This, Not That, Thursday – DIY Aloe Vera Gel

It is easy to make aloe vera gel at home. All you need is a few healthy leaves of the aloe vera plant. If you have an aloe vera plant at home or in your garden, then you are lucky! Aloe vera gel is an excellent all-natural healer for skin issues such as sunburn, rashes, acne, among others. Aloe vera gel is also known to promote healthy hair growth. You can even preserve the gel for a month by adding natural preservatives.

How to make Aloe Vera Gel

Make your very own natural healer and skin cleanser!

Prep Time 30 mins – Total Time 30 mins

Appliance Needed: Blender, Refrigerator Serving size: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 aloe vera leaves
  • 500 mg vitamin C (optional)
  • 400 IU vitamin E (optional)

Instructions

  1. If you have access to an aloe vera plant, take a sharp knife and cut off a leaf from the outside of the plant, close to its base. They are usually more mature and contain plenty of gel. If your plant is too young, make sure you do not cut off too many leaves at once. Aloe vera leaves are also available in supermarkets in the produce section. You can usually get 1/2 a cup of gel from 1 mature aloe vera leaf.
  2. Wash the leaves under cold running water to remove any dirt on the skin.
  3. Place the leaves upright in a bowl to let any white or yellow resin to drain off. This can cause irritation to the skin.
  4. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin of the aloe vera leaf on one side. You will see the sticky gel underneath.
  5. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the gel. Collect the gel in a clean glass container and make sure you do not get any pieces of the leaf skin in it.
  6. If you have collected a lot of gel and want to preserve it, you can mix it with natural preservatives. In a blender, add aloe vera gel and vitamin C or vitamin E capsules. For every 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel, you can either add 500 mg of vitamin C or 400 IU vitamin E. The foamy gel should be put in a clean, airtight glass jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
  7. You can also use fresh aloe vera gel to make a nourishing aloe vera juice or add it to smoothies.

Notes

Consider growing an aloe vera plant in your home as they are low-maintenance plants and grow easily. Aloe is generally safe for most people, but if you have an underlying health condition or take medicines or use herbs, talk to your doctor before using aloe as it could react with other medications and substances.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Diatomaceous Earth

This week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday” we’re talking about Diatomaceous Earth. It’s the “Jack of all trades” of natural home care products, and it has applications in the bathroom, kitchen, living room, and more. An added bonus is that DE is so safe and non-toxic, it’s frequently used in water filtration.

What Is Diatomaceous Earth, Anyway?

DE is, as mentioned, a white powder naturally occurring from the fossils of diatoms (a type of algae found in river beds and lake beds). The diatoms form a very hard shell of silica in a tubular shape.

When dry, DE appears very fine and soft to the naked eye but microscopically it has some very unique qualities:

  • High Silica Content: These fossilized diatoms have a very high silica content (which is used to build hair, skin, and nails).
  • Hard as Nails … or Diamonds: DE is very hard (only two points lower than diamonds on the hardness scale). It looks like a tiny cylindrical tube with many holes in it when viewed through a microscope.
  • Holds a Strong Negative Charge: DE has a very strong negative charge, which makes it purifying and beneficial in several ways.

Since the 1960s DE has been commonly used in things like toothpaste, as an anti-caking aid, for clarifying beer or wine, and to eliminate pests naturally. In fact, you’ve likely consumed products that contain traces of DE without even knowing it! While I’m usually not a fan of hidden ingredients, DE is one we don’t need to worry about.

Note: you should only use “food grade” Diatomaceous Earth if you intend to use it around your house. This is distinct from “pool grade” Diatomaceous Earth, which is coarser and designed to help filter pool water. 

Copper Polish

Do your copper pots look dull? A mixture of vegetable oil, vinegar, and DE can return it to its store-bought shine. Just rub the mixture vigorously into the pots until you can start to see that copper color come back.

Water Stain Removal

Notice a buildup around your water faucets? Mix together lemon, vinegar, vegetable oil, and DE in a small bowl. With a damp cloth, use that substance to scrub the deposits away.

Oil Spill Cleanup

Interestingly, DE can hold up to twice its weight in liquid. That makes it useful when you accidentally spill oil on your driveway. Just coat the spill in DE and let it soak the oil up. Then, sweep up the DE and throw it away. When you clean the area with hot, soapy water afterward, it’s much less likely to leave a permanent stain.

Shoe Deodorizer

Do your shoes sometimes resemble a petri dish? Hey, don’t be embarrassed. Fungus thrives in conditions exactly like the inside of your shoe. However, there’s one crucial ingredient that all fungi need in order to thrive: moisture.  

By sprinkling DE in your shoes, you’ll steal away that moisture and neutralize foot odors at the same time.

Refrigerator Deodorizer

DE absorbs odors. That’s incredibly valuable when you have an old fridge that is filled with the smells of years’ worth of groceries. 

