No Mothballs for Me Wednesday, Sep 17 2014 

Chipmunks rule the land. The cute little critters dig holes all around my house.

My sister suggested placing mothballs—those old-fashioned white, pungent balls grandmas used decades ago—along the perimeter of the house to ward them off. I don’t know how many chipmunks they kept away, but I couldn’t stand the smell and found that I was avoiding everywhere that the mothballs were. I retrieved and tossed them all. Surprisingly, the trash can smelled from them for weeks afterwards.

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide and deodorant used to protect clothes from mold, moth larva, and silverfish. It also may repel snakes, mice, and other small pests. Not only is their smell offensive and overpowering, mothballs pose some serious health hazards. They must be used with great caution around family pets and children.

The ingredients have changed over the years but they continue to be somewhat flammable. They contain a chemical called 1,4-dichlorobenzene. Sometimes packaging lists it as para-dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, pDCB, or PDB.

Mothballs are highly toxic when ingested. The US Department of Health and Human Services has determined this ingredient to be a carcinogen. It is a neurotoxin and may cause series illness or death. Large quantities in a basement or living space may also cause respiratory problems.

A better alternative to mothballs may be to spread blood meal or pieces of unchewed sticks of fragrant gum near chipmunk holes.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Back to the Beginning Tuesday, Jul 15 2014 

Farming got a boost in productivity with the discoveries of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers but we now know that more food does not mean more nutrition. These substances have toxic results on our health. The nutritional differences between conventional and organic foods are debated, although most people see the health benefits of foods without chemicals.

A 2012 study, which some believe is flawed,  found no significant difference in nutritional value between conventional and organic foods. But a new analysis from the United Kingdom analyzed over 300 studies and concluded that organic crops are higher in antioxidants.

They also have lower levels of toxic metals and pesticide residues. Most significantly, organic crops are said to have an average of 48% less cadmium, a metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening, and liver damage.

Organic farmers are not allowed to plant genetically engineered seeds or use synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, hormones or antibiotics. Not only does this result in healthier food, organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of favor-enhancing nutrients, so they taste better.

Organic farming also benefits the livestock, farmers, and environment. Organic farmers provide more humane conditions for the animals and leave soil and water supplies less contaminated. Additionally, farm workers avoid contact with the toxins used on conventional farms.

Organic foods can be expensive in some areas, but perhaps not in the long run. If we are healthier, we can live better and longer with fewer medical bills. Sometimes advances in science bring us back to the beginning where less is best.

Read more about organics at: Organic Center and the USDA website.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle


Light Choices Friday, Feb 14 2014 

Thomas Edison would never have imagined how complicated shopping for light bulbs has become. We have to peruse a store’s entire aisle before selecting the correct shape, style, wattage and now the type of bulb needed.

The traditional incandescent bulbs we’ve used are vanishing as they no longer can be produced in the U.S. and many other countries. The change is in favor of more energy-efficient lighting. According to the EPA, 90% of the energy going into an incandescent bulb is lost as heat. And the new bulbs do last significantly longer, so climbing up that ladder to change the bulbs is less frequent. In fact, the difference between the life of an incandescent bulb and one of the newer ones can be as much as 10-25 to one.

So here are a few points to help you select your next bulb, or lamp as they also are referred to. We now have three main choices: Halogen, CFL, and LED. Keep in mind that the newer bulbs do come with a higher price tag, a different type of light, and some of their own health and environmental concerns.

Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent bulb that is considerably more efficient than the traditional ones but not as much so as the CFLs and LEDs. The high operating temperature also may be a safety hazard in some fixtures.

CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are the swirly ones. They last about eight to fifteen times longer than an incandescent bulb and their emitting color is improving. They are better for indoor use because they take time to warm up and may not be as bright. Most of these bulbs cannot be used in dimmers. The biggest concern about them is that they do contain a small amount of mercury which, if broken, is particularly dangerous to children and pregnant women as well as the environment.

Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs are the most versatile and have an extremely long life.They also turn on and off instantly. They do not contain mercury or glass to break. Nor do they radiate heat or emit UV rays to fade upholstery. One of their drawbacks is their price, but they are getting cheaper. And they are a considerable saving in the long run because they last so long and require so much less energy.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Rain, Rain, Go Away Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

We can always talk about the weather in the Midwest. It fluctuates and can be extreme. Currently we are experiencing record breaking rainfalls. Much of the Chicago area is experiencing at least some flooding, and there are areas completely underwater.

Flood water is potentially contaminated with raw sewage and toxic substances, so it is best to avoid contact if possible. If you must work in it, the EPA suggests frequent hand washing with disinfecting soap, especially before drinking and eating. Also, be sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Other suggestions include:

  • Do not allow children to play in flood waters.
  • Keep generator exhaust way from doors and windows because it is toxic.
  • Do not use water from flooded household wells until it is tested safe to use.
  • Do not use the sewage system from home septic systems after a flood until the water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house.
  • Never drive through flooded areas.
  • Do not enter flooded basements if the power is on.
  • After the flood, remove standing water and get areas dry within 24-48 hours to avoid mold.
  • Boil drinking water for at least 3 minutes.
  • Toss unrefrigerated perishable food.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Quick Fix Thursday, Aug 16 2012 

The easiest, quickest solution often can solve a disturbing problem. The challenge is in discovering that solution.

I have a cabinet that has bothered me for years. The shelf in my cabinet under the kitchen sink was bumpy and worn. It looked terrible no matter how clean it was. Contact paper wouldn’t stick to the irregular surface and placing a board over it would be difficult to fit because of the irregular shape of the corner cabinet

The solution was to press self-sticking tiles over it, an idea I found on Pinterest. Within less than an hour I was able to cut and stick over the mess giving the cabinet a clean look.

The tiles were 28 cents a piece from Home Depot. I used paper to make patterns for the odd-shaped tiles needed on the ends, placed the paper over the tiles, and slit the top of the tiles with a utility knife following the patterns. I then cracked the tiles along the slits.

The job took nine tiles for a total of $2.52 and less than an hour to complete. No telling how much it saved me emotionally.

©Mary K. Doyle

Kitchen Rain Thursday, Jul 12 2012 

When it rains it pours, but not usually in your kitchen.

I came downstairs Monday evening to find water streaming out of a kitchen light fixture over the island stove top. The island literally was one as it was surrounded by a pool of water. The bread I baked earlier and left to cool on the stove top was a giant mushy sponge. There also was a path of water marks across the ceiling.

My brother-in-law and son-in-law urged me to puncture the ceiling in the soft spots. A few taps and we had water from who knows what source (yuck) raining down upon us.

The culprit was a leaky copper pipe off the master bathroom. In the end water soaked through the wall between the upstairs master bathroom and closet, the closet floor, the ceiling above the kitchen, the light fixture, and the hardwood kitchen floor.

I am not good in the midst of chaos. I like my house clean and organized but now most of my house is in an uproar with damages, reconstruction, and misplaced closet, bathroom, and kitchen items. Fortunately, we have reliable and reasonable service providers. A few quick phone calls and repairs are underway.

If you reside in the far western suburbs of Chicago and need help around your house, you may want to try my favorites:

  • Best Way cleaning service: 630-213-7184
  • Ed Kramer’s Attention to Detail (Home Repairs): 630-584-0482
  • Electrician Kurt: 630-346-2837
  • Klinkey Heating and Air Conditioning: 630-584-2591
  • Prairie Oaks Landscaping: 847-608-9711
  • Sal’s Painting: 630-330-0847
  • Shrine Brite Window Washers: 847-304-0100

©Mary K. Doyle

%d bloggers like this: