Practical homemaking ideas and solutions you can easily use!

Welcome to The Homemaker Helpers, we are glad you are here and hope you will enjoy your visit. Looking for help with your homemaking challenges, daily chores, cleaning, laundry and more? We are dedicated to helping men and women whether you like housekeeping or not!

Should You Use a Disinfectant Cleaner or Not?

Due to the recent Swine Flue out break you may be wondering if you should be using a disinfectant cleaner to keep your family safe. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Experts believe that the use of disinfecting or antibacterial cleaners creates “super germs or super bugs.”
  • Research suggests that using a disinfecting cleaner enables bacteria or viruses to build a resistance, mutate and come back even bigger or stronger.
  • Health experts believe the chemicals used in the products to kill the bacteria, viruses or fungi are just as harmful as the microorganisms themselves.
  • Did you know 90% of people who use antibacterial or disinfecting cleaners don't allow the formula to penetrate the surface? By spraying and immediately wiping, you don't get the disinfecting properties of the cleaner as they need to sit 10 min to be effective.
  • The best way to keep bacteria and viruses in check is with regular soap and water.

The good news is, regular and thorough cleaning is the best ways to disinfect your home to keep you and your family safe from harmful microorganisms.

You can learn more simple precautions to minimize the spread of the flu virus, or reduce the severity of your symptoms with these cold and flu defense tips.

Discover some safe, natural bleach alternatives to chlorine bleach, the most common household disinfectant.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

merry green christmasphoto © 2008 Lauren Nelson | more info (via: Wylio)Are you part of a growing trend dreaming of a green Christmas? You are if you are interested in protecting the environment and concerned about the over commercialism of Christmas and how much packaging goes to landfills each year. The following are some smart ways to put more green in your Christmas. Think about the environment and how the extra trash can affect it when planning this year’s gift giving.

One way to put a green spin on Christmas is to make your gifts rather than buying them. Besides making less of an impact on the environment, making gifts will make less of an impact on your wallet as well. Think about the people you plan to give gifts to and then think of things you can make or repurpose to create one-of-a-kind gifts.

Homemade cookies or candies can be a great holiday gift. Take a weekend and spend the time with your immediate family making several different types of cookies, squares, loaves or candies. Think of what the people on your list would enjoy and make enough that you can create several gifts from your time in the kitchen.

Some people are crafty and are able to crochet or knit. If this is you, why not make them a scarf, cozy slippers or dish cloths? Those who sew may want to make table runners with matching placemats and napkins.

Children love stuffed animals. There are many types of stuffed animals you can make either from sewing, crocheting or knitting. You can find instructions and patterns at craft stores, in craft books in the library, or on the internet. Any child would enjoy a stuffed animal made with lots of love.

Is there someone on your list who loves to cook? There are many things you can give that will be helpful in the kitchen. An assortment of organic herbs and spices will be a well received gift. Check out this article for more unique holiday gift ideas for the cook or baker. Wrap it with a holiday colored tea towel. You’ll have given them a gift they can use year round and they will have no trash to throw away.

Bath oils, bubble bath and bath salts are great gifts to give to the women on your list. You can make your own relatively easily and for very little money. You can find recipes for these types of items in books, magazines and online. Here’s how to make a delightful Chocolate Body Scrub to help you get started.

Try to find local arts and crafts shows or festivals. You can find some unique locally made gifts at these events. Not only can you find great gifts, you’ll also be supporting the local economy. Gifts made close to home require less fuel for transport.

Choose a small, real Christmas tree which can be planted after the holiday rather than an artificial tree. Most people don’t realize artificial trees are made from petroleum products. A live tree will improve the air quality in your home and give it an awesome winter scent. Even though artificial trees are supposed to retain their shape, they often can become ugly after repeated use and they end up in landfills where they remain.

These are but a few of the many smart ways to put a green spin on your Christmas this year. Remember to try to repurpose, recycle and reuse wrapping items you already have. We like boxes and bags that can be reused year after year. Make as many gifts as you can rather than buying. Most importantly, enjoy the time with your friends and family during this holiday season.

7 Tips To Get Your Husband To Help

Ideally a marriage is a partnership in every sense of the word. A husband and wife should work together to keep a household running smoothly. However, who should do what is often a big source of conflict in most households.

Women usually get the job of taking care of the kids and keeping the house clean while their husbands work. But unlike several decades ago, wives and mothers usually have to hold down a job as well, in order for a family to make ends meet financially. It can be very difficult and stressful to juggle all of these things ourselves. Getting your husband to help around the house can make our jobs easier and less stressful.

