Monday, November 28, 2011

A list of one for December

An interesting Japanese concept.
The art of making the subtlest changes as possible.
It is not about the grand gesture.
It is about producing real and lasting change:
However small.

December is big. It is full. It is the big 4th of July firework finale at 10pm. Our days are full of decorating, cooking, shopping, wrapping, celebrations, cards, phone calls, cleaning before company and hopefully a couple cat naps. December is the last month of this year. The month of catchup before we start again next year.

I like the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Making the smallest most subtlest little change for lasting and real results. What if we took this understated concept to the month of December? Instead of creating a big list of ways to create a beautiful holiday, what about focusing our energies into one little idea? Not a list of 10 or 100 but a list of one. It sounds almost sinful doesn't it?

If there was one change or idea or feeling you would want over the next month what would it be? Christmas shopping done, wrapped and shipped by the 11th of December? Or taking 5 minutes everyday to stop and listen to someone you love? Baking 12 batches of cookies? Or taking a daily stroll outside- rain or shine? I have no idea what little change you would make. I'm not even sure which one I would make, but it is most definitely an interesting concept.

A concept worth a moment or two. This month, look inside yourself and ask what would touch my heart the deepest this month? Think small- little tiny- think molecular. Think about it with a smile and inward knowing joy.

My hope for you and myself this December, is a month not filled to the brim but open to receiving the gift of an interesting art of a subtle change.

As always, wishing you a healthy and happy home,


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When a gift lands in your lap - Say Thank you!

Our home has been invaded!!! A few weeks ago, Dallas was driving on a 4 lane road when he spied what looked like a guinea pig waddling across the road. When the little fuzzy fellow tried to climb the curb to the sidewalk, Dallas realized it was a very young kitten. Apparently, he was both brave and strong jawed. As Dallas tried to save him, he bit Dallas's finger!

We tried to find his home and when we couldn't find it, we then looked to find him a home. Of course, trying to find him a home was silly, he was already home. We now have a little Q-tip as part of our family.

He is a brave little guy. Not only did he cross 4 lanes of traffic but he has no fear of our dog, Sally or our big 16 lb cat, Penny. He doesn't even seem the slightest bit concerned with us standing over him like giants.

We weren't looking for another fuzzy family member but now that he has been here a few weeks, it would be hard to imagine life with out him. We have spent a lot of time laughing at his playful moves. Of course, I do realize he is still a baby, I'm not sure what we are in for when he becomes a teenager!!! Holy Moly!

Wishing you many gifts along the way,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

When walking: Look both ways!

When out walking, strolling or running make eye contact before crossing a street. This is my message for the day. Do not cross the street before making eye contact with the drivers!!

As a walker you have the right away. As a human being you are at a distinct disadvantage in weight and protection. You may be right, but if a car hits you, you will not win this fight.

Drivers are focused on the road, sometimes they are not even doing that. As I walk-jog-woggle... I have seen so many drivers texting, chatting on cell phones or just rushing and not even seeing me or other pedestrians.

I love the cross walks, stop signs and traffic lights but I do not trust drivers, until we make eye contact. Over the past 20 years, I have learned to trust my instincts and wait for the all clear!

Saturday my girlfriend and I walked around Federal Way for 5.5 hours. The day was absolutely gorgeous. Autumn colors spectacular and we were incredibly lucky with sunny skies- thank heavens!! During this beautiful walk we also had multiple close calls with traffic.

When we walk around town, we cross streets- lots of streets. During our walk we passed walkers, joggers, families, dogs, cars, bikes, motorcycles etc. It's easy to get lulled into a false sense of safety. Never loose respect for traffic when crossing the street. In one day, there were at least three times we would have been in trouble if we had walked before checking the drivers!!!

Incidentally, I was also reminded to pick up my feet as I walk. On our Saturday travel, I tripped on a slight sidewalk bump. I ducked and rolled. My knee is free of skin, my ego slightly bruised and my body feels kind of irksome but all in all I was very lucky! Thankfully, I had band aids in my fanny pack. After checking for broken bones and blood we stuck some band aides on my knee and walked another 6 miles. (My tuck and roll must have been an act of God, I'm not known for my smooth tumbling skills: )

Trust me, in car or sidewalk accidents, it only takes a second for a hard knock. Pay attention to what you are doing and do not cross a cross walk or street before carefully checking traffic. When in doubt wait until all is clear.

