started a little business, Spring Cleaning, where I organize peoples’ most feared rooms, then wipe everything down with the cleaners listed below. I get comments all the time on how delicious the rooms smell when I’m done.

In this post I’ll focus on the mild and tough all purpose cleaners I use, as well as the other cleaning supplies I keep handy.

Vinegar is about 5% acetic acid, which kills bacteria and viruses. With a little elbow grease, the dynamic duo of vinegar and baking soda gets things sparkly clean while saving a lot of money. They also save the waterways and your body from harmful chemicals many cleaning supplies contain. If it has a skull and crossbones, why even have it in the house?

There are about a bajillion uses for vinegar around the house, so I decided to start with these simple get ‘er done recipes:

Mild All Purpose Cleaner – in a spray bottle:

  • half vinegar, half water
  • 3-4 drops of lavendar essential oil (optional as an extra antiseptic)
  • lemon juice (optional as an extra antimicrobial)
  • 2-3 drops of lemongrass essential oil (optional for pleasant smell – use the essential oil of your choice)

Uses: Almost any surface!

  • For everything but wood and laminated surfaces – spray on and wipe clean
  • For floors – make mixture in a bucket and use for mopping
  • For wood and laminated floors – add ½-cup vinegar to a gallon of water
  • For other wood surfaces: spray on cloth, wipe clean, then use a dry cloth to wipe off all excess moisture

Tough All Purpose Cleaner – in a spray bottle:

  • full strength vinegar
  • 4-5 drops of lavendar essential oil (optional as an extra antiseptic)
  • lemon juice (optional as an extra antimicrobial)
  • 2-3 drops of lemongrass essential oil (optional for pleasant smell – use the essential oil of your choice)

Uses:

  • Disinfect cutting boards and counters: spray, then let soak, then scrub with a stiff brush and hot, soapy water to clean and disinfect
  • Sparkly-clean shower:
    • spray from top to bottom (including chrome)
    • let soak in
    • keep spraying occasionally for 30 minutes or so to keep damp
    • scrub with a microfiber cloth, then spray down.
    • FOR TOUGHER STAINS and SOAP SCUM: after soaking with vinegar, sprinkle with BAKING SODA, then scrub with a stiff brush
  • Tough spots on floor, in fridge and in sinks:
    • spray on stains
    • let soak in for a few minutes
    • wipe clean
    • for tougher spots: after soaking with vinegar, sprinkle with BAKING SODA, then scrub.

In addition to vinegar, I keep these cleaning supplies handy:

  • stiff scrub brush
  • a pile of old towels and torn up t-shirts of various sizes
  • spray bottles with the above mixtures – one under the kitchen sink and the other under the bathroom sink
  • box of baking soda – they’re everywhere so I can just grab and use them any time!
  • microfiber cloths
  • old sponges with a scrubby side

A note about cloths:

I like to use old hand towels, t-shirts and sponges and find that they last for a very long time, but I also have some microfiber cloths I use occasionally. I’ve had one of them for at least five years and it looks barely used!

According to ERC Wiping Products, “microfiber products have a longer life span than traditional cloths and mops, and they have “tiny hooks that attract, absorb and remove dirt, dust and bacteria.” They should last a very, very long time since “they should be washed in ONLY cool water and tumble dried or hang dried.” 

Do you or a loved one have one of “those” rooms – full of clutter and things you just can’t seem to get organized? I LOVE these rooms and can whip them into shape in no time! 🙂 Contact me for help at SpringCourtright@gmail.com.

More cleaning tips will be coming soon. Until then, I’d love to hear about your favorite green cleaning tips!

Happy Cleaning,

Sustainable Spring

Cricket Love

OK, so this has nothing to do with sustainability. But it would be my Dad’s birthday if he were alive, and, well, I felt like doing something a little different today…

Look away if you’re allergic to cuteness.

I just went into my bedroom for a moment and found this:

Spring_Courtright_Cricket_1

I don’t have kids. Instead, I have a dog named Cricket. She is definitely treated like a hairy little child, and I swear she can talk and understands almost everything I say.