  1. If you need help with something specific, ask. Most husbands are willing to do specific tasks when we have our hands full and they don’t. If possible, ask him to do something that he enjoys, or at least doesn’t openly hate to do.
  2. Offer to help him with his projects. If you are willing to help him clean his car or do the yard work, he will surely appreciate it. Then he might be more likely to offer to help you out when you are working around the house.
  3. Find tasks that you can do together or alongside each other. This will allow the two of you to spend time together while also getting something done. And the pleasure of your company might make an undesirable chore more palatable.
  4. If you prefer a more structured approach, assign specific chores to everyone in the house. You could make a chart that tells which chores everyone is to be in charge of. Consulting with your husband when doing this is crucial. If he is included in the decision making process, he will be more willing to follow along.
  5. Talk about how your day went. Husbands often don’t realize how much their wives do in one day, and this can lead them to believe that we should accomplish more than we do. Filling them in on all of the things we have to contend with could evoke some sympathy, possibly even inspiring them to volunteer their assistance.
  6. Give lots of praise when your husband does help around the house for positive reinforcement. Nitpicking about the things he did wrong will only make him less willing to help. While it’s acceptable to offer some constructive criticism, it is essential to find something positive to say as well.
  7. Reward your husband for pitching in, we’ll leave it up to you to determine an appropriate reward. I’m sure you can come up with something good!

Getting your husband to help around the house may be effortless, or it may require a lot of coaxing. By letting him know how hard you work to trying to get everything done and asking him to do specific things rather than expecting him to know what to do on his own, you can often get some willing assistance. And the end result will be a neater, cleaner home and a happier you.

Relieving Aches and Pains

Most of us have aches and pains from time to time, whether we are a bit overactive in doing yard or housework or perhaps we slept a little crooked the night before.  While there are many ways to relive such maladies, a few topical products will go a long way in gaining relief.

 

As we get older, especially, such onsets of stiffness, muscle and joint pain can rear their ugly heads at any time.  Having a handy dose of liniment or analgesic balm handy can be a good thing.

 

These products work by stimulating blood flow and masking pain to the injured area.  Increased blood flow is important to bring healing cells called macrophages to the muscle to remove dead muscle cells.  Good blood flow to the area also accelerates the bringing of nutrients so the repair and regeneration of the muscle can occur.

 

A limited masking of pain while the area is healing allows more movement, which also increased the blood flow.  Limited movement is important in the healing process, as no movement over a period of time has shown that the muscle can atrophy, or shrink, thus lengthening the healing time.

 

A good rule of thumb is that if you can move the area without too much pain, then topical remedies can be very helpful.  However, if there is severe swelling or if the injury is joint related and you cannot move the area at all, you should seek further medical help.

 

Liniment works by utilizing camphor which ooccurs in nature in the camphor tree, an Asian evergreen related to cinnamon.  When applied to the skin, camphor produces a mild local anesthetic action (depresses some nerve endings and stimulates others). It also acts as an antipruritic, which means it relieves itching.  Watkins products markets an excellent liniment, which actually was the first product sold in 1868.

Analgesic balm contains Methyl salicylate (wintergreen), menthol and capsaicin which team up in a great muscle warm-up rub. This greaseless, stainless, deep-heating cream penetrates rapidly to relieve and relax muscle tension and soreness and provide temporary relief from minor arthritis.   This product also can be purchased from Watkins.

An ounce of prevention can go a long way in muscle and joint pain relief after that victorious bout of leaf raking, garden planting, or even vacuuming (ugh) that leaves you sore the next day.

Sewing on a button

My friend Sara came to my house the other day with a basketful of mending and  a plate of chocolate cookies.  I am fairly certain the cookies were meant to bribe me into doing the mending but instead I poured her a cup of tea and began teaching her how to sew on a button.

English: Vintage sewing buttons.

Image via Wikipedia

Sara is a busy, stay at home mother to three boys who can be really tough on clothes.  Her husband just got laid off from his job and the usual concerns about money were worrying her.  It was time to make clothes last and dollars needed to stretch further.  Here are the tips I gave her.

1.)  When sewing a four hole button sew two buttons and tie off then sew the other two holes and tie off.

2.)  Use dental floss to sew on buttons, it is a lot stronger.

3.)  Put a small dab of clear nail polish on center of button.  No one will notice and the button will stay secure.

4.)  Clothes that are beyond repair but still have the buttons.  Cut them off and save them.  Buttons are lost all the time and using a button you already have is better than paying for another one or putting another thing in a landfill.

Sara and I worked our way through the sewing, ate the cookies and drank our tea.   It’s funny how doing something pro active toward your finances and chocolate help  to calm the fear.  The friendship and laughter didn’t hurt either.

 

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Doesn’t it seem that the healthier we try to eat the more money we seem to spend? We all know we need to eat better, but why is eating healthy more expensive? Well…not anymore. Here are a few tips to help you feed your family nutritious meals without breaking the bank.

Plan your meals around sales. Grocery stores often have buy one item, get one free so this would be a good time to stock up for the upcoming months. Watkins often has Monthly Specials on their Natural, Organic and Gourmet foods so you can feel good about what you feed your family while saving money. If you primarily purchase sale items you will have well stocked freezer and pantry and a smaller grocery bill. Stock up on all your Natural and Organic favorites.

Do not purchase boxed foods. These foods are full of preservatives and trans fats. If you like the convenience of boxed foods try these mixes for a healthy alternative: Watkins Dessert Mixes, Watkins Soup and Gravy Mix, Dips and Spreads and easy to prepare (but good for you) Watkins Bread Mix and Pizza Crust Mix. Enjoy the convenience while giving your family something good.

