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DIY Counter-top Cleaner

Many friends have asked me to share my recipe for homemade counter-top cleaner recently, so I thought this would be a good time to re-post. If you have made a resolution to use safer, more natural cleaning products in the new year, this is a great place to start.

This solution can be used on all types of counter-top surfaces – granite, quartz, ceramic tile. It’s even safe enough for marble.

Granite, marble, and many other types of counter surfaces are porous and require a special type of cleaner. Do not use vinegar or any citrus-based cleaner on your stone counter-tops. Both are too acidic for porous surfaces. Over time, they will dull and scratch your beautiful stone. (Also DO NOT use Windex on granite –Β  it strips the counter of it’s sealant).

There are plenty of safe, natural counter cleaners available for purchase (Method and Howard’s Naturals are two I like), but I haven’t found a granite cleaner for under $8 anywhere.

I like to clean my counter tops A LOT, so I went looking for something homemade – simple, safe, effective and cheap.

I didn’t create this recipe, but I did revise slightly. I grabbed it from a site called Mama Cheaps. Here is that recipe along with my modifications:

  • 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol or vodka (both natural disinfectants)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 6 drops of dish detergent
  • 4-5 drops of essential oil (to make it smell pretty)

I prefer vodka to rubbing alcohol because it has no odor. Vodka of the Gods from Trader Joe’s is my vodka of choice- it’s TJ’s cheapest brand. One bottle ($9.99) lasts for over a year of cleaning – makes 16 bottles of cleaner! A fraction of the $8-$10 per bottle for store-bought cleaner.

I use a variety of essential oils – peppermint, lavender, orange. These oils are a bit expensive but each bottle lasts for years and years. You can mix and match them to create your own custom scent.

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This recipe, an empty spray bottle (you can even reuse your store-bought bottle) and a soft cloth is all you need to keep your counters sparkling clean and disinfected – at a fraction of the cost!

Cheers to a healthy and happy 2017! And if it can’t be either of those, it can at least be clean, right?

When School Shopping Goes Bad

(This post originally appeared on OC Family on August 29, 2013)

I recently went back-to-school shopping with my kids, who will both be in Jr. High this year. Hold me.

How can my kids be that old? How am I going to handle two with the raging tween/teen hormones? When did this happen? How did this happen? (wait, don’t answer that)

Don’t get me wrong, I actually love the ages they are right now. They are funny, and interesting, and opinionated and smart, and finally laugh at my jokes – well, not all of them but at least a few. Also, I can leave them home for short periods of time. I don’t have to drag two kids around with me everywhere I go this summer. Freedom!

Except when I take them back-to-school shopping. For that, they need to come along to offer their opinions – and boy, they have no shortage of those.

I remember fondly the days of grade school.

Those days they would sit together in that over-sized shopping cart – the one that sort of feels like you are pushing a Zamboni around the store – while I loaded the cart with all the items I picked out for them (organic cotton shirts – fine, recycled paper – great, organic shampoo and hand sanitizer – no problem) and our shopping trip went more like this,

“Put that down.”

“Stop touching your sister.”

“No you can’t unbuckle and run around the store…Wait, come back here!”

And while those days were challenging for many reasons, I appreciate that when shopping, I was free to choose and purchase any items that I wanted. They pretty much went with the flow.

Now, it’s all changed. Back-to-school shopping has become an endless series of negotiations.

My daughter Emma asks, “Mom, can I have this notebook?” I answer, “How about this one, it’s made from recycled paper?” She responds, “Yes, but this one is turquoise.”

Over in the makeup aisle, Emma says “Mom can I have this Revlon lipstick?” I respond (not even looking at it) “No.”

She finds another brand I’ve never heard of, “How about this one?” She hands it over and I read the label, “The first ingredient is petroleum. Put it back.”

Not one to give up easily, Emma finds a third and says “What about this EOS lip gloss? You said it was okay last time.” Giving in, I say “Okay, that one.”

This endless series of negotiations lasted through pencils (they want the mechanical ones with the plastic outsides instead of regular biodegradable wood ones), pens (the giant pack of colored ones we don’t really need), binders (do those have PVC in them or not? I can’t tell).

I was at the point of exhaustion when this exchange happened:

Emma: “You know, Ellis (my son) is going to need deodorant for his PE locker. We need to get an extra one for him.”

Ellis: “Mom, can I please, please have some regular deodorant? I promise I’ll still wear the natural one at home, but I don’t want the other boys to make fun of me at school.”

So right there, in the middle of Target, I had an I-really-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing mom moment.