I’m sure no one finds her nearly as cute as I do, but really, how adorable is this little mug and curled toes, eh?!

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She goes with me on many of my shorter kayak and standup paddleboard trips, she runs along side my mountain bike and cross country skies, she hikes, she gets me out walking in the woods in front of my house every day, and she, well, she just makes me happy.

So I thought I’d share the happiness.

🙂

Happy Birthday, Dad, and Happy Adventuring to You and Yours!

Love,

Spring and Cricket

Have pets you love? I’d love to see photos and their names on my Facebook Page!

Easy Herb Drying for Homemade Tea

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I have to admit that I’m a bit of an herb fiend. I love so many things about them! Their strong scent when I crush their leaves in my fingers, their aroma when heated to make a meal, their fullness and vibrancy in the garden, their medicinal values…I could go on and on.

Home grown tea is an incredibly easy but wonderful gift, both for yourself and others. Last year I started drying peppermint and spearmint and making tea from them. Now I’m absolutely hooked on this tea!

Because I loved my tea so much last year, I’ve taken many cuttings and put them in various pots to grow more. Mints are known for taking over gardens, so I mostly keep them contained. They’re incredible easy to establish, but that’s another post…

Rosemary and Lemon Thyme were the only herbs I had through the winter, so I used them in my cooking and face steaming (that’s another post). I nearly picked them to death while waiting for my other herbs to pop up.

The week I fought a cold and cough, I put Peppermint, Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Rosemary and Lemon Thyme to work in teas with dandelion greens. The cold barely lasted three days.

I plan to try some new blends this year – lemongrass with mint, lavender with mint, rosemary with lemon verbena, and whatever else comes together. Any ideas?

A couple months ago, in my Tips for Tea Drinkers post, I promised to share how I dry my herbs, so here it is.

Spring’s Herb Drying Method:

Tools needed:
Rubber bands
Scissors or small pruners
Push pins or small, out of the way, small bar 

Instructions:

  1. Cut at least three inches off the tops of herb plants
    1. make sure to leave some leaves so they’ll keep growing
    2. keep the thickest part of the stems together as you cut them
    3. keep different herbs separate as they may have different drying times
  2. Gather small bunches
  3. Tightly bundle bunches so the stems are even (keep bundles less than an inch thick to keep inner leaves from molding)
  4. Wrap the rubber band around the bundled stems over and over until it’s tight
  5. Hang – put one section of the rubber band either over a bar or the head of a push pin on a wall (I’m sure there are other places to hang herbs, these are just what I’ve used)
    1. make sure it’s out of the way so you won’t bump it
    2. make sure it’s in a dry place – I find outside in Western Washington is too damp, so I hang them inside
  6. Leave alone until completely dry – when you touch it the leaves should rattle and easily fall off
  7. Separate leaves and stems over a large plate
  8. Put leaves in dry glass jars – mix them for tea blends, or keep separate to keep the flavors strong.
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Freshly cut peppermint and spearmint hanging from rubber bands
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Dried peppermint and spearmint

For teas I try to keep the leaves somewhat whole, rather than crush them, as I’m not a fan of the bits floating around in my tea water. Those little bits like to find the crevices between teeth!

For cooking, I like to crumble leaves into smaller pieces. However, I prefer fresh herbs so I often don’t dry them until in the fall.

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Dried tea leaves separated from stems

I try to use glass for storing all of my food so as to avoid the nasty chemicals and tastes in plastics. Plus, they look so nice in jars!

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Voila! There you have it. You’ll never have to buy herb tea again, which is good considering all the things I wrote about in my Tips for Tea Drinkers post.

Here are the herbs I’ll be growing, eating and drinking this summer:  Lavender, Spearmint, Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Lemon Balm, Mexican Oregano, Chives, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Lemon Thyme, Thyme, Pineapple Sage, culinary Sage, German Chamomile, Fennel, Comfrey, Greek Oregano, Cilantro, a couple types of parsley, and various types of basil (mostly Sweet Basil).

What herbs do you grow? Do you have tea blend ideas? I’d love to see your thoughts and comments in the comments section.

If you’d like more of my sustainable living tips, subscribe for free on the right side of this page.

