Julianna Yu's Blog


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DIY Antibacterial Soft Scrub Cleanser

In late September, I was jumping around on DIY blogs and I ended up on One Good Thing By Jillie. I ADORE her blog. She’s got a ton of great posts and is just one of those blogs that I can probably spend an entire day browsing around laughing at her commentary and in complete awe over the wonderful and very useful ideas she’s sharing. When you’re done reading this post, seriously jump over to hers. It is full of DIY goodness, crafts, recipes, home remedies/solutions and more. The one that stuck out to me was the DIY cleaning solutions. Now, I’ve been using either a 50/50 vinegar-water spray or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda for cleaning most surfaces and a few quirts of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap in citrus in vinegar/hot water solution for mopping. However, I’ve been wanting to mix things up a little and wondered about whether I could combine my Dr. Bonner’s with baking soda. I didn’t think to take the plunge, until I came across Jillie’s soft scrub cleaner post (She got the recipe from Emily of Live Renewed)

Jillie’s post reminded me of my childhood. Specifically, memories of mixing up concoctions in the bathroom with my sister. We use to like taking lotion and mixing it with baby powder. It was exciting to watch the liquidy texture of lotion change to a stiffer paste with the addition of baking powder. It made us feel like we were creating something new, even though there wasn’t a purpose – that’s the whole point of playtime right? To just play.

I had an empty dish washing detergent bottle I washed and saved from the recycling bin and hadn’t yet given it a purpose yet. I just knew I wanted to use it somehow. This antibacterial soft scrub was it. I grabbed a mixing bowl and followed Jillie’s instructions to a T (except for the vinegar). I recently read about a common green cleaning mistake – not to mix vinegar with castille soap (yikes, I had been adding Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap to my vinegar/hot water solution for mopping – not anymore!). I felt like a kid again mixing away. Yes, making your own cleaning solutions can be fun. I made a double batch and used a funnel to fill the dish washing detergent bottle.

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I’ve used this in the tub, on the taps, in the sinks, counter tops and the door knobs. It left our bath tub shiny and I loved the scent as I washed it. It smells just like my yoga mat spray. So if you have ever used a yoga mat spray or tea tree oil, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The scent has really grown on me. 🙂

I’ve been making this about once a week for the past few months. I tried to make a triple batch and store it but I found the mixture would dry up and I’d need to add water to loosen it and I’d end up with globs of white stuff. That was fine. It still cleaned well but I just couldn’t get it to come out of the squeeze bottle without taking the top off.

If however, you want a more liquid solution, I’d recommend just making a batch or double and use within the week.

Do you have any homemade cleaning concoctions to share? What are your go to favourite green cleaning products? What do you use to clean your home?

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Switching to Greener Products

It’s taken me a while to publish this post because well there was the operation. Then recovery and then transitioning back to my “pre-op” life. Feels like the past year has been a whirlwind. This has been sitting in my draft queue waiting to be published but I’ve been editing it for months and am happy to finally publish it.

Today, I’m sharing about when and why I started changing what I use in my house and on my body. Huge topic right? 🙂 I’m still in transition as I haven’t changed everything and I will do my best to explain my journey so far.

The inspiration came from attending a Earth week lecture at work from a Naturopath in April 2011 on how to green your home. Yeah, April 2011. My biggest lesson taken from the Naturopath was that many of our household products had toxins that we could do without. Among them, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

In case you were wondering, I found these definitions on the David Suzuki Foundation website.

Parabens: a preservative used in widely in cosmetics. Although, it is an ingredient used in fragrances, they will not be disclosed on the label. It is easily absorbed in the skin and can act like estrogen. It has been found in breast cancer tissues and this finding suggests there could be a link between breast cancer and parabens in cosmetics.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): makes products bubble and foam. It is a known skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): is SLS but with the addition of ethylene oxide to make it less irritating. It has the same function as SLS, to make products bubble and foam. It is a known skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant.