In case you are wonder why in the world I was walking for 5.5 hours, I have a great reason. My girlfriend and cancer survivor is training to walk the San Diego 60 mile 3 day walk for a cure. She is incredible and I walk with her to help her train and support her mission. She would probably walk with or without me but walking and training with a partner is so much more fun. I support her completely and want to make sure our training is safe and healthy.

Wishing you a happy and safe journey

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crazy like a fox

Posture, posture, posture those words were said over and over this morning. Once again I find myself walking long distances. My girlfriend is walking the San Diego Susan G Komen 3-Day walk. In less than one month, she will be walking 60 miles. I'm not doing this walk, but I'm helping her train, we are a training team.

To some, walking 18 miles or 60 miles is a drop in the bucket of extreme distances. Last year, I visited with a window washer who was going to be traveling with his wife and 18 year old son 80 miles- over mountains -while camping. In the book Born to Run, the ultra runners run races of 50 -135 miles in one day. Others, I have visited with think an 18 mile walk borders on the crazy side of life.

What do I think about an 18 mile walk? I think we were are made for this kind of distance and I also think you have to be a bit nuts to do go this distance. Consider this morning: 7:00 am, it is pitch dark and raining. Oh-yeah crazy is dancing around the conversations. Later in the morning, the sky's were dry, the leaves of autumn spectacular, us walkers were walking admiring and chatting away. Crazy would be stitting it out.

As we walk we talk about everything and sometimes nothing. the most common word said is posture. We have found the better our posture the less fatigue felt. Keeping our hips under our shoulders. Walking not leaning forward but with our core muscles. Tonight, I do feel a bit tired. Tomorrow morning we will be back out walking/training for her walk. Sunday night I'll sleep sound and hard. I am surprised in walking, the more I walk the stronger, healthier and happier I get. I think my girlfriend feels the same.

As we walk, we see houses decorated for Halloween, we see orange/red/yellow/iridescent leaves on trees. As we walk, we build deep bonds of friendship and kinship. As we walk, we get to go on micro road trips seeing a step by step view of the northwest. Walking is a gift. Getting wet is part of life.

As always, wishing you a healthy and happy life,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The secret practice of home care

" Gratitude is the heart's memory."
An Old Proverb

This morning I did dishes. I do dishes multiple times a day. Like me, most families do dishes multiple times a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. It is what I call a daily task. No matter how busy or successful you become there will always be daily tasks. Maybe you don't do dishes, instead you shop, drive to work, do laundry, pay the bills, mow the grass, care for a family member.... the list is infinite and as unique as we all are.

The definition of insanity is doing something over and over expecting different results. How do you do your daily tasks? Do you ever find yourself rushing, delaying, pressing through, plodding or grudgingly doing? If you are human, most likely emotions other than pure joy pop in from time to time!

What if you took the time and task- the daily chore- do practice something beautiful? As you pick up and sort your laundry looking for spots and checking pockets, what if you also consider how lucky and grateful you are to have a family, clothes, a washer and dryer....?
What if while you wash dishes you offer prayers and blessings to your family and neighbors?

This daily practice is not easy and it may sound a bit corny but in reality it is a gift. It is a gift in gratitude, in mindfulness and in giving. Instead of your focus being on getting through or frustration, your focus is on something worth every once of your time and energy.

Home care is the perfect practice. It is repeated, automatic and always available- no matter how busy your schedule is. My grandmothers must have done their meditation this way. On the farm, there was no time to run off for yoga practice or sit down for 30 minutes of daily meditation, my guess is their daily chores was the fertile soil of their practice.

Next time you start to do a daily task, pause for a moment and consider a new approach. Relax your shoulders, stand tall, smile - just a touch, pick a practice and mindfully go about your task at hand.

As far as residue free goes... the emotions you express can also be left behind. If you are going to leave a residue behind, it might as well be the residue of gratitude.

As always, wishing you a healthy and happy home.
Denise Frakes

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The right kind of LSD is the best kind of drug

The first time I did LSD was in junior high school. Before you panic or get all excited, let me explain. In 7th grade I joined the cross country team. LSD was assigned by my coach Max Mar, as our workout for the day. LSD means: Long Slow Distance:)

Long Slow Distance is the best drug ever. When you go for a long walk or run at some point your brain is most definitely altered. Last night, I was once again reminded of the powers of LSD. Sally, our flop eared smiler and I went out for our normal walk but then we just kept going, turning it into a LSD evening. As usually, I start most LSD sessions with my brain merrily chattering along. But after a few miles, usually 3-4, something kicks in and my brain slows down to match the easy pace of LSD.

