Spring Clean

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I love that spring feeling seemed to come earlier this year, just as Mr. Punxsutawney Phil said! Here in New York City, we had a couple of days of surprise snow amidst balmier days ... March, in like a lion, out like a lamb.

Whenever I think of "spring cleaning," I think back to March/April days when I was in elementary school. I think we did most of our spring cleaning during my school spring breaks, which, back in elementary school, would have been mid-to-late April (usually close enough to my birthday that I'd worry about not being able to spend it with friends at school). Back then, it seemed as if Aprils were extremely mild and sunny, enough to be able to throw open our windows and let the fresh spring air circulate through our house. I don't think it's been warm enough to do that for years now, which is a real pity. But that's what I associate spring cleaning with.

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and already I'm excited about slowly cleaning the house. There's something particularly exciting about cleaning at this time of year, maybe equally exciting as cleaning the house just before the start of the new year, except it seems like less of a chore and more of an unburdening.

Here are some little and easy things you can do to clean, both the house and yourself ...

Baking soda and vinegar
Not to scare you (but to gross you out), but I heard that your kitchen sponge has about four times as much bacteria as your toilet. Yeah. In the past, my mother has used this mixture to unclog sinks and toilets, but I recently discovered that you can actually disinfect sponges with this mixture too. I tossed my dish scrubber into a mixture of equal parts baking soda and vinegar and let it soak for a couple of hours. All of the dark-colored gunk that had embedded itself in the nooks and crannies of the scrubber had magically disintegrated and the scrubber smelled a heck of a lot cleaner. It also seemed to absorb the soap better, which meant less dish soap was necessary to wash the dishes. Alternatively, you can microwave your sponge, but the image of a hot, soggy sponge (or would it dry up in the microwave) is utterly unappealing to me.

Coconut oil
You've probably heard the hype surrounding coconut oil by now ... I mean, if my father knows about it, it's probably been a big deal for some time. I originally bought some coconut oil to make my own lip balm with, but I read that it was a great conditioner, which I have tested and can verify. You melt down 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of solid coconut oil and massage it into your hair and scalp, put a shower cap on for an hour or two and wash it out and ... wow, the results were amazing. Better than any deep conditioner I've ever used, expensive or inexpensive. The results were longer lasting, too, and of course, it's completely chemical-free. I've also used it as a moisturizer, and I have loved it: it's both deliciously (albeit lightly) scented and creamy without being greasy. It dissolves into the skin and leaves an almost powdery/velvety feel to your skin, rather than sticky or oily.

If you can get your hands on the extra virgin type of coconut oil (Trader Joe's carries it in 1 lb. jars for only $5.99), it's said to be highly beneficial to your health. Along with being a fantastic moisturizer, it's also supposed to improve a whole plethora of ailments, including Alzheimer's Disease and memory loss. My father, who is quite old, claims that his mental acuity has improved since the inclusion of coconut oil in his diet. I haven't experienced anything of the sort yet, but perhaps it's more apparent in those whose memory loss has been compounded over the years? I haven't gotten around to cooking with it yet, but I have become very, very fond of spreading it onto my toast in lieu of butter. It tastes better than butter, if you ask me -- it has a really fragrant, light and nutty flavor. If only everything that was healthy tasted this good!

Household pests: fruit flies and ants
Do you get those pesky little fruit flies once the weather turns a little warmer? This easy method works wonders: mix 1 part water, 1 part fruit juice (or maybe a little more than 1 part) and a drop of dish soap into a cup and combine. Similarly, if you find that fruit flies have befriended your innocent plants, spray your plants with a mixture of water and dish soap (go light on the soap if you don't want to kill your plants). If it's ants that are invading your space, mixing a quart of water, a teaspoon of dish soap and a teaspoon of cooking oil. Spray directly on the ants -- this works almost immediately. Wish I had known when I was in Taipei!

I've moved on from yoga to the slightly more challenging Pilates, and it's been absolutely kicking my ass. I even started with a "beginner's workout." I gave Pilates a shot about 5 or 7 (or 10 ... time flies, is it really not 2003?) years ago with a bit of Mari Winsor and a woman named Kris. Mari's workouts scared me off, they really did. I decided to give it another go this year with Cassey Ho's YouTube workouts, which are shorter and slightly more fun. I couldn't move my hips for two days after the first workout, but there is (obviously) an immediate and noticeable difference in my body afterwards! I'm determined to conquer the workout and move onto Cassey's other workouts.

I'm not a big flowers person, but I do think they're nice every once in a while as a treat to someone or to yourself. They can be an inexpensive way to dress the house up and cheer yourself up (if you get your flowers from Trader Joe's, har har). Plus, spring just isn't spring without some flowers and greenery, is it?

Happy Spring!

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