Although it wasn’t the first time I heard about this topic on greener household products, I use to just think to myself someday… someday I’ll make the change. For some reason though it clicked for me during that lecture. I was buying products out of routine without giving much thought to what was actually in them and whether or not they were harmful for us.

I went home that day and took a look at everything I was using. It was an unsettling feeling that there was a lot that I needed to change. And it would’ve been easy to just give up. Change is never easy but often necessary. I decided instead I was going to replace a couple items right away starting with my deodorant and my shampoo. The operation was in a few weeks and I was worried about making too many changes at once.

That weekend I started researching alternatives and went to the health food store to purchase non-toxic alternatives. Just making the change can cause a bit of an uproar in your own mind. Ya know, the part of you wondering whether the change in routine, the time (spent researching, reading labels) and cost (buying new products to try out) is worth it. It was an especially time consuming task reading labels on the back of shampoo bottles during that first visit to the health food store to purchase shampoo and deodorant.

In recent months, my friend Cherry and I talked about brand and product loyalty. We both were very loyal to certain face care products, and as creatures of habit, we would continue to use and not question whether we should switch. Afterall, what would be the point in switching? Making the switch would involve giving up on your favourite go-to products and taking a chance on something new. We both had our own motivations for making the change but it’s been a lot of fun to have a friend who is making greener changes in her life. Check out lepetitshmily’s blog I really like her DIY moisturizer.

As you can see, making the switch to greener products is not an easy journey, there are lots of questions and concerns that pop up, there’s lots I’ve learned from other blogs and I always feel like there’s more to learn.

To support a petition to ban the worst chemicals and require disclosure in labelling, please sign this petition by Environmental Defense.

To find out what products in your home are toxic, check the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database by the Environmental Working Group.

To learn more about what’s in your makeup, check Environmental Defence’s Just Beautiful campaign.

Great links on this topic.

The Dirt on Toxic Chemicals in Household Cleaning Products by the David Suzuki Foundation

FAQ about chemicals in cosmetics by the David Suzuki Foundation

Why This Matters – Cosmetics and Your Health by Environmental Working Group

The Story of Cosmetics by The Story of Stuff (A great video on this topic)

Top Tips for Safer Products by Environmental Working Group

I’d like to hear from you. Have you switched to greener products? If, so what was your transition like and what motivated the change? What are your thoughts on going greener? Please share!


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Get That Oil Stain Out of Your Shirt

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was getting dressed and put on clean shirt only to find that a huge oil stain was on it. I thought crapshoot, I love this shirt! Am I going to have to toss it out? Then picked up another one – another one with oil stains. By the end of the week, I had 3 shirts. Three shirts I adored that I thought were destined for garbage.

It gets better. The third one…  I had attempted to save it (covering it in baking soda and massaging it in after work – suppose to absorb the oil) before I threw it in the wash and dried it. So, when I picked it up and noticed that the huge oil stain was still there. I was annoyed because that was one failed attempt. Of course, I can’t remember the origin of the oil stain, only that I remember trying to get it out while at work.

So, I decided to search for remedies online again and this time came across this easy remedy –  Dish washing detergent. YES! So simple right? Breaks down grease on our dirty dishes, so why not our clothes?

I just put a bit on the oil stains (shirts were dry) and rubbed it in and let it sit for about 30 mins then I scrubbed and rinsed it out with hot water before I added it to the regular wash and dried it. I got the stains out of all three. Hurray!

There you have it, how I saved three shirts and hope to save many more with a few drops of dish detergent.

Hoping you’ll remember this tip when you encounter oil stains on your clothes.

How do you get oil stains out of your clothes?

Have a great weekend!

