Where’s the Money for Sandy Hook Families?

Millions of dollars poured into Newtown after December 14th, 2012. It is my belief that people who donated expected that the money they donated would go to the Sandy Hook families most in need.Main Street NewtownI too, have had faith that the families who need financial support are getting it. And getting it NOW, when they need it most. When they can’t go back to work because they are too shattered by grief, or need to be at home for their surviving children; children who still have nightmares, children who can’t go back to school, children who have hysterics when they hear static on the school public address system.

But I’ve been doing some reading and I’m getting worried. This is from the Stamford Advocate:

Three months after Brian Rohrbough‘s only son was shot to death at Columbine High School, his family, like others whose children were slain, received a check for $50,000. For each family, it was a little more than 1 percent of the $4.4 million Healing Fund established after the high school shooting.

Rohrbough and many others were outraged.

“It’s not about how much money I received,” he said. “The truth is, when people donated this money, they expected it to go to the families.”

Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/Newtown-wrestles-with-decisions-about-where-4360640.php#ixzz2Tf6EOs81

Over $20 million dollars have poured into Newtown via one fund or another. Did any of us imagine, with that kind of money around, that there could be a single Sandy Hook parent financially suffering just so that he or she can be home to greet their surviving children as they come home from school? It’s obscene to think of these families facing any kind of financial struggle when the whole world has flooded our town with donations.

It appears that contrary to what seems logical to me, funds unless otherwise specified should be directly distributed to the families, the opposite is true. That monies, unless donated with a specific purpose specified by the donor, are just sitting in the fund waiting for the determination of a task force or others. The largest fund, setup via Western Union and Newtown Savings Bank now has a Foundation with a task force for decisions about distribution of the funds.

The creation of the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, and the five board members who will oversee the organization, was announced late last month.

Those members are: Monsignor Robert Weiss, of St. Rose of Lima Church; Dr. Charles Herrick, chairman of psychiatry at Danbury Hospital; local attorney Anne Ragusa; former Newtown Finance Director Ben Spragg; and Joseph DeCandido, president of Nutek Aerospace Corp., in New Milford.

Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/Newtown-wrestles-with-decisions-about-where-4360640.php#ixzz2TezWWgEn

I know several of the members of this task force, I trust them. So, do we trust that the task force (and others) will make the right decisions to support all the Sandy Hook families in need? I hope so.

But things like this quote discourage me:

“I feel as though the United Way has been kind of stringing us along while they send the money to where they want it to go,” she said. “At first I thought maybe I was a little crazy thinking this, but everything I’ve learned about other tragedies has confirmed that this is a pattern where large nonprofits step up after a tragedy and then take the money and do with it what they please.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/nyregion/views-diverge-on-dispersal-of-newtown-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

So, what can be done? I don’t yet know… For now, I will put my faith in the task force and pray that they are listening to the people who are closest to those most in need.


What’s it like Keeping Chickens?

“Chicken” by © used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Occasionally, I get to feeling really farm-girl and decide that we should get some chickens for our backyard… ah, fresh eggs, free fertilizer. It seems like such a good idea from the safety of my couch.
What wakes me up from my dream state is the fear of what keeping chickens would be like in the “real world” vs. the world of my mind.

I did do some research around the idea and found these resources online:

The article that scared me off was the last one… what you should know before getting chickens.

Some of the things the author mentions are:

The biggest annoyance is the noise. We don’t have a rooster (we are not allowed to by zoning laws, nor would we want one) but still the noise that these creatures make is impressive.

Chickens eat a lot of food, requiring re-stocking of their feeder about every three days. Of course this food turns into chicken poop. Chicken poop is high in nitrogen so it is an excellent fertilizer but it also releases a lot of smelly nitrous oxide.

Yikes, it sounds like having a bunch of noisy, smelly beasts invading our property. I’m not sure “home-grown” eggs and free-fertilizer are worth it.

However, I would love to hear from people who are actually keeping chickens. Particularly anybody in the New England area, who have to cope with cold winters and very changeable temperatures.

The last bit of info for today… I found this great infographic on Visually on how to build a backyard chicken coop. Which is what got me thinking about keeping chickens again.

How to Build A Chicken Coop
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When NOT to use Hydrogen Peroxide

The other day our dog, Buddy, got into a little altercation with another dog and came out the worst for it with a bite on his head.