Long Slow Distance puts me a kind of meditative state of mind. The rhythm of walking, breathing and moving over long distances collectively relax my entire nervous system. My posture becomes strong, the worries of the day fade away and I come back to the present moment. I start noticing the details of each step and my brain lets go.

I have never done the drug form of LSD and have no intentions of ever even considering it. Why would I when I have my own form? This form of meditation, Long, Slow Distance, is not only good for your brain but you get in great shape while you unwind.

As always, wishing you a happy and residue free day
Denise Frakes

Monday, August 29, 2011

What is Residue Free????

Just what is residue free??? Residue free is simply leaving no residue behind. Residue being defined as something unhealthy and usually unintentionally left behind.

Here are the usual suspects: cleaners, disinfectants, deoderizers & plug ins, solvents, sealers, protectants, bleach, hair sprays, spray tans, perfumes, flea bombs, pesticides, craft paints, glues, carbon monoxide, lead, mercury, dust and dust mites, tobacco smoke, cooking fumes, household paints, fireplace smoke, shredding particles, coatings and finishes, dryer sheet fumes and not last or least new car smell spray! This is a partial list of chemicals being left behind in our homes at scary volume and high frequency rate.

This residue left behind adds to the attraction of soil in a home. Surfaces with cleaner left behind usually re-soil faster- making us want to use more cleaners. Fragrances and disinfectants sprayed into the air get into our lungs and bodies. The fragrances may contain solvents and phlalates. The disinfectants we use to kill living organisms, in case you didn't notice, we are also a living organism. Chemicals left behind mix with other chemicals forming new toxins. Aerosols and fine mist sprays get into the air and can float around for long periods of time- becoming the air you breathe and a potential allergen or asthma trigger. Particles come from the outdoors and indoors, over time they get smaller and smaller until they stay airborn and become your air.

Residue free is learning how to create a home with health being the focus. When you are done cleaning there should be nothing left on the surface besides the surface, no cleaner or water! Residue free is becoming mindful of how toxins enter our systems: by breathing, ingesting and touching. Being residue free is minimizing the contaminates we bring into our homes, it also minimizes the contaminates we touch, eat or breath. It is not only beneficial to your own family and your budget but also our environment. Residue free is about less being more.

Being residue free isn't hard and once you have gone residue free it is compelling to stay there. Your body, your family, your pets and your home will all be healthier and give you a big thank you!!!!!

There are essentials to a healthy home and there are essentials to a residue free home. Together this combo makes for a truely healthy home!

As always, wishing you a healthy and happy home.
Denise Frakes
Certified Healthy Home Specialist and Residue Free Expert

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A wild rant

Do you mind if I rant for a second? If you do please scroll to another blog but if you don't mind, I seriously need a moment of your time.

OK, here goes my rant...

We do not need 50 different cleaning products in our homes. And the products we do have don't need to be the strongest and fastest most aggressive cleaners on the market. The reason we clean is not for our neighbors and appearance but for the health of our home and family. Taking our cleaning advice from the companies trying to sell us products is not always a smart choice. And for heaven sake, stop spraying chemicals-disinfectants-deodorizers and cleaners into the air!!!!!!!!! Our homes are cesspools of chemicals. And because we are becoming more aware of our environment and energy use, we close up our homes and those chemicals are trapped inside. It is crazy. You wonder why cancer, asthma, and auto immune diseases are up? Take a hard look at the volume of chemicals our bodies have to process.

It's not just our cleaners, it's also our pesticides, our crafts, our deodorizers, our food, our make up and personal care products. It's our paints, finishes, coatings and strippers. It's even our over abundance of electronics. This excess of chemicals is too much for a home and family. Think: LESS IS MORE!!!!!

OK, I feel a little better. The best advice I can give today is to start being curious. Look at everything. Look under your sinks, in your laundry room and garage. See just how many chemical products you have. Check out how many different products have a fragrance: candles, deodorizers, personal care products, cleaners... How many products do you spray air? Look at your window cleaners, furniture cleaners, general-all purpose cleaners, bleaches, disinfectants, deodorizers, paints, odor neutralizers and fragrances. Are you seeing what I see yet?

Start with wonder. What is in your home to begin with?

Whew! Thank you, my rant is almost over and I can start breathing again. I hate hearing about a child with asthma or a friend with cancer while knowing our homes are full of abundant, unnecessary and excessively over used chemicals. I don't rant that often, so use my wild rant as a starting point to look at your home in a new light.