Happy Herbing!

~Spring

Happy Earth Day! Five Reasons to be Grateful Today

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Of course Sustainable Spring has to say HAPPY EARTH DAY!

I hope you’ll get out and enjoy the day and give, at the very least, a moment of appreciation to the mind bogglingly complex biosphere that our human family is a part of.

Whether it be during a service work project, a moment at work, or a walk in the woods, I hope you’ll be outside for at least a moment, regardless of whether it’s raining or sunny.

During your time outside, I hope you’ll take a deep breath and think about how we are each on a very short ride on a very incredible planet, in a very lucky time of general abundance – most of us have plenty of clean air, water and healthy food options. This is not the case for everyone on the planet, and it will not be the case for even more in the future, but for today we can be grateful for what we do have as a human family.

Five things Earth has that we can be grateful for today:

  1. Around 400 billion trees (from NPR)
  2. About 326 million trillion gallons of water, with thousands of trillions of accessible fresh water (from How Stuff Works)
  3. About 8.7 million species on the planet (ones with cells, or eukaryotes, from Discovery.com in 2011)
  4. Only about 7.2 billion people on the planet (this is expected to go up to 9.7 billion in 2050. From PewResearch.org)
  5. About 7000 national parks in the world (in 2011, according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature)

Things are changing fast, but today we can be grateful for the bounty we have, as well as the phenomenal forces that came together on this planet, in this universe, to allow you to read these words.

If you’re looking for some fun ways to get out and participate in Earth Day events on the Kitsap Peninsula, check out the calendar at Sustainable Bainbridge. If you don’t live on the Kitsap Peninsula, just about every community has Earth Day activities, so a quick internet search should turn up something.

Now get out, breathe some fresh air and say thank you!

xo,

Sustainable Spring

Spring_Courtright_Earth_Day_2014

Eating My Antihistamines

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Birds, bees, flowers and trees…oh how I love springtime! However, I’ve had years where I’ve cursed the coming of spring sunshine due to the allergies it brings.

This year I’m very happy to be allergy free so far. I’ve tried the approach of eating my antihistamines, and it seems to be working so far.

Building a strong immune system and eating certain foods with high concentrations of natural antihistamines can prevent and help treat allergy symptoms, rather than just mask them as allergy drugs do. Below is a list of things that can help prevent and alleviate the torture allergy season can bring on.

My favorite way to get a bunch of these allergy fighting foods into my body is with a smoothie every morning. My tasty anti-allergy smoothie recipe is at the bottom of this post. I also incorporate fresh, raw foods from the lists below into as many meals as possible throughout the day.

This winter and spring I’ve paid close attention to what I’m eating and have included some of the things listed below in my daily diet for many weeks. I’ve also cut down on foods that can cause inflammation, like dairy, sugar and wheat (though I have a really hard time with sugary snacks!)

I admit I still have my neti pot ready just in case my body decides to freak out and start oozing from my nose and eyes, but I’m holding onto faith that I’ll make it through the season sniffle free.

There are many options to try for natural allergy prevention and relief. It helps to get these built up in the body at least six weeks before allergy season, but they’re good for overall health so they may as well be eaten as often as possible, right?

Here are a few natural allergy fighters:

Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant that is an overall health superstar. You’ll get the highest concentration if you eat foods raw and fresh.

Some foods with Vitamin C: leafy greens (like chard, kale and watercress), bell peppers, brocolli, strawberries, citrus fruits (we can grow Meyer Lemons here!), apples, blueberries, parsely, and my new favorite – dandelion greens.

Omega-3 fatty acids (or EPA) have natural anti-inflammatory properties.Western medicine hasn’t found solid proof, but Omega 3’s are considered by some naturopaths to be another superstar for overall health.

Some foods with Omega 3’s: oily, cold water fish such as cod, herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines; flax seeds (can be found as oil, whole or ground), walnuts, almonds and avocados. (Get wild caught rather than farmed fish when possible).

Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid that is becoming an anti-allergy superstar.

Some foods with Quercetin: garlic, red wine, apples, onions, grapefruit, tea, green vegetables, Turmeric (a tasty spice), and beans.