Balancing on the one hand, wanting to protect my kids from chemicals and do the best I can to raise them in a healthy environment. On the other hand, concern about my son, off to a new school where very few of his friends are going – off to the world of Jr. High, and changing for P.E. and tall boys who look closer to men than to anything resembling my son.

Ultimately I said “Yes, let’s pick out some regular deodorant to put in your locker.” I cringed and he smiled.

At the end of our shopping trip, Emma said “Mom, we’ll load everything on the check-out counter. Don’t worry. We got this.” And Ellis smiled. And I got suspicious.

As I glanced over, I saw that they had conspired to hide a big bottle of Dr. Pepper under our items when I wasn’t looking. I picked it up and handed it right back to them. They knew it wasn’t going to happen. But they got a good laugh out of it and so did I.

So I admit, sometimes I’m not a very good “green mom”. I let them get the turquoise binder, and the regular deodorant, and the giant container of colored pens that they really don’t need. But I do know that I am a good mom – and Jr. High will require some balance and compromise on both sides. Peer pressure will be powerful, but I hope that I’ve said things enough times in enough different ways, that they will remember my words later, in the key moments when they need to make good decisions.

Well, that and I made them put back the Dr. Pepper.

Teeth Whitening at Newport Center Smile Design

(This post was originally published on OC Family on November 18, 2014)

I recently looked in the mirror and noticed that my teeth are not quite the shade of white that I remember or want them to be. And I show my teeth – a lot. I’ve been called “horse teeth” on more than one occasion. I don’t even mind anymore. I embrace my huge smile, but the yellowing of my teeth over time (thank you coffee and red wine) – I do not love so much.

I have been thinking about whitening my teeth for some time now, but was a little unsure about the process – “is it safe? will it work?”. I didn’t know what to do – over the counter strips, in office procedures, the “au-natural” solutions (activated charcoal anyone?).

After a bit of research, I found that the safest, most-effective way to whiten your teeth is to have it done by a professional dentist. In-office whitening takes place under carefully monitored conditions which allow for the safe, controlled, pain-free use of a relatively high concentration of bleaching gel – yielding results that are visible immediately. Additionally, gum and tooth sensitivity (formerly drawbacks to in-office bleaching) are more controllable today due to thicker peroxide gels (that don’t soak into the teeth as much as previous gels) and the use of desensitizers such as potassium nitrate and fluoride.

With that information in-hand, I recently visited the offices of K. Douglas Barker, DMD of Newport Center Smile Design for the Philips Zoom teeth whitening procedure.

On the day of the procedure, I was still a little nervous and unsure about what to expect. I was quickly put at ease when I met Dr. Barker. He has a wonderful “chair-side” manner. He let me know exactly what to expect and how long the procedure would take.

Dr. Barker and staff quickly got to work on my smile. The first step was to apply a barrier to protect my gums. Next, the teeth whitening gel is applied. It remained on my teeth for 20 minutes.

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That gel is then removed and another is applied along with the light. This takes another 20 minutes.

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After that, just rinse and you are done. The whole procedure takes under an hour. Your teeth continue to whiten over the next 48 hours. In addition to the office whitening, Dr. Barker sent me home with some whitening trays to use the following day. There is an upper and lower tray. The at-home procedure only took about 15 minutes.

So, in just over an hour, I had significantly whiter teeth.

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The results are even more pronounced in person. I am very happy with my brighter, whiter smile.

Dr. Barker doesn’t just offer teeth whitening. His practice, Newport Center Smile Design, is a true full-service dental facility. A family practice that treats patients of all ages, their services include:Β  general and restorative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, Opalescence and Zoom teeth whitening, Invisalign, full implants and implant restorations, endodontic treatment and periodontal care.

Originally from Florida, attending dental school in NYC, Dr. Barker recently relocated to Southern California with his wife Heather, and is here to stay. His office in Newport Beach was occupied by the previous dentist (who recently retired) for 30 years. Dr. Barker wants to do the same in that location! He is here to stay and serve his patients in the Orange County area.

I like the fact that Dr. Barker sees only one patient at a time, so each person can get the attention he or she deserves. His office uses digital radiography, which reduces the amount of radiation exposure, and an intraoral camera, which allows for improve diagnostics and shows patients exactly what is going on in their mouth. Plus, Dr. Barker wears the cutest bow ties ever!

If you are looking for a family dentist who is knowledgeable, personable, and conveniently located in Orange County for the long-run, Dr. Barker would be an excellent choice.

Dr. Barker can help you and your family take care of those pearly whites, and make them even whiter – safely, effectively, and in under an hour. Thank you Dr. Barker for making these horse teeth shine again!