Buddy may look sweet, but with other dogs he can act like he’s a nasty pit bull. Small dog complex?

As this happened late in the day, after our Vet was gone for the day, I thought we should just put some hydrogen peroxide on the bite, put some neosporin on it and wait till the vet’s office opened in the morning.

However, after my dear husband looked at the bite he said he though a trip to the emergency vet was in order. So, I called them and the tech said said “You shouldn’t put hydrogen peroxide on it. It will slow the healing.” I was shocked! I had to fess-up and tell her that we already did put peroxide on the bite. I thought it was just a “dog thing” that I shouldn’t use peroxide on an animal wound, I mean, after all, I grew up putting peroxide on all kinds of cuts and scrapes.

After getting home with the bite thoroughly cleaned and some antibiotics for good measure, I did a little research about hydrogen peroxide and found that indeed, the current wisdom is that it can slow healing and not just for animals, for everyone:

But multiple randomized, controlled trials — the best kind of research — show that hydrogen peroxide does not prevent or treat infections in wounds. Not only that, hydrogen peroxide slows healing and may even cause cellular damage. That bubbling you see? It’s probably the hydrogen peroxide attacking you.


Now, the WebMD article about hydrogen peroxide says that you can use it for cleaning minor cuts, scrapes and burns, but not for animal bites, or deep wounds. So I guess there may be some middle ground on this, but I think if I have something else available (water, rubbing alcohol?) to clean a cut or scrape with, I will use that rather than run the risk that the peroxide could actually slow the healing.



Why and How to Make Homemade Deodorant

Deodorant by © Clean Wal-Mart used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Before our children were born, I was seeing a Homeopath for fertility issues (the regular medical docs said nothing was wrong, but at the time we had been married 8 years and had 2 miscarriages and no babies.) One of her suggestions was that I stop using an antiperspirant with aluminum in it and switch to just a plain deodorant instead. So that’s what I did.

In the last 10 years or so, there has been more flurry of information about antiperspirants and deodorants containing ingredients that cause breast cancer or contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. And it’s not just the aluminum, it’s also things like parabens that are under investigation. From my research it appears that there is not a clearly documented link between these ingredients and disease. However, as the Wikipedia article on deodorant site quotes:

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of a harmful effect” and “these chemicals are being directly applied daily, by very large numbers of people, and the long-term health effects of exposure are essentially unknown,” toxicologist Philip W. Harvey tells WebMD in an interview.

Here’s a list of some commercial deodorants that do not contain aluminum:

  • Berts Bees Deodorant
  • Aubrey Organics Calendula Blossom
  • Weleda Citrus Deodorant
  • Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant
  • The Body Shop DeoDry

Reference: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/natural-deodorant-review_n_1684296.html

Mennen Speed Stick is also aluminum-free (as long as you get the deodorant vs. antiperspirant.) The deodorants listed above cost between $5 and $11 per container (I think you can the Mennen Speed Stick for about $3).

Homemade Deodorant Fail
Homemade Deodorant Fail

So, recently I decided to make my own deodorant at home. I found some great recipes online (see resources below). I first tried making a balm with coconut oil, fragrance, cornstarch and baking soda. But the first warm day we had the whole thing melted into a mess, the coconut oil turned liquid and the baking soda/cornstarch clumped up on the sides of the jar. Bleh!

Next, I tried just a powder based deodorant, which would not only not melt (a plus) but also would actually act a bit like an antiperspirant by absorbing perspiration.

The ingredients are simple: cornstarch, baking soda and essential oil for scent. The proportion is about 5 parts cornstarch to 1 part baking soda and as much essential oil as you like. Take care with essential oils, some can be skin irritants. Use sparingly.

Whisk it all together (breaking up any oil lumps with your fingers). Put it into a jar and either use a powder puff or make a “shaker” top. I decided on the shaker top for easy of use.

For the shaker top, I cut out a piece of craft plastic mesh to fit the top of my mason jar, then put the ring top on to hold it in place. Done!

I’m sure you’re wondering how it works…. It’s great, very effective, no chemicals, super inexpensive and easy to make. I love it. No stinky pits for me.



Homemade Dish Detergent – Epic Fail :-(

I was so sure this going to be a success story…but alas, a cloudy film on all the dishes and glasses made this one a no-go.