 


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How To Get Rid Of Food Odour From Glass Jars

Buying food canisters from stores selling home supplies can get expensive. Ever since I read Rachel’s post in 2009 on how she uses glass jars in her kitchen. I was inspired to do the same thing.  It looked so beautiful and practical to display your food in jars.  I’ve become a glass jar lover and saver!! I was tempted to go on a hunt to buy glass jars but noticed I had soup and sauce jars I should probably use first.  I was previously obsessed with the soup jars I was buying by Sunflower Kitchen which Bernardin glass jars. In the past year or so, I’ve come across Ball glass jars on food blogs and DIY blogs and they aren’t available in Canada but I’d really like to get a few one day.

After buying lots of almond butter, spaghetti sauce soups in glass jars, I’ve accumulated lots of jars and have reused them to store pantry items.  However, one problem that I have after washing the jars in dish detergent and hot water is the remaining odour that is leftover.

After washing the jar with dish detergent, I normally use vinegar to get rid of the odour by adding it to the glass jar with hot soapy water closing the lid, flipping the jar over onto it’s lid and leaving it overnight. I’ve found this method to be fine with soup jars and nut butter jars.

However, for spaghetti sauce jars, I felt the spaghetti sauce smell was still detectable the next morning.  And I gave up and recycled them.

Recently, I’ve purchased spaghetti sauce from jars and wanted to have another try at getting rid of that sauce odour so I could repurpose these jars.

My many trials of getting that funky spaghetti sauce smell out of the lid. I’ve spent at least 2 weeks on and off trying out the below methods for a few jars.

1. Rinsed out the jar with hot water and scrubbed the lid and jar with hot water and dish detergent and let it dry.

2. Filled the jar with hot water, a bit of dish detergent and some vinegar and turned it on it’s lid. I left this for the whole day.

3. The odour was still detectable. I put baking soda on the inside of the lid and poured boiling on hot water on it. Let that sit for a bit while I filled the jar with hot water, baking soda and squeeze of fresh lemon and turned it on it’s lid. I left this for the whole day.

4. The odour was still detectable (just in the lid). So I rinsed the jars out and let it dry while I took the lids and put it in a bowl full of vinegar and just a bit of water.

5. Soaking in vinegar/hot water (50/50) then air dry lid off

6. Soaking in hot water with baking soda and vinegar then rinse and air dry lid off

7. Using lemon juice to coat inside of the lid then soak all day in hot water and rinse and air dry lid off

8. Using lemon rinds and rubbing the inside of each lid, then letting it air dry for the day.

9. Leaving all lids by the window sill, insides turned up to sunbathe for two days. I noticed that I could still smell a bit of tomato sauce after the first day.

After over 2 weeks, the smell is now gone. This was a long process. I think what I’ve learned is that it is best to tackle the lids separately from the jar itself. After, washing the jar and the lid. I’d leave the jar and just focus on the lid. After washing, I’d recommend putting a bit of baking soda and enough water so that the lid is full of this solution. Then rinse it out and try lemon juice and rubbing lemon rinds into the lid. Then rinsing that out and leaving it in the sun (or sunniest window sill) to dry for a couple of days.

I’ve heard about using coffee grinds and newspapers to absorb odour from the fridge but haven’t tried it myself.

How do you get rid of food odours from jars?


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Spring Decluttering

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.  ~William Morris

Spring makes me think of change, renewal, growth, bright colours, warm days, and decluttering. I’ve been decluttering about once a week since the start of May. With warm weather in full swing in Toronto, I am even more motivated to continue to declutter my belongings so I can spend more time enjoying the weather and other activities and less time on organizing my things. It takes a real effort to maintain an uncluttered space, but I think the rewards are worth the trouble. If we have less things we have greater appreciation for what we have and don’t have to spend a lot of time taking care them.

As a result of Rachel’s post, I clicked through on the link she refers to on why she declutters (so no one else will have to do it for her). It’s been a big motivator for me to declutter.

My approach to decluttering usually involves sorting my stuff into various piles: garbage, recycle, donate, give away to a someone I know, take action, and keep. I find putting on some music and knowing that you have a treat at the end of your decluttering session helps. The hardest part is starting but once I decide what my focus will be for the day (or a couple of hours) and take that first step, I’m usually okay. My tip would be pick a specific area or category to focus on and decide how long you’d like to spend working on it. I use timers to remind me of what time it is (I always lose track) and to keep me motivated on my progress.