A note on nasal cleansing: Last year I used my funky little ceramic Neti Pot, which saved me when I thought I was going to sneeze my way to oblivion. Yes, it feels weird at first, and no, you won’t want to do this in a public bathroom, but I swear it helps relieve the agony of allergies! Make sure to fully understand the sterile saline solution for this before using.

Incorporating as many foods from the lists above may help prevent and avoid allergies not just to springtime allergens, but to things like mold and dust. They’re also just good foods to give to our bodies – most of these foods contain numerous vital vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy year-round.

spring_courtright_smoothie

 

As promised, here’s my anti-allergy smoothie recipe – I use all organic ingredients and I pick the greens from my garden…

Spring Smoothie:

  • 3 fresh kale leaves
  • 4-8 lemon balm leaves
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh carrot-apple-ginger juice (enough to make the smoothie smooth, any juice or milk alternative works)
  • sprinkle of cinnamon, more if I’m feeling spicy
  • 1 -ish tablespoons of ground flax
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of frozen blueberries and/or strawberries
  • 1/4 inch of chopped, fresh ginger
  • 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice (I cut it from the skin so I get all the goodness)
  • a few sprigs of fresh parsely
  • a small handful of chopped walnuts
  • a teaspoon of molasses (great source of iron and sweetness)
  • pinches of lemon thyme and rosemary
  • handful of fresh, young dandelion greens (if you pick them – make sure it’s not in a high foot, dog or car traffic area and make sure to wash them)

Blend all ingredients together thoroughly and enjoy your anti-allergy deliciousness!

Thank you to these sources for help with my list: 

Do you suffer from allergies? What do you do to fight them?

 

 

Earth Month Activities on the Kitsap Peninsula

MLK earth day

Even though I believe in doing everything possible every day to preserve and protect the natural world, I love that Earth Day exists. It’s an excuse for us to do all kinds of good things in our own backyards and out in the world. The events have stretched to fill an entire month…maybe some day we’ll have Earth Year, eh? I’ve listed some Earth Month activities on the Kitsap Peninsula below.

According to the Earth Day Network, “Over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day.” A billion people! What else do a billion people get out and do together? To learn more about Earth Day, visit EarthDayNetwork.org.

I find inspiration in the fact that 44 years ago one guy, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, wanted to “force environmental protection onto the national political agenda,” and now there are a billion people involved. This reminds me that one person, one idea, really can make a difference.

There are always so many things happening around Earth Day that I have a hard time deciding what to do!

One annual thing I do is an all-ages fundraising Wildlife Kayak Tour in Poulsbo that raises money for the Poulsbo Marine Science Center. It also raises awareness of the wildlife right here in our own back yard, downstream from all of us. I have spots available – if you’re interested see details at the bottom of this post.

wildlife6Wildlife tour1

Here are some Earth Month activities on the Kitsap Peninsula. If you know of other opportunities please add them in the comments section.

All Month: Silverdale’s Seaport Salon and Day Spa is fundraising for Puget Sound Keeper Alliance, a local grassroots organization that patrols local waterways and enforces the Clean Water Act. Every penny they raise goes to the Alliance (Check out this cool video about the Alliance and Puget Sound).

April 12  Bainbridge Farmer’s Market grand opening! Saturdays 9-1:00. 280 Madison Avenue North (next to Town Hall).

April 12  Native Plant Sale on Bainbridge Island. Hosted by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust. Get plants that are meant to grow in this area – they often require less work and water, and they support the native wildlife! Click here to learn more.

April 12  Walk Your Watershed. Three mile walk in Poulsbo where guides will share about salmon habitat, rain gardens, sea birds, native/non-native plants and aquatic life. Learn more and register through the EarthRightInsight.org.

April 18  Composting Basics Class: 1-2:00 at the Bainbridge Island Public Library. Free!

April 19  Bainbridge Farmer’s Market Earth Day Special. Groups will be on hand to share information: Sustainable Bainbridge, Zero Waste, Weed Warriors, Bainbridge Island Land Trust, City of Bainbridge Island, Sierra Club, Acupuncture & Wellness Center, Bainbridge Community Broadcasting, Squeaky Wheels, and more, with music by Time and Tide.

