Don’t Forget to Clean These Household Items

clean goldie

Regardless of how diligent your cleaning routine is, there are probably at least several items in your house that may be in need of some elbow grease. While we can’t entirely eradicate germs from our homes, it is important to clean these often-overlooked items to ensure the health of our households.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are certainly good for the environment, but they could compromise your health. According to a recent study, 97 percent of consumers never wash their bags. About 50 percent of the bags tested contained coliform (fecal) bacteria, and 12 percent contained E. coli.

Washing them after each use is the key to stopping contamination from vegetables or raw meat. Cloth bags can go directly into the washer and dryer, and recycled plastic bags can be wiped down with hot soapy water or treated with a disinfectant spray. Researchers also advise using each bag for only a single purpose—carrying raw meat, carrying vegetables, transporting laundry, or as a miscellaneous shopping tote.


Your shower is a place you go to get clean, not to pick up germs, but… a study at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that 30 percent of showerheads tested positive germs that can cause lung infections, in addition to other bacteria and fungi.

Since some microbes may be resistant to chlorine, the best way to clean a showerhead is to soak it in a diluted vinegar solution and then scrub the deposits away with an old toothbrush. Plastic showerheads are more prone to bacterial buildup than metal ones, so people with compromised immune systems are advised to consider switching if necessary.

Computer Keyboards

Did you know that your computer keyboard could harbor five times as many bacteria than the average toilet seat? Bacteria that include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), E. coli, and staph.

First, eliminate dirt and crumbs using a vacuum cleaner or compressed-air canister, and then use a solution of diluted dishwashing detergent or isopropyl alcohol to swab down the keys with cotton balls or cotton swabs. (Make sure you disconnect the keyboard first.) Repeat these steps with the mouse and any remotes in your home. (Remember to remove any batteries first.)


In addition to lending warmth to your rooms, drapes and curtains are a magnet for dust mites, pet hair, mold, dander, and debris of all kinds. If someone in your house suffers from indoor allergies, cleaning the curtains regularly can help reduce allergen buildup. Simple panel curtains can usually be washed and dried at home and then steamed to release wrinkles. There are certain types of draperies you should take to a dry cleaner or other cleaning professional, including lace curtains, designs with embroidery or appliqué, those with pleats or complicated fabric construction, and draperies that are too big to fit into your washing machine.

In between washings, vacuum curtains with a hose and brush attachment at least once a month to prevent debris from building up.

Trash Cans

Given that the kitchen is usually the dirtiest room in the house (yes, even dirtier than the bathroom) it’s no surprise that trash cans can become laden with germs. The can itself comes into contact with all manner of germ-infested items – dirt, dust, old food, raw meat, decomposing vegetables, moldy leftovers, cat litter, etc.

Clean the trash cans at least twice a month to prevent the spread of germs like E. coli, salmonella, trichinosis, and simple cold and flu bugs. Small pails can go into the dishwasher; wash large cans with hot water and a mild bleach solution or with a product designed for pet messes, which contain enzymes to break down bacteria.


While not a pleasant fact, studies consistently show that over 90 percent of shoes carry traces of fecal bacteria on the soles. After washing, you may consider leaving shoes at the door.

Vacuum mats with fabric tops before washing to remove dust and loose dirt; you can wash rubber-backed mats in the washing machine. The easiest way to clean any doormat is to spray it down with a garden hose or use the pressure washer at a car wash, using a small amount of soap or detergent. Allow the mat to air-dry completely before putting it back into service.

Toothbrush Holder

clean tooth

This one is often overlooked by even diligent cleaners. Toothbrush holders can quickly get moldy and gross, especially since it’s drenched in a warm water a few times a day. Depending on what it’s made of, you can either throw it in the dishwasher for a good cleaning or clean it with a microfiber cloth and solution.