Everyone will have their own personal definition for what in their home is considered clutter.  For me, it’s clutter if I am no longer using it and it just collects dust or if the item evokes negative memories or emotions.

Procrastination & Indecision.

I procrastinate with what to do with clutter all the time. That’s actually the biggest problem with clutter – procrastination. When we put off making decisions and decide we’ll just keep it and “figure it out later” or “keep it just in case”, we accumulate and the more frustrated we feel when we have to finally deal a pile of stuff. And we pay the price for it because we have to buy more storage bins, because our drawers/closets are exploding or full. It stresses me out. Put simply. It costs to keep stuff. As Rachel’s lovely post explains sometimes we don’t need more storage, we just need less things. I also like the rest of the post on reasons to keep clutter.

Every spring and fall, I get the urge to clear the clutter: paper, clothes, cards, books, gifts, misc. stuff. I’ve been working on decluttering for the past few weeks – a little bit each week. That’s been my preferred method – short focused sessions. I can’t imagine dedicating an entire day to it with the weather getting nicer I’d much rather be doing other things.

The biggest ones for me are probably paper and clothes. It’s easy to regularly go through my clothes during this time of year because I’m switching over to warmer weather clothing so I might as well take a look at what I want to give away. As for paper it’s because we constantly have an influx of papers coming into our homes. Although I rarely buy magazines, I haven’t broken up with junk mail yet so I have to be very diligent every week about going through the mail and recycling.

Paper Decluttering

My main goal was to go through my tote bags of unfiled mail/papers and my important files bin to shrink everything down to the essentials.

I went through a pile of unsorted papers/mail that I tossed into a tote bag and processed them. Everything was put into a few piles: shred, recycle, keep as is, scan & then shred.

For anything that I wanted to keep but no longer needed in physical form or not ready to permanently part with, I will be scanning saving them on my computer and onto Evernote.

To cut down on receiving mailed bank statements, I switched almost all of my banking statements to online and have set reminders to save monthly statements onto my computer. It’s been a big change for me but I’m excited to have less physical imcoming mail to deal with.

Not sure what to keep or toss? I enjoyed this post on what papers to keep and toss.

Clothing Decluttering

I didn’t feel like I had a lot of clothes to begin with so this wasn’t too hard. Before switching up my clothes for the season, I was going to declutter my cold weather clothes before putting them away and taking out my warmer weather clothing. I knew that I was going to have trouble letting go a few things – dress pants that I bought while in Taiwan when I was at my smallest waist size and then upon returning, I was not able to get into them and I still can’t. Buggers! Well, things could be worse.

I decided I’d give away clothes that were in good shape but either didn’t flatter me or didn’t fit. I’ve gone through almost all of my things and already have a small bag ready to donate. My goal was to only keep things that I love wearing and not to keep so many things “just in case”, I will need it or with hopes that I might fit into them one day.

After I finish these two areas, I’ll move on to other areas (pantry, photos, my inbox, books, electronics, appliances, other small items). Are you decluttering this spring? What are you working on?


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Decluttering & Freecyle

I found this while browsing online for clutter quote images. Thank you Amy from The Red Chair Blog for creating it. This quote is a good reminder of questions we should ask ourselves when going through our belongings. The last one in particular stands out because it makes you think of the kind of life you are envisioning for yourself and not just your current situation. Now, on to the rest of the post. 

A year after I graduated, I was on a mission to declutter my life from things that were taking up room in my home that served no real purpose for me anymore. I went through every category of stuff: books/textbooks, past school notes and file bins, financial statements, clothing, souvenirs, stationary, hobbies/crafts, cards/letters/notes, and gifts/purchases that were not being used/loved.