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April 19  Earth Month Comedy Night at the Cloverleaf in Bremerton. All proceeds go to Puget Sound Keeper Alliance. For tickets: $20 pre-purchased at Seaport Salon and Spa or $25 at the door, or call 360-698-0781 for tickets and info.

April 22  State Parks Free Day – no Discover Pass required! Get out and play on Earth Day!

April 24  Clear Creek Trail Clearing: whack back blackberries with Central Kitsap High School students. About 12 adult supervisors are needed. Lunch is provided by Taco Bell.

April 25  Earth Day Green Drinks at Bainbridge Public Library. Meet other like-minded people over local wine and locally made, free snacks.

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April 26  Weed Warriors Earth Day Event at Pritchard Park. 10:00 – 2:00. Clear ivy and other invasive plants. Optional fun: bring a t-shirt you no longer care to wear and sort through the pile for one you would like to take home. For info: Jeannette Franks at 206-755-8461 or jfranks1@comcast.net.

April 26  Call to the Wild Auction and Gala Fundraiser for the West Sound Wildlife Shelter. 5-9:30 at Kiana Lodge. $125/person. Preregistration required.

April 26  Wildlife Kayak Tour FUNdraiser for the Poulsbo Marine Science Center. 9-12:00. Great for all ages, all experience levels, locals and visitors. Bring your own kayak or rent one.  Lead by me, Spring Courtright, a naturalist guide and kayak instructor. $55/adults, $35 for youth 4-17, free for youth ages 0-3 (in parents laps). No kayaking experience needed! Click here to learn more and register.

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I love this tour! It includes:

  • Hands-on tour of the Poulsbo Marine Science Center with their Director (pet sea cucumbers!)
  • Kayak lesson (or refresher)
  • Tour Liberty Bay with me – see my favorite wildlife viewing spots by kayak
  • Paddle with Harbor Seals and other wildlife
  • Locally smoked salmon snack
  • Stable double kayaks and all paddling equipment (single kayaks available by request)

April 27  Island Horticultural Services Free Workshop: Solving Landscape Problems with Native Plants. Learn about overly-aggressive non-natives to avoid and native alternatives to solve site-specific problems . Includes a tour of an ongoing sustainable landscape renovation. 1-4:00. For more information and reservations: bi.horticulture@gmail.com / 360-779-5002.

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See more Earth Month activities on the Sustainable Bainbridge website.

Today I think I’ll celebrate Earth Month by getting out and planting my baby plants…

What will you do to celebrate Earth Day? 

Thank you Roger Van Gelder for the beautiful Harbor Seal and kayaking photos!

Poulsbo Farmer’s Market Starts Saturday, April 5…with New Hours!

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 12.07.56 PMI don’t know about you, but I LOVE farmer’s markets! Call me weird, but being able to meet the people who grow and make the things I’m buying gives me a huge thrill.

I don’t like to buy new things unless I know the story behind them – who made them, what materials went into them, where did those materials come from (are they organic?), how were the people treated in the process…I have a lot of questions about things I buy new. Farmer’s markets let me ask them directly. I usually like the answers I get!

🙂

I often lead kayak tours and classes on Saturdays and so I missed many of the Poulsbo Farmer’s Markets over the last few years…but this year I’m leading less and gardening more, and they’re adding an hour so I think I’ll actually be able to make it!

The first day of the 2014 Poulsbo Farmer’s Market will be this Saturday, April 5 and their new hours are 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.

The market will run every Saturday through December 20 – isn’t that an amazingly long time to get fresh fruit and veggies and handmade goodies?! Kudos to the vendors, sponsors, volunteers and everyone who makes this happen. I’m so grateful I think I’ll hug some of you when I see you…

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They’re still open for more vendors and volunteers, so if you want to help out, you have things you’d like to sell, or you have an organization /cause you’d like to share with people, click here for more details.

They also have a Facebook page, and Twitter and Pinterest accounts, so if you want up-to-date info about what will be at the market and other news, check them out!