To improve the odor, first, find a container (like a coffee can or a mason jar) and stick a few holes in the lid. Pour DE in the container, slap on the lid, and stick it inside of your refrigerator. As the air slowly circulates, you should notice it start to smell more neutral in about a week.

Repel Bugs & Fleas

Pest infestations in your home are maddening. But it’s possible to clear your home of insects without using pesticides. Since DE absorbs oils, a small sprinkling of the stuff can cause bugs to shrivel like raisins and die, even though the substance is harmless to humans and pets. If your home is under siege, thoroughly clean your bedding, carpets, and upholstery, then dust these surfaces with DE.

Have you ever used Diatomaceous Earth? What did you use it for? How did it work? Share below!

This, Not That, Thursday – 5 uses for used coffee grounds

Something that never felt right to me was throwing away used coffee grounds. Many people wake up in the morning looking forward to their cup of coffee and then habitually toss the grounds into the trash without a second thought.

As it turns out, there are many wonderful things you can do with these spent coffee grounds. Before you throw out those grounds after brewing up your morning beverage, give one of these ideas a try.

1. Coffee grounds are wonderful at exfoliating your hair. 

To exfoliate hair, use 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup used coffee grounds, depending on hair length. In the shower, wet hair thoroughly. Massage grounds through hair focusing on the scalp. It helps to part the hair and work in sections. Once you have covered the whole scalp, thoroughly wet the hair again. Don’t try to rinse the grounds out as it won’t work. Use your shampoo to work up a nice lather. Then you can rinse it all out. A second shampooing may be necessary. Finish with your normal conditioner or apple cider vinegar rinse.

2. Soil aeration and nitrogen boost for houseplants. 

Adding coffee grounds to your houseplants helps the pH balance (toward acidity) as well as increasing nitrogen and aerating the soil. Tomatoes love acidic soil!

3. Neutralize refrigerator odors. 

Placing them in the refrigerator acts as a natural deodorizer. The only thing you need to watch for is mold if you use damp grounds. Replace immediately with fresher grounds if it turns into a science experiment.

4. Weigh Down Ashes for Fireplace Clean-up:

If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, those old coffee grounds will become your best friend. When it is time to clean out the ashes, cover them with a layer of wet coffee grounds to moisten and weigh them down. This will greatly reduce the amount of ash that will float up and coat your living room when you scoop them out.

5. Pest Repellent

Snail, slug, and cat repellent. In the garden, just mound up a barrier of used grounds around the plants which slugs and cats are attracted to. It will help keep them at bay.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Air Purifying Plants

Good afternoon everyone.

It is a beautiful sunny Thursday and were happy to bring you this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday.” This week we will be talking about Air purifying plants.

Why does indoor air need purifying?

Well, there are plenty of toxins floating around outside thanks to pesticides and herbicides, vehicle fumes, and other industrial pollutants. Sadly, you’ll find a ton of toxins in the air inside your own home as well.

Your indoor air quality is affected by the following:

  1. Cleaning products, especially laundry detergent and fabric softener, as laundry chemicals are the top indoor pollutant
  2. Chemical flame retardants in furniture, mattresses, and children’s PJs
  3. Formaldehyde found in gas stoves, garbage bags, paper towels and tissues, carpet backing, and some fabrics
  4. Fragrances
  5. Other toxins carried in on your clothes and shoes from outdoors
  6. Electromagnetic frequencies (from computers, WiFi, and other electronics)

Opening your windows can go a long way, but a solution I really like is plants. These houseplants are the most effective at removing indoor air toxins and contaminants.

Bamboo Palm

Bamboo palms are effective at removing chemical contaminants from the air like formaldehyde and benzene. They also help to keep the air moist, which is helpful during winter months when all types of heaters can produce overly dry indoor air.

Bamboo palms have a tropical appearance and, though green instead of the typical tan bamboo color, have the characteristic tall, skinny canes and fanned leaves.

Rubber Plant

The rubber plant is very effective for removing formaldehyde from indoor air. It’s favored for its ease of growth, as well as its appearance, which features large, rubbery leaves.

The rubber plant can grow up to 8 feet tall in the proper conditions. This large plant is bred for toughness, which means that it’s not only one of the most effective plants for purifying indoor air, but it’s sure to be hardy even in less than ideal conditions.

English Ivy

English ivy is most often seen growing as a covering in atriums and lobbies, but it makes a lovely feature if grown as a topiary. Like the rubber plant, English ivy is known for its ability to remove formaldehyde from the air.

English ivy needs lots of light to look its best, but does well when the temperature doesn’t get too hot. It is, however, very adaptable to its environment, as it will climb and spread over any surface given the chance.

Dwarf Date Palm

If you’re into tropical plants, the dwarf date palm is for you. It’s like an adorable mini palm tree that fits in your living room.