Pillows and Duvets

You probably clean your pillow cases and sheets, but what about the pillows themselves? Though home to dust mites, dead skin cells, and more, most pillows can be machine-washed and –dried – just make sure to check the label first! S

Set the washer on the gentle cycle and wash the pillows in hot water with a mild detergent. You can throw two regular-sized pillows in together to keep the load balanced, but you should really only wash one king-sized pillow at a time. Put them through the rinse cycle twice to get the soap out, and place them in the dryer with two clean tennis balls on low heat.

Ceiling Fans

Wipe down the blades regularly with a duster or a damp microfiber cloth to prevent dust from swirling around in the air.

Bathroom Exhaust Fan – If you have one of these in your bathroom, you might not realize how dusty and dirty it gets over time. Remove the vent and wash it with warm soapy water regularly to keep it squeaky clean.

A/C and Heating Vents – Just like your bathroom exhaust fan, it’s a great idea to clean these vents frequently. In addition to creating a cleaner home environment, you’ll also help improve the efficiency to your system!

Are there any other overlooked harbors for germs that you would like to add?



Why Air Fresheners Stink

air fresh

The sense of smell is strongly linked to memories and emotions. Even if your grandmother’s house never smelled like fresh-baked apple pie, surely such a fragrance would add warmth and comfort to your own home. Or the smell of freshly laundered linen drying in the sun would be a lovely scent to return home to in the evenings…or maybe not.

Air fresheners rely on certain chemical agents that, when atomized and inhaled, are capable of blocking our smell receptors, hindering our ability to detect odor. Other air fresheners coat our nasal passages with an oily film, and many still just cover up the original odor with better-smelling scents.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most store-bought air fresheners consist of formaldehyde, petrochemicals, p-dichlorobenzene and aerosol pollutants. The agency’s “Indoor Guide to Air Quality” also notes that air fresheners “release pollutants more or less continuously.”

Despite advertisements that constantly tell us otherwise, a clean home really shouldn’t smell like anything. Below are some natural tips to rid your home of any malodors and add some pleasing scents without harming your health.

Open windows daily to let some fresh air into your home. This will make everything smell cleaner and fresher.

Eliminate odors in your home by preventing dampness and installing extraction fans to remove moisture from kitchens and bathrooms.

Vinegar, baking soda and fresh lemon are inexpensive but effective deodorizers for a fresh, natural smell.

Remove any unwanted odors by bringing 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar to boil and letting it simmer for 30 minutes.

Boil ground coffee (1 cup of water and 2 tablespoon of coffee) on the stove and let the rich aroma of coffee infuse your home. Alternatively, you can simmer cinnamon sticks in a pot of water for a warm, spicy smell.

If you prefer to use candles to add a nice scent to your home, choose those that are made from pure beeswax and pure essential oils.

Plants and greenery provide natural scents, purify the air, and add oxygen to your home. Check out this list of ten powerful houseplants that help filter pollutants.

How do you keep your home smelling fresh without chemicals?


Ways to Make Your NEXT Thanksgiving More Meaningful

Now that it’s over, do you feel like you made the most of it?  Did you enjoy the love of family and friends and remember all of the reasons that you are thankful?  Long after the stove is off, you’ll feel the warmth of love and gratitude when you try these ideas at Thanksgiving.

Sure, the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie might be the stars of the show, but we all know it’s really our loved ones who make Thanksgiving special. Really embrace the spirit of the holiday next year by adopting a new tradition that highlights gratitude, giving and community (and have fun doing it). Here are 10 fresh ideas to try next turkey day — and perhaps for many more years to come.

contemporary dining room by Shannon Malone
1. Create a banner you can use year after year. Use what you have in the house to create a gratitude banner to decorate your dining room on Thanksgiving. Here are a few ways to do it, depending on the materials you have:

    • Cut and sew letters from fabric scraps onto fabric tape.
    • Cut out letters from wallpaper samples or oilcloth, and sew them onto grosgrain ribbon.
    • Glue letters cut from pretty gift wrap onto cardstock for strength, punch holes in the tops and tie them onto ribbon or twine.
    • Cut out pages from an old book and use stencils to paint a letter onto each page, then staple the pages onto twine.

contemporary entry by Wilson & Company Ltd

2. Display the year in photos. Take the time to collect your favorite photos of family, friends and adventures over the past year and display them in the entry hall on Thanksgiving. You can have multiple photos made into oversize posters — add one more each year if you make it a tradition.