Residue free homes are a good thing!
Denise Frakes
Certified Healthy Home Specialist
Co-Owner of Blue Sky Services

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fresh out of the garden

Is there any better way to start the day than breakfast straight out of the garden? Last night I noticed my Korean cucumbers are ready to eat!! My blueberries are ripening and my fresh herbs and flowers are growing into bushes on the front deck.

For breakfast I made a delicious, nutritious and yummy treat

Violet and cucumber yogurt

1/2 cup plain goat yogurt
1 fresh cucumber- skin on
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 T chopped stevia leaves
1 T chopped peppermint leaves
3 viola flowers

On the side, I'm having a nice hot cup of Green tea. Even though it is technically summer, the mornings still need something hot to warm me up!

Talk about a residue free start to the day. Most my breakfast only traveled 50 feet!!! The goat yogurt came from CA, but next time I go to Marlene's market I'll make sure I get WA goat yogurt:)

Wishing you abundance and sunshine on this summer day,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Running with Scissors and eating Chia Seeds

Dallas wants to name our next dog "Scissors". He will then be able to say " Denise is out running with scissors"! Running with scissors is kind of how I feel about my running. Over the past 20 plus years, my running has been a bit irksome. I have a calf muscle that has given me fits, it randomly cuts my runs short. Still, I never give up because not running would be an unknown thought in my head- it doesn't exist.

The sun is out and I'm running again. Last year when I walked 60 miles for the Susan G Komen 3 day, I learned the better my posture the healthier my body was. I even ran/walked the Seattle 1/2 marathon last fall -with no calf trouble at all! The lessons I learned while walking, I'm taking to running: good posture, effortless movement and body awareness. (I find if I keep my legs under my hips it takes the pressure off my calf!!)

Besides my form, I'm building strength and eating some new foods. Still, just like running with scissors-paying close attention when moving and eating is essential for good health.

This morning, we ate Chia Fresca. I first learned about this recipe from the book: Born to Run. It is made from Chia Seeds. Apparently, Chia seeds was a food used for endurance and health by the Tarahumara - the running people of Mexico. Some of it's many health benefits are: endurance and healthy energy, balance blood sugar, add fiber and nutrients!

The actual recipe I used was:

Chia Fresca
1 cup spring or filtered water
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey

Whisk the chia seeds into the water and allow them to soak for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the lemon or lime juice and agave and whisk well. Drink Immediately. Makes 1 serving
This recipe comes from The Huffinton Post. Christina Pirello's wrote a blog called Change your life with Chia.

Will my healthy running posture and new food make my running as good as ice cream? Only time will tell, but the chia seeds were yummy and I love to run. It is so worth the risk of running with scissors!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy summer!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Turning the page

"Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes radiance"
Morgan Freeman

This quote comes from my office calendar. Today is the first of July and as my monthly tradition, it is also the day I get to turn the page to a new month. It is a simple thing, the changing of the calendar, but I love the first day of each new month. I flip my calendar. We have 3 calendars. July a new beginning, a fresh start and the second half of 2011. Each new month is a mini new year, full of promises and anticipation.

Last month, I traveled to AZ and helped family with the loss of my grandma. She was soon to be 97. The trip was not in my planner or even my consciousness but life moves and changes with certainty. It felt good to turn the page this morning, maybe because I lost my grandma or maybe because life seems a little more precious today. After the sadness and sorrow of June, this little tradition of a new start feels like a gift.

Morgan Freeman's quote on July was interesting. To cherish the day, should it be packed full of life or quite and still?

Wishing you a new month filled with relaxing moments, joyful surprises and sunshine filled days.


Monday, May 2, 2011

1 year under my Lasagna belt

Last year at this same time, I was watching the little plants in my newly built lasagna beds grow. If you remember I created my first beds using the guidance from Patricia Lanza's book, Lasagna Gardening.

Even though the garden was hugely successful: I had very few weeds, the soil held moisture incredibly well and my root veggies were so perfect. I still wondered about Lasagna gardening. Maybe, I thought, it was just too good to be true.

If you didn't follow last years experiment, Here is the readers digest version. Lasagna gardening is a way to garden without tilling, spading or removing sod and weeds. It is a way to use up household compostables like shredded paper, chopped leaves, cut grass and anything else you can find- like weeds before they go to seed. You layer these compostables one after another- like a lasagna and then you plant into the bed.

Fast forwarding to now: This spring I had to pull up my 1st lasagna bed to put in our new sewer system- this is a whole other story. Here is what I found! I found the most beautiful, rich, dark composted soil I have ever seen. Even with my compost bins I have never created that much compost. Success!!!! I am now a true believer!