The dwarf date palm is one of the most effective palms for removing indoor air pollution, especially xylene, which is found in solvents and paint thinner. It’s also quite good at keeping the air moist and is fairly easy to grow.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – How to start a compost pile

For this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday” we’re discussing “how to start a compost pile.”

The EPA estimates that 22 percent of solid waste that enters the landfill is food.

Composting is a perfect way to divert a lot of that organic matter away from the landfill. While it’s still important to cut down on food waste by eating leftovers and using up produce before it goes bad, no one is perfect. So, composting the kitchen waste that can’t be saved is a great way to reduce food waste.

How to start a compost pile

Starting a compost pile requires a few simple steps: creating the compost heap, adding organic materials, and watering and turning the compost as necessary. 

Creating your compost heap 

Location – One of the most important factors for starting a compost pile is its location. Choose an open, level area with good drainage. You do not want your compost to sit in standing water. An area with partial sun or shade is also ideal. Too much sun can dry the pile out, while too much shade can keep it overly wet. Finally, choose a site that is easy for you to get to and avoid areas near dogs or other meat-eating animals. 

Size – The recommended size for a compost pile is generally no smaller than 3 feet high and wide and no larger than 5 feet. Anything smaller may not heat up efficiently and anything larger may hold too much water and become difficult to turn. It is recommended to start your pile on the bare ground rather than on asphalt or concrete. This impedes aeration and inhibits microbes. Placing a pallet underneath the pile is fine, however, if you prefer. 

Adding organic materials 

Many organic materials can be composted, but there are some items that you should keep out of your compost pile. 

These include: 

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Fat
  • oil products 
  • Carnivorous pet feces (e.g. dog, cat) 
  • Diseased plants, or weeds that have seeded Human waste Charcoal or coal ash (wood ash is ok though) 

The key materials for composting are nitrogen/greens and carbon/browns. When starting a compost pile, the recommended practice is to layer or alternate these greens and browns, the same way as you would for making lasagna. 

Your bulkier organic materials do best in the first ground layer, so start with a layer of browns, such as twigs (less than ½ inch in diameter) or straw, about 4 to 6 inches. 

Next, add in some green materials, such as kitchen waste and grass clippings, again about 4 to 6 inches thick. Additionally, animal manure and fertilizers serve as activators that accelerate the heating of your pile and provide a nitrogen source for beneficial microbes. 

Continue to add layers of nitrogen and carbon materials until you reach the top or run out. Lightly water each layer as it is added, firming it down but do not compact. 

Watering and turning the compost 

Your compost pile should be moist, but not soggy. Most of your water will come from rain, as well as the moisture in green materials, but you may need to water the pile yourself on occasion. If the pile gets too wet, you can turn it more frequently to dry it or add more brown materials to soak up excess moisture. Once you turn the pile the first time, these materials will get mixed together and compost more efficiently. Keeping the compost pile turned on a frequent basis will help with aeration and speed up decomposition. Using these simple instructions for composting, you will be well on your way to creating the ideal compost for your garden. 

-Dr. P
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Summer Bucket List for Long Island Kids


For our latest installment of “This, Not That, Thursday” we bring you Dr. Polcino’s “Summer Bucket List for LI kids.”
It features oodles of ideas when it comes to places to go, things to do, events, and activities to do with kids on Long Island! From toddlers to tweens, our Summer Bucket List has great ways to spend the days, and you’re sure to see a smile on everyone’s face.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Natural Rabbit Repellent

Hey all! We’re back with another installment of “This, Not That, Thursday.”
If you need a way to deter rabbits from eating your flowers, try this organic rabbit repellent recipe. It uses garlic and red peppers to repel the rabbits naturally without damaging your plants. And don’t worry–those cute little critters won’t be harmed at all.

You just need a couple of items to make this Natural rabbit repellent: garlic, peppers, dish soap, and an empty milk jug.

Natural Rabbit Repellent Recipe
Items needed:
empty milk/water jug
7 garlic cloves
2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
1-gallon water
1 tablespoon dish soap (see our other posts for a Natural Dish Soap)
Directions:
To make the repellent fill an old jug with water, add 7 crushed garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of crushed red peppers (you can save a packet from the pizza delivery for this) and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.
Shake well. Then let it sit in the sun for a day or two to make sure the water is saturated with the flavors and smells.
Shake well. Then spray or pour on the plants that you don’t want the rabbits to eat.
I had to reapply the rabbit repellent once a week for a couple of weeks to convince the rabbits that my tulips were never going to taste good again. With my other bulbs, I sprayed them with the natural rabbit repellent as soon as they started to poke through the ground and then reapplied the repellent once a week and after it rains.
Good luck 

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Natural Gardening Tips

In this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday” we bring you some Natural Gardening tips. Gardening is tough enough, but to do it without chemicals is well worth the effort for you & the family.