Here’s what I did. I found a recipe for homemade dry dish detergent here: http://www.stacymakescents.com/homemade-dishwasher-detergent

But I thought that having those nice little cubes (like Cascade comes in) would be even better. So I mixed up a batch with some boiled water (in place of distilled) and then poured it into a silicon mold to make cubes.

Ingredients: Homemade Dish Detergent


I had a bit of surprise when I added the hot water. The whole thing foamed like mad.

Foaming Washing SodaI let that settle down and poured into the mold.

Homemade Dish DetergentIt only took a day to dry, then:

Homemade Dish DetergentI was so proud of them, popped them into the washer and let it run! At first I thought it was ok, dishes were clean, glasses were ok. But then the second load…

Cloudy Glasses - Hard WaterI also discovered, when I “ran the numbers” that I was only saving 7 cents per wash over the cost of the Cascasde “pods” that I love. So, as my gamer-son would say “epic fail.” However, making them was fun, and a learning experience.

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If you’ve got suggestions or recommendations on how to make this project work, let me know by replying below.




Easiest Homemade Laundry Detergent

Lately I’ve been on a DIY kick and have been trying all kinds of home recipes for things, like Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent. And, I finally got a good soy yogurt recipe! more on that later.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to try making my own laundry detergent. I found some really cool looking pictures on Pinterest, but many of the recipes were far too complicated for me. I tend to be fairly lazy about things. I’ll do something complicated once (or a few times), but if it’s going  to become part of my routine, it HAS to be EASY.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Ingredients
Inexpensive and easy-to-find ingredients to make your own liquid laundry detergent.

Ok, so here goes. The basic proportions are from a recipe I found here: http://mymerrymessylife.com/2012/03/diy-homemade-laundry-detergent-cheap-and-green-free-printable-2.html

Because I wasn’t sure how my sensitive-skinned family would react, I made a much smaller first batch:

1/3 cup peppermint castile soap (can be any scent you like.)
1/4 cup washing soda
1/3 cup borax
1 gallon water

Mix it up (disolve dry ingredients in warm water before adding castile soap).

This yields a very mild and effective laundry detergent.

And here’s what I found when I “ran the numbers.”

ScreenShot815$1.75 to make a gallon of detergent, which comes out to about 2 cents per load of laundry at 1/3 cup of detergent per wash. Compared to Liquid Tide, which comes out to about 65 cents per load. Is it a huge savings, 62 cents per load? Well, not much until you add up a whole year worth of laundry for a family of four or more…

And it’s easy to do, with inexpensive, easy to find ingredients. No muss, no fuss, easy to mix, easy to use. I’m keeping it.




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How to stop Invasive Species – Fight back with Native Plants

Years ago, we were going for a hike at Saugatuck Falls in Redding, CT and I saw a woman covering parts of the forest floor with black plastic and pulling up plants. I must have given her a very quizzical look because she quickly informed me that she was removing an invasive species of plant. I recognized the plant and commented that it was also growing all over our neighborhood. This was my first exposure to knowledge of invasive species of plants.

Some of the prevalent invasive plants in my neighborhood are:

Invasive Plant: Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, hedge garlic)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, hedge garlic)


Invasive Plant Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress)
Invasive Plant Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress)
Invasive Japanese Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed by Muffet used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Multiflora-Rose-2 © homeredwardprice used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Nature Conservancy Site has some suggestions for how each of us can help stop the spread of invasive plants in our neighborhoods.

  • Verify that the plants you are buying for your yard or garden are not invasive.
  • Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives.
  • Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants!
  • Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
  • Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.

Why Grow Native Plants?

There are many advantages to growing native plants
in your yard. Since they’re adapted to the natural
ecosystem, they’re better able to withstand climate
changes and invasions from insects and diseases.
Natives require little care once established in your yard.
Native plants also are not invasive. They have evolved a
delicate balance with other plants, pests, and diseases
so they don’t overwhelm an ecosystem, but remain an
essential part of it. Because they’re so well adapted to
a specific region, they provide reliable food and shelter
to local wildlife, such as birds, mammals, and bees.


Sometimes I get a little freaked out by the sheer volume of invasive plants I see taking over. They tend to go places where people are not carefully watching… the roadsides, places where the soil has been disturbed (like construction sites). But then I remember the story of the Indian man who single-handedly planted a forest: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/indian-man-single-handedly-plants-a-1360-acre-forest and I feel that the steps I take month after month and year after year to replace invasive plant species with native plants will actually make a difference.