If you aren’t able to make it to the Poulsbo Farmer’s Market opening on April 5, there are plenty of other opportunities. PugetSoundFresh.org has a list of all the Farmer’s Markets in the Puget Sound region – what a bountiful, wonderful area we live in, eh?

What are your favorite farmer’s markets? What items do you like to get at these markets? 

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Dandelions for the Downtrodden

Who knew they were superheroes?
Who knew they were superheroes?

So the cold going around Kitsap finally got me. After tra-la-laing to my boyfriend for a year and a half about how I never get sick, I now can cry in my coffee that I was sick on the first sunny days of spring.

Waaah.

I’m not one to sit around crying in my coffee, though. Instead, I started putting dandelion greens in tea and smoothies, which I swear helped me from getting the worst of the nastiness going around.

I woke up with a little bit of a sore throat on Sunday, and by that afternoon I was a blob of jello on the couch. The blobbiness may have partly been due to leading 18 people on my Birding Kayak Tour, but this was not my normal after-tour fatigue!

As I lay on the couch feeling sorry for myself as the first spring sunshine poured in the window, I remembered how dandelions are supposed to be super-duper healthy, especially the new growth in the spring. I decided to delve into it a little more.

I learned that the nutritional content of dandelion roots and leaves make them a living multivitamin! Middle Eastern physicians first wrote about using dandelions for healing in the 10th century, and they’re still being studied today by doctors around the world.

Here’s a fun fact you can wow someone with: dandelion is from the French origin: dent de lion, meaning “tooth of the lion,” likely because of the deep “teeth” on the leaves.

The vitamins packed in these greens completely changed my view of these little buggers. Rather than yank them all out, I’m now going around plucking their leaves and looking forward to them growing so I can dry their roots for tea!

Some of the vitamins dandelions contain:

  • High vitamin A: good for the skin, mucus membranes and vision
  • High fiber: helps your body get rid of waste
  • High vitamins C: natural antihistamine, boosts the immune system & many other benefits…even touted as helping asthmatics and possibly preventing cancer, cataracts and heart disease!
  • High in vitamin B6: important for proper metabolism and immune function
  • Iron: generates red blood cells
  • Potassium: helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure
  • They also contain Thiamin, Riboflavin, Calcium and Manganese

OK, sold. I went straight outside, picked some greens and made myself some dandelion tea. I’m kind of an herb fiend, so I added a few things to my tea to make it even more healing and tasty.

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I kid you not, my sore throat was soothed by the time I went to bed, and by the next night it was completely gone. I had two more cups throughout the next day, just to make sure.

Tuesday I was ridiculously tired, but no more sore throat. I still drank tea throughout the day.

Wednesday I was a little tired, but was raring to go to kick off Spring Cleaning (my new business, I’ll tell more later!) and I helped a friend get his house all sparkly and organized for four hours.

That night I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Back to the tea. Thursday I fought off a cough all day – lots of rest and more tea!

Here’s Spring’s Magical Tea Blend – if you don’t have the ingredients, mix and match with what you have, or just make pure dandelion tea…

  1. Small handful of dandelion leaves – new growth is best and make sure to rinse them
  2. Few sprigs of lemon thyme – any thyme will do – they’re throat soothing expectorants
  3. Few lemon verbena leaves
  4. Few peppermint and/or spearmint leaves – tear and crush them to release the flavor
  5. Few rosemary leaves – tear and crush with the mint

Then:

  1. Put all in a tea strainer (see my tea post for the one I think releases the most flavor)
  2. Pour boiling water over them
  3. Let sit for at least three minutes
  4. Add honey and fresh lemon juice for added healing and flavor
  5. Sip
  6. Take a nap

🙂

I actually started just throwing all the herbs and leaves into my tea pot and letting them sit, then I’d use that water for tea and in my water glass. I kind of love my teapot. Yep, Goodwill score, and it fits perfectly in my house in the woods…how do you like it?

Here’s a little closeup in case you didn’t fully appreciate it the first time…

How can tea NOT be good when brewed in this guy?!
How can tea NOT be good when brewed in this guy?!