Fertilizer
Although you can use ready-made organic fertilizers, it is best to learn how to create your own organic fertilizers. Not only will it be better for the soil and the environment in the long-term, but it also helps you gain valuable insight into the world of gardening.

Homemade Fertilizer
Adding compost to your garden is an excellent way to improve the quality of your soil with natural fertilization. However, not everyone has the space or time for composting.
We’ve got you covered! There are some other easy ways to fertilize your garden naturally. For one thing, instead of a huge compost pile, you can simply save some of the stuff from your kitchen you’d normally throw away.
Three things that can benefit your garden:
Coffee Grounds – adds nitrogen to the soil and is ideal for acid-loving plants like tomatoes
Banana Peels – decompose quickly, replenishing potassium and other minerals to the soil
Egg Shells – can add calcium carbonate and help avoid blossom rot in peppers and tomatoes
Another common kitchen ingredient to help fertilize your garden is molasses. Just mix a few tablespoons of molasses with a gallon of water and then water your plants with it. The molasses acts sort of like a probiotic. It helps increase beneficial microbes.

Garden Pest Control
Every vegetable gardener faces pest issues from time to time, and learning how to manage the little leaf-munching menaces without using synthetic chemical pesticides is an essential step in growing a healthy, productive garden. To help you with this task, we’ve put together tips for keeping those pesky critters out of your garden.

Orange Peels
Orange peels can be placed around plants or attached directly to the stem to ward off and eliminate some pests. That’s because orange peels contain a natural chemical known as d-Limonene, which can kill off ants and aphids. The chemical destroys the waxy substance around the bugs, causing them to suffocate.
Even the scent of orange peels, as well as other citrus peels, can keep those plant-destroying aphids and ants away.

Plant Marigolds Around the Perimeter of the Garden
Many gardeners put marigolds in their vegetable gardens. It’s believed the pungent smell potentially repels pests while attracting beneficial insects. Some say that the aroma of marigolds might even help keep rabbits and other rodents away from your vegetables too.
However, not everyone is a believer in the marigold theory. In fact, there are some gardeners who say marigolds may actually attract harmful spider mites. Regardless of whether it works or not – marigolds will at least add a splash of color to your vegetable garden.

Cayenne pepper
Sprinkling cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, and/or garlic pepper on and around your plants when they are ready to bloom is an excellent deterrent. Squirrels won’t eat anything with cayenne—which you can often buy in bulk.

-Dr. P
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This, Not, That Thursday – Natural Ant Repellent

There’s nothing like walking into your kitchen first thing in the morning, bleary-eyed and ready for your morning cup of coffee only to find that your home has been invaded by ants. Below are some of the best natural remedies you can try to get rid of the ants infesting your space.

Cinnamon
Cinnamon is an effective household ant repellent. Its smell discourages ants from entering your house and scrounging in your kitchen.
According to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, cinnamon essential oil yields positive results in both repellency and insecticidal activity.
* Add 1 ¼ to 1 ½ teaspoon of cinnamon essential oil in a cup of water. Soak a cotton ball in this solution and wipe down the areas where ants may enter and dwell. Repeat once daily until all the ants are gone.
* You can also put ground cinnamon and whole cloves near entry points.
Note: Use the cinnamon oil spray strategically in places of ant infestation; do not put it all over the place.

White Vinegar
White vinegar will also send an eviction notice to ants on your premises. They cannot bear its strong smell. In addition, the smell masks their scent trails, making them lose their direction.
1. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water.
2. Pour the solution into a spray bottle.
3. Add a few drops of any essential oil and shake the bottle thoroughly.
4. Spray this solution around baseboards and other entry points.
5. After an hour, wipe up the ants using a damp paper towel and discard them.
6. Repeat once daily until the ants are completely gone.
You can also use this vinegar solution to clean floors, windowsills and countertops to prevent ants from crawling over these surfaces.

Peppermint
Peppermint is a natural insect repellent that can effectively keep ants away. Ants hate its strong smell, which also disrupts their smelling capabilities so they cannot detect food sources.
* Add 10 drops of peppermint essential oil to 1 cup of water. Spray the solution on all areas where ants are present. Repeat twice daily, until the ants are gone completely.
* Sprinkle some dried peppermint around your doors, entryways and garbage areas to repel ants.
* You can even grow peppermint plants in your kitchen garden.

Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) also works well as an ant repellent. This powder is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton.
The microscopic razor sharp edges of DE can cut through the ant’s exoskeletons, gradually causing their body to dry out.
1. Gently sprinkle a thin layer of DE on windowsills, beneath the fridge, under cabinets, in and around garbage cans and any other places where you see ants.
2. Repeat once daily until all the ants are gone.
Note: Do not wet the DE or it will not work.

-Dr. P
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