Or tape up a quick family tree on the wall using photographs and Japanese masking tape (which is easily removed) as the branches.
3. Invite someone who doesn’t have a place to go. Whether it’s a work colleague or a friend of a friend, if you hear of someone who won’t be able to go home this Thanksgiving, invite him or her to your home to share this special meal. It can really make a difference for the person you invite; besides, the more people are squished around the table, the more fun the dinner usually is.

4. Send gratitude notes to friends and family far away. Sending gratitude notes for Thanksgiving would be such a welcome surprise for loved ones who can’t be at the table with you. Of course, this being the digital age, you could also send an e-card, call them on Skype or use whatever method works for you. The point is to connect.

traditional kitchen by Murphy & Co. Design

5. Share the bounty. Before the holiday comes, take stock of your own good fortune and see if you can afford to donate a few bags of much-needed food to your local food bank or soup kitchen.

I recommend calling in advance to see what they really need. I also know families who choose to volunteer serving food or washing dishes at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, so if that is something you are interested in, why not give it a try next year?

6. Share your family’s treasured recipes. If you always make a favorite dish that’s been passed down through your family, this year take the time to copy it out on cards to give guests, along with the story behind it.

contemporary accessories and decor by Paper Source

7. Make a gratitude tree. Using wooden leaves like the ones shown here or paper leaves you cut yourself, encourage guests to note something they are grateful for on a leaf, then clip the leaves with clothespins to bare branches in a tall vase.
8. Invite friends into the kitchen to help cook.  If you are one of those cooks who takes on the entire Thanksgiving feast on your own, I beg you to reconsider this year — even if only a little. Assign family and friends kitchen duties you know they can handle, and everyone will feel more useful and have more fun.
9. End the day outside.Take a walk, play football or sit around an outdoor fire with a final glass of wine. After all of that cooking and eating indoors, it feels lovely to step out into the crisp air.
10. Share the feast with the birds. Try making a classic DIY bird feeder from an apple rolled in peanut butter and birdseed. This is a

great activity to keep kids busy while the grown-ups are cooking — then you can send them outside to place their treats around the yard for birds or squirrels to find.
What are your favorite Turkey Day Traditions?  Let us know!
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Sandy Support

"Justin Timberlake"

Justin Timberlake brought “Sexy Back“… now he’s bringing volunteering back as he helped unload boxes full of supplies to help Hurricane Sandy victims in Far Rockaway, NY on Saturday.  Timberlake isn’t the only celeb rolling up his sleeves to assist in relief efforts.

Pop singer Rihanna has donated 1,000 sleeping bags to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts through the New York Daily News.

The singer is also hosting a listening party for her new album Unapologetic at the 40/40 Club in New York on Friday, and fans are being asked to bring supplies like diapers, coats and blankets in order to gain admission.

"lady gaga"

“Today I pledge 1 million dollars to New York & The American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy Relief. If it wasn’t for NYC: the Lower Eastside, Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn, I would not be the woman or artist that I am today,” wrote Lady Gaga.

LISTEN – Lady Gaga Shares Song “No Floods” in Wake Of Hurricane Sandy

She continued, “New York is relentless ambition, a drive to succeed, a place where there is a natural pursuit of diversity through compassion. Please accept this gift on behalf of myself, my parents Joe and Cynthia, and my sister Natali; with our deepest gratitude New York for raising us.”

Hurricane Sandy has caused massive destruction and dislocation along the East Coast of the United States and extensive flooding in the Caribbean. Both regions have experienced significant damage from Hurricane Sandy; hundreds of thousands have been left homeless, and even more are struggling to access basic necessities.  You don’t have to be famous or rich to help.  The American Red Cross is offering shelter, clothing, supplies, food and blood to Hurricane Sandy victims and if you’d like to donate $10 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, text the word REDCROSS to 90999 or you can call 800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). To donate blood, visit the Red Cross website to find a location (via NBC News).  If you have a closet filled with canned goods, find a Sandy Relief donation place and drop them off.