According to Mercola.com, dandelions are: “proven as an antioxidant that also lowers blood sugar, but it may also be useful in treating jaundice, cirrhosis, edema, gout, eczema, and acne. There’s even evidence that dandelion greens might prove helpful in treating AIDS and herpes. Highly nutritious as an ingredient in salads, its roots show ever-increasing possibilities in the fight against cancer.”

I take all scientific studies with a grain of salt, but I still think dandelions are A.MA.ZING. All those health benefits helped convince me to put them in my smoothies, in salads, and in anything I can think of, really.

I’m off to make some tea now!

What do you do to ward off and fight colds? 

Toddler Adventure at Valley Nursery

Sustainable_Spring_Coco_Rooster_2014Tuesdays are wonderful days in Springland because I get to spend all day with my best two-year old friend, Coco Parker.

After dance class in the morning we have some free time before lunch, so I like to do something fun, unusual and educational.

Last week we went to a park and walked in the woods, where she learned about Red Alder catkins and we marveled together at a Rufuos Hummingbird that hovered above our heads.

This week the sky threatened rain and I needed potting soil, so I thought I’d take a chance and see if we could make Valley Nursery a playground since it was on our way home. I spent my first ten years growing up on a plant nursery, so I secretly hoped she would love it, but I was dubious.

Little did I know, we were in for a treat!

First of all, the garden art near the parking lot was a playground in and of itself, with roosters and butterflies and all kinds of colorful things.

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When a staff person saw how infatuated she was with the metal rooster, she said, “Did you know we have a REAL rooster and some chickens?”

Coco and I looked at each other, grinned, took each others’ hands, and ran in the direction she had pointed.

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We spent the next fifteen minutes hanging out with the chickens and the rooster, cockadoodle-doing and talking about who’s a boy and who’s a girl.

Then we found the koi pond and the little gnome home next to it – a beautiful site for any age.

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It started to sprinkle, so we headed into the greenhouse, where we smelled all kinds of herbs and talked about what a greenhouse does. Peppermint proved to be the winning smell in the herb department.

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The inside of the store proved to be almost too much stimulation, so I paid for my soil, we said, “Goodbye Rooster!” while a Valley employee loaded the soil for me, and off we went for nap time.

It was a perfectly fun activity, though Cricket was a little jealous of the little human that takes her place on adventures sometimes. All the activity made for a sleepy ride home!

What are your favorite free, environmental-ish activities for kids?

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Happy Adventuring!

Spring

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It’s National Wildlife Week!

eagleI was pretty excited to learn that March 17-23 is National Wildlife Week, as declared by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The focus this year is Wildlife and Water because, as the NWF says, “One thing that all wildlife need, whatever they are and wherever they live, is WATER.”

It seems meant to be that I would lead my first ever Birding Kayak Tour with the birding superhero George Gerdst is during this week. You’d think I’d planned it this way, but I just got lucky.

When I delved into the meaning of “National Wildlife Week,” I learned that it is the National Wildlife Federation’s “longest-running education program designed around teaching and connecting kids to the awesome wonders of wildlife. Each year, we pick a theme and provide fun and informative educational materials, curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to use with kids.”

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I took this photo on a trip with George Gerdst yesterday – he does an annual circumnavigation of Bainbridge Island, where he hires a ferry and talks about the local birds and wildlife for three hours. 

If I’ve learned anything as an outdoor guide, it’s that adults are big kids who want to get out and play, so it’s never too late to get outside and get connected. Today seems like a good day to go out, get away from the hustle and bustle and noise, put away the cell phone and laptop, and just listen to the birds, pet the Sea Cucumbers at the Poulsbo Marine Science Center, or walk some docks and marvel at the sea anenomes growing just under the water.

If you want ideas, curriculum and other information about this wonderful week (which I hope we’ll stretch to fill our whole lives), e-mail nationalwildlifeweek@nwf.org or visit their website at www.nwf.org/national-wildlife-week.aspx.

Watch for my group of 19 today – we’ll be the ones paddling around Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay in brightly colored kayaks with binoculars glued to our eyes.

It should be a great day to get out and play!

What are you going to do to celebrate and honor Wildlife and Water? 

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