We all have a connection to Newtown now.

Last weekend, at my daughter’s gymnastics meet, I sat next to a very friendly woman and we began to chat. When she asked where our team was from and I answered “Newtown,” I braced myself for the sympathy, pity or whatever else might come up at the mention of our town. Instead of the pained expression so many people get when I say where we are from, she said “We moved to Connecticut from Newtown, Pennsylvania. So we have a connection to Newtown.”

Then she paused and said “I guess we all have a connection to Newtown now.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that. We all have a connection to Newtown now. Yes, we do: we must.

Sandy Hook Promise

This weekend is Mother’s day and once again, even for those of us who are a few degrees of separation from those who experienced the worst on December 14th, the pain is real and fresh and alive again and the tears are once again flowing.

I know there are many who say “It’s time to move on, it’s time to get back to ‘normal’ life.” And there is a part of me that understands that sentiment, but I also believe that if we try to forget and bury the shock and upset we will be not only dishonoring the memory of those children and educators, but also paving the way for more senseless violence.

The time to make a change is Now. And every one of us, everyone is capable of making a difference. Please don’t try to forget. Please don’t pretend that ‘normal’ is better. Find ways, big and small, where you can make a difference, where you can cultivate a culture of life. Please do all you can to prevent tragedies like December 14th from ever happening again. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the Moms. We owe it to our children.

Be the Ball?

Golf Balls by oatsy40, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  oatsy40 

My dear husband and I are long-time fans of the movie Caddyshack. Last night we were chatting about improving his golf drive…  and I joked that he should “be the ball.”

He replied, “What I really need to do is be the club. I’ve spent too much time being the ball.”

That got me thinking…. how much time in our lives do we spend being the ball instead of being the club? Being the object that’s “acted upon” instead of being the one who’s initiating the action? I know that sometimes I feel swept away by events, particularly lately with the tragedy on December 14th, the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Texas factory explosion and all the other “bad news” that’s surrounding us. As a young friend of mine put it “Why is there so much history being made now?”

Where in our lives can we decide to “be the club” and not allow our health and mental well-being to be swept away by the events of the world?  For me, I am deliberately turning off the main-stream news. I am taking more time to be quiet, to reflect, to pray. I am trying to find more ways to express kindness and compassion to those around me.

In the great golf game of life, I think it’s time to stop being the ball and start being the club.

What do you think?

Great Resources for Containers for Homemade Stuff

Where do you find: glass bottles for fermenting water kefir, bottles for shampoo or body oil, containers for body balm or powder or even cloth grocery bags that are not imprinted with a store logo?

Today’s post is my Go To List for containers. My container of choice for most things is the ubiquitous mason jar.

I use mason jars for salads, oatmeal, snacks and fruit. Also for sprouting beans and for the first ferment of water kefir. Lastly, I use mason jars for my body balm and body powder too.

The other kind of bottle I use are flip-top bottles for the second ferment of water kefir or homemade flavored vinegars, oils or liqueurs.

Specialty Bottle

I got these bottles from Specialty Bottle: http://www.specialtybottle.com/ I was very happy with their pricing, delivery was efficient and everything arrived in good condition.

I recently ordered a bunch of other bottles & jars for homemade body wash, shampoo, lip gloss (my daughter’s specialty), we also got a few spray bottles, some foaming hand-wash bottles (remind me to share my hand soap revelation) and bottles and reeds for DIY reed diffusers. Got the whole bunch from Container and Packaging Supply: http://www.containerandpackaging.com/. Great prices, no minimums, lots of variety, speedy shipment, great online chat; a couple of bottles broke en route, used the chat to report the trouble, replacements were on the way within a day.

ScreenShot965 (1)

The last thing wanted to mention, while it’s not related to bottles or jars, is a great place to get cloth grocery bags. I have been using cloth bags since before the grocery stores were selling their own “brand” of bag. These bags are sturdy, machine washable, perfectly sized and reasonably priced (they were less $ when I bought mine back in the 90’s). Added bonus: The Cloth Bag Company bags are USA made. http://www.clothbag.com/The_Cloth_Bag_Co./Home.html

What are your favorite resources for containers for homemade stuff?