Donate it FRESH


The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is an emergency food assistance agency that serves an average of 119,000 people each month. Last year, they distributed more than 17 million meals to hungry families across the Blue Ridge. Working with partner agencies to distribute food throughout the counties they serve, the Food Bank is dependent on them to collect foods that will sustain those in need in our area.

Partners at the Church of Our Saviour’s (COOS) west of Charlottesvillework very hard to collect nutritious and delicious foods to distribute. They have been requested that folks who have gardens bring their excess produce over to the church and donate it, as fresh vegetables are VERY expensive to purchase and contain many of the nutrients needed for a healthy body.

Linda Broadbent, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III REALTOR and enthusiastic volunteer for the Church of Our Saviour Food Bank project stated “The other volunteers and I serve about 80-110 households per month from our Food Closet. We are here for those in need 3 days a week.” “We have a new initiative at COOS this year,” continued Broadbent, “to distribute fresh vegetables for our visitors. We are asking our church members and people from the community who have extra items from their garden to donate to our Food Closet for distribution in our bags.” “Fresh foods and items like peanut butter and cereal are so important to these folks,” Broadbent said. “They need the protein and vitamins and, unfortunately, the foods that are best for our health are normally more expensive.”

”The people who come to our Food Closet are SO very grateful for what they receive,” said Broadbent. “Times are tough and often the support of the community is quite helpful.”

The food bank is a bulk supplier to local churches or organizations, such as the Salvation Army, that operate food pantries and soup kitchens. The food bank also helps schools distribute snacks to kids and individuals, who can go directly to the food bank one time. There they’ll receive about 62 pounds of food for a family of four, help applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps, and a list of nearby pantries and kitchens.

Through those outlets from Charlottesville to Lexington and Winchester, the food bank expects to distribute 18 million pounds of food this fiscal year. That’s nearly double the amount of two years ago and translates into 1.8 million meals in the Charlottesville area alone.

“When it comes to clients,” adds the food bank’s Director of Communications Ruth Jones, across its entire region, “we’ve seen the clients go from about 65,000 to 70,000 people served each month, to 83,000 to 90,000 people each month. Over the next few months, we expect to serve close to 100,000 people in one month’s time.”

If you would like to donate food items, stop by the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (MAP) or the Church of Our Saviour  (MAP).  Your donations are tremendously appreciated!


Tour de Charity

Our 23rd annual Tour de Vine took place this past weekend in the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fully supported 25-, 50-, 75-, and 100-mile bike tours along with overnight activities ranging from wine tasting to live music. Cyclists not only face the challenge of the course, but together they fight the challenges of their friends, family and co-workers living with multiple sclerosis.  The sponsorships for their tour go to MS research and the Tour de Vine itself raises awareness of MS and it’s affect on those afflicted.

Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made

up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease.  The National MS Society is a collective of passionate individuals who want to do something about MS now—to move together toward a world free of multiple sclerosis. MS stops people from moving. They exist to make sure it doesn’t.

They’re an increasingly common sight on country roads: packs of cyclists, often wearing matching jerseys advertising their favorite charity, pumping out the miles in pursuit of some good cause.  Helped by cycling’s rising popularity, there are rides in every part of the country. Tens of millions of dollars have been generated for the fight against cancer, diabetes, heart and stroke disease, multiple sclerosis and myriad other causes.

Cycling is the on-trend activity,” Paul Alofs, president and CEO of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. “Cycling is the new golf.”  Mr. Alofs, who was gearing up to participate over the weekend in Ride to Conquer Cancer, during which nearly 5,000 riders raised $18.1-million for the foundation, said the event started in response to research showing a noticeable growth of riders.  It’s a trend seen across the country.