Use coupons. Many grocery stores now accept competitors coupons and many times will double their own coupons. But be careful to only purchase items you would normally use. Do not buy impulse items simply because you have a coupon as you might end up spending more. If the store brand is a better bargain than using a coupon for the name brand always buy the store brand. I find the quality to be just as good. Better yet, wait for an item to go on sale and then use the coupon. What a savings!

Buy produce when in season. It will taste better and typically the cost is less when in season. Try not to purchase produce already cut up. You will always pay more. Bring it home and cut, chop, dice, put in baggies and either refrigerate or freeze. This way you will always have a healthy snack ready to eat.

Make a grocery list and stick to it. Avoid temptation. We always go home with several items not on our list. Do we really need them? If it wasn’t on your list then probably not.

Shop when you are full. This might sound silly but when you are hungry and you go grocery shopping you will end up buying a lot more than if you shopped right after a good meal.

When purchasing meat think of recipes where you can get more than one meal out of it. Sprinkle your meat or chicken with Watkins Seasonings. These delicious flavors are a healthy alternative to oils and salts. Try them on chicken for dinner and save a little leftover for your salad the next day for lunch. Having these leftovers will make it easier to eat right without grabbing unhealthy foods.

Another great way to save money is to shop around. With the price of gas so high you won’t want to drive several miles just to save a couple of dollars but plan your route to be near a grocery store or discount store when some of your favorite healthy items go on sale. Always try to take advantage of great deals.

Remember you can eat healthy and save money. It might take a little planning but it’s worth it for you and your family.

For delicious recipes using some of Watkins Natural and Organic foods please visit www.VanillaGourmet.com and enjoy life…Naturally!

Baking Soda A Natural Cleaner And Deodorizer

Most of us use baking soda for baking and to remove odors from our refrigerator, but we never think to use it for other things. Did you know that baking soda is a natural cleaner and deodorizer that’s cheap and effective?

Many cleaners use artificial scents and harsh chemicals to cover up odor. These scented chemical products can be really irritating to your skin and your respiratory system. Baking soda is a safer alternative. Instead of covering up odors, it absorbs them and locks them away. So you know it can get rid of odors in the fridge with baking soda, try putting some in your garbage cans, shoes, diaper pail, litter box, drains and garbage disposal. It is a great way to safely remove offensive odors from pretty much anywhere.

Watkins lemon all purpose cleaner

Watkins lemon all purpose cleaner

Baking soda is a great abrasive cleaner to remove dirt and anything else that might be stuck on surfaces. Just sprinkle it on a wet cloth and scrub away. You can even use baking soda to get stuck on grease off your floors, counters and even pots and pans. For more cleaning power mix baking soda with Watkins degreaser or Watkins natural all-purpose cleaner. Remember to rinse all your surfaces well after you clean them to remove any remaining residue.

While baking soda can be used for general cleaning, it’­s also a great to remove stubborn stains. Just mix with a small amount of water to turn the powder into a paste. You can then apply this to stains in your kitchen, bathroom, and even your clothes. Just let sit for a few minutes and then scrub. It will make your stainless steel sink shine. This paste is also great for cleaning your silver.

You can even use baking soda to disinfect laundry, toys and diapers or other items around your home that get handled often such as door handles, light switches, and telephones. Washable items can be soaked in baking soda and water for half an hour or so. For other things simply cover the area and let it sit for a minute before wiping it off.

These are just a few ideas for you on how to clean and deodorize with baking soda. It is such a versatile product, the possibilities are endless. So why not pull your baking soda out of the cupboard and give it a try all around your house? You may find yourself buying a lot more baking soda on your next shopping trip.

Is Your Dry Cleaner Eco-Friendly?

Oh my! I have just realized that some of my choices that I make for myself and family maybe placing the both of us in harms way. To clarify, what exactly do I mean by “harms way”, when I bundle up our sweaters, blouses or slacks to be sent to the dry cleaners; the cleaning process that is used to clean my items (percholorethlene) called perc for short is used by at least 85% of all cleaners.

This process is toxic in a many ways, the chemical pollutes the air, it is a probable human carcinogen and it can cause symptoms from headaches, nausea, and infertility in men and miscarriages in women and it is considered toxic waste.

Watkins lemon laundry detergent

Watkins lemon laundry detergent

My exposure and my families exposure to this chemical doesn’t stop when I bring the dry cleaning home. When, we go to put the garments on the chemicals can bleed thorough our skin into our systems

Just thinking about that made me want to find a solution today not next week, I had to stop the exposure to my family. What I found was a natural home care product that is plant based and non-toxic that was important to me. JR Watkins Lemon liquid laundry detergent concentrate, can be used in cold water and is easy on the budget. You only need 1 oz per load, that is about 2 tablespoons!

It is also great to use on your hand washables and baby clothes for it contains a soy-based fabric softener that leave your clothes soft and clean.