As I went through my stuff, it was easiest to focus on things to give away first. I used Craigslist to try to sell a few items that were brand new but decided in the end I just wanted these out of the house asap without having to coordinate meetups so I donated the rest to Goodwill.

In my research on where to donate items, I came across an non-profit organization called Freecycle. Freecycling allows you to give away things or ask for things from other members for free. It sounded like a really good idea to me and I’ve been a Freecycle member since then.

My only giveaway so far on Freecyle was my four sandwich toaster (A toaster that toasts 4 sandwiches at once). My sister meant very well when she got me one because she knew I loved toasted sandwiches. I had shared with her a childhood memory of being blown away when I saw someone’s sandwich toaster in action. I saw my friend place a whole sandwich into this toaster, press down and her sandwich came out toasted with the ends sealed – the crusts of the sandwich flatten and essentially seal the sandwich (like a pocket).

I should’ve been thrilled when I saw my gift but a part of me was afraid I wouldn’t use it. And that’s what happend. I used it only once – right after she bought it for me and then I never used it again. It was big and I only ever made one sandwich at a time. I also felt like when I was at home, the last thing I actually wanted to eat was a sandwich, I’d much rather eat well…anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a hot sandwich, I would just rather have something more substantial.

I decided the only reason I was keeping the sandwich toaster was because it was a gift, but I would never use it. So I called my sister to explain that although it was a great gift idea, I wasn’t using it and I’d rather give it to someone that will. She was fine with it, so I didn’t feel guilty.

I remember meeting a Freecycler dad to give away my sandwich toaster, he said he was thrilled to be able to use it for his daughters who had been asking for one. It felt really good to give it away to someone knowing it was going to be used and enjoyed rather than sitting in a box in my home.

My first request on Freecyle was for ramekins. I wanted to make flan and I just fell in love with the idea of having beautiful white ramekins to bake them in. I would see them in stores but would hesitate about buying because I was afraid that I wouldn’t use them. I decided I’d try asking for this on the Freecycle board and a lady responded to my post. When I met her she said she was happy to give them away because she was no longer using them.

This was a big decluttering project and it was a good reminder that I should regularly purge so that it doesn’t become so overwhelming and time consuming. Ever since, I’ve been doing it at least twice a year.

What are your thoughts on clutter? Do you regularly purge your home of things you no longer want/need?


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How To Make Your Own Yoga Mat Spray

DIY Yoga Spray

Several years ago, I bought my yoga mat when I enrolled in Pilates classes.  I ended up doing it on and off for two years. Since then, I’ve used it for my body conditioning class and yoga classes. In most instances, I would just use the spray at the studio to wipe down my mat after use. For heavy duty washing, I would wash it in the tub with vinegar and a bit of dish detergent.

Our mats get a lot of use but we don’t always have time for a heavy duty wash in the tub. I wanted to try my hand at making my own spray though so I could wipe it down between uses and heavy duty washes. I knew it must be easy to do and would probably be better value then buying those bottled yoga mat sprays. And it’s just cool to know I made it myself. I didn’t actually take any action to find out how people make these sprays until last year. I have a tendency to get really excited about something – buy all the ingredients or tools, then put it on the backburner b/c life gets busy and I get distracted by new ideas. 😦  Anyone else guilty of this? 🙂

Last year, I searched online for a recipe and came across this Apartment Therapy post (love this site!!). This past winter, I bought a dollar store plastic spray bottle and filled it with water and a few drops of tea tree oil. I also purchased lavender oil and peppermint oil with intentions of making this spray but I decided I’d hold off until I tried the plain tea tree first.

This past weekend, I decided to finally make the first recipe (peppermint, lavender, tea tree and water) on Apartment Therapy.  I just filled the spray bottle with the oils, filled it with water and gave it a shake. It only took about a minute and smells pretty amazing too.

If you’re interested in the recipe, hop over to this Apartment Therapy post, there are two recipes but I made Recipe #1.

Do you make your own yoga mat spray? How do you make yours?