Some attribute it to the Lance Armstrong effect, arguing that the seven-time Tour de France winner helped popularize the sport in North America. Others believe it is driven by boomers seeking a lower-impact activity than running. Whatever the reason, numerous charities have benefited from the new popularity, the biggest of them raising millions each.

In a twist that lets rider keep raising funds in the fall, when weather become iffier, the Ride for Diabetes Research is done inside on spinning bikes indoors. With more than 22,000 participants at locations across the country last year, the events raised more than $7.2-million. They are aiming for $7.9-million this year.

And more than 10,000 people are expected to participate this year in the 22 one- or two-day MS Bike Tour events taking place nationwide between this month and September.

To find out more about bike riding for charity, visit

Support For Happy Days

This is not a LOCAL story, but is an interesting one just the same.  Ever wonder if TV or Movie Stars use their popularity and bank accounts to help those in need?  Many do.  The one I will mention today is really COOL!  Aaaaaay!  Henry Winkler – AKA “the fonz” is a huge supporter of charitable causes… notably, raising awareness for a fairly unknown disease that afflicted his own mother – Upper Limb Spasticity.

Today’s Caregiver magazine and, the nation’s foremost print magazine and Web community educating, training and supporting family and professional caregivers since 1995, will present the Robert M. Barg Memorial Achievement Award to actor, director, author and producer, Henry Winkler during the May 24th Western Connecticut Fearless Caregiver Conference in Southbury, Connecticut.

“This prestigious award has only been presented to a select few caregiver advocates in the organization’s 17 year history who represent a special brand of kindness and advocacy and whose hard work truly makes a difference in the lives of those in need,” said Gary Barg, founder and editor-in-chief of the first national magazine for caregivers, Today’s Caregiver magazine,, and the Fearless Caregiver Conferences.  Prior recipients of the Robert M. Barg Memorial Achievement Award include Debbie Reynolds, Clay Aiken, Della Reese, Robert Urich, Leeza GibbonsClay Walker, Patricia Richardson and Linda Dano.

Legendary “Happy Days” star Henry Winkler  is the ambassador for the “Open Arms: Raising Awareness of Upper Limb Spasticity” educational campaign which aims to reach those who are impacted by upper limb spasticity and don’t know where to turn for help. Winkler is personally familiar with the impact that upper limb spasticity can have on a person. His late mother struggled with the condition, without treatment, for 10 years following a stroke before she passed away.

From Actor to Caregiver  –  Henry Winkler

To many of you reading this, my mother’s experience with upper limb spasticity will be sadly familiar.

I had always known my mother to be a busy bee, full of life and a force of nature – that’s who she was. Even in her later years, my mother kept very active – whether it was her regular card games with friends, organizing and participating in events at her synagogue or just even driving around town, doing her daily errands, she was always on the move.

However, things pretty much ground to a halt after she began to experience upper limb spasticity after she had a stroke. Her arm became tight, involuntarily stuck close to her body, which severely limited her ability to get around on her own. Soon her upper limb spasticity became so problematic that my sister and I, as well as her other caregivers, had to help her with the simplest of tasks – tying her shoes, helping her get dressed and eating.

My mother struggled with upper limb spasticity for 10 long years before she passed. Unfortunately, there was so much less known about upper limb spasticity back then. Today, not only do we have a better understanding of upper limb spasticity, we also know more on how to manage the condition.

Sadly, there continues to be low awareness and under-diagnosis of the condition. The problem is that upper limb spasticity can come on months, and sometimes even years after the original injury – sometimes after patients are out of the hospital and are no longer seeing specialists, like neurologists or physiatrists, who see the condition on a regular basis and are specifically trained to manage and treat it.

That’s why I chose to become an Ambassador of the “Open Arms” educational campaign. I’ve joined forces with this incredible team of national patient advocacy groups and Allergan, the maker of BOTOX® (onabotulinumtoxinA), to raise awareness for upper limb spasticity and let people know that upper limb spasticity treatment options are available. Seeing what my mother went through, I feel I owe it to others with the condition to do what I can to help.