Happy digging!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Marching to your own drum

" Laughter is day and sobriety is night;
a smile is the twilight that hovers gently between both,
more bewitching than either."
Henry Ward Beecher

I pulled this off my calendar for the month of March
Not a bad way to start spring.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Women's Garden in Kabul

This morning I stumbled across an article from USA Today about the women's garden. It is a garden for women only in Kabul, eight acres of freedom and community. This garden was closed during the Taliban rule and turned into a dump. After 7 months of reconstruction, it opened again this past November.

The women's garden is a creative and beautiful space women can go unescorted by men. Five thousand pink rose bushes , thirty five hundred trees, grass, shops, fitness center, job training, a restaurant called "Always spring" and a little slice of freedom.

The shops and training are run by women, the gardening is done by women, even the police are women. This garden is a place where the women of Kabul can visit and re-discover their joy.

If you are interested in more: USA today has 15 pictures of the garden along with an article by Sara D. Davis. It was originally aired on 1-2-11 and reprinted 1-3-11. Today, is 2-11-11. Check it out! The article doesn't explain why all the roses are pink but I'll bet they are beautiful!!

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy space.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A mini vacation to the laundry mat

The secret to happy cleaning is to look at it like an adventure. Act as if you are a writer on assignment, your job: Explaining how to love life's alternate routes and mundane tasks.

In an older home things happen. This week it is our septic tank. Apparently, something is amiss. We are on strict water restrictions until we get back flowing once again. Water restrictions means a trip to the laundry mat. I had never thought of laundry mats as a mini vacation but I was wrong, they are

The laundry mat brings back so many memories of my grandma. After she retired from the farm she went to work for a local laundry mat. Growing up I would often go to work with her. Until today, I hadn't thought of that in years. But this morning it all came flooding back. The easy pace, the relaxed atmosphere. There is a rhythm to laundry mats, clothes tossing in dryers, water swishing in the washers. Little carts rolling around loading and unloading clothes. Doors opening, the sent of tide and fabric softener fill the room. Just a little slice of life. There was no rush, everyone is calm, patiently waiting for their machines to stop.

I had 4 loads going. It cost about $6.75 per load, 30 minutes to wash, 30-40 minutes to dry. I didn't keep track of how long it took me to fold. I brought writing and reading material, water and snacks. It was the best little mini vacation. It was incredibly relaxing. The sun coming in through the big southern windows, shining on my back, there was plenty of room for all my stuff. It as great!

Of course I totally realize, I might be the only one in North America who would consider going to the laundry mat as a mini vacation. But that's only because I'm a little quirky and love new adventures, even if it is just a trip to wash clothes, but still it was nice. As for the adventure in repairing a malfunctioning septic system- the jury is still out. I may have to "dig deep" for the fun of this one:)

Happy home care,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vacuuming as meditation, have I lost my mind?

Daily chore time is the most fertile time for creating and mindfulness. Think about it, these chores are usually repeated, solitary, thoughtless, times of movement. Isn't that a little like meditation? It occurred to me years ago, my grandmothers used their daily chore time as their meditation time, exercise time, quiet time, pondering time and who knows what else time. My grandmas both raised their families while living on dairy farms. Dashing off for yoga, to the gym for exercise or for meditation would have been laughable.

In our busy lives and tight schedules, cleaning and daily chores are usually more like mad dashes. This morning before coming into the office, I vacuumed. By the way, vacuuming done correctly, is one of the most beneficial cleaning tasks for the health and longevity of your home. When I vacuum, I vacuum slowly, breathing in and out with each stroke. I keep my shoulders relaxed and I move from foot to foot not twisting but more like a Tai Chi move. I listen, listening for dirt going up the hose, all the while keeping my posture healthy and athletic. I take slow strokes back and forth until I don't hear any more dirt. When completed my home looks better feels better, I feel better. It is a grounding and calming chore.

This calm practice beats, frantically twisting, pulling to remove surface soils. All the while the deep dirt that causes wear on your carpet and dust in your air and is still where it was when you started vacuuming. Not to mention, the stress on your body and tension filling your mind, while you rush to complete so you can dart off to your next task.

The benefits of mindful vacuuming are:
Improved indoor air quality
Increasing the life of your carpet
Making your carpet look better
Minimize damage to your body from the twisting of vacuuming
Deepining your breath
Improving your posture
Improving your ablility to focus- if you hold focus through the whole job
Improving your creativity by relaxing- letting your brain have a little vacation

It almost sounds like something you would pay to go do!

Wishing you a happy and healthy life,