Archive for January, 2012

Dear T&M: Is there a natural way to deal with fleas?

Posted on January 18th, 2012 by Tonia 5 Comments

Hi JD,

We’re so glad you are looking for a natural and safe alternative to the highly toxic flea/tick “medicine” that has become the norm. I am baffled that anyone is okay with dousing their beloved animal in a nerve-paralyzing agent capable of causing convulsions, nausea and respiratory arrest {as the box clearly warns!}, especially when the alternatives are so cheap, easy and simple.

The Mother Earth News website has an excellent article on this exact issue, so please hop over there and give it a read. The gist of it: garlic, brewer’s yeast, zinc, Diatomaceous Earth, and making sure your pet is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need in their diet to maintain healthy skin and coat.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!


P.S. Charlie and Jack send hellos to your furry children.

If you would like to air your dirty secret or ask a question, email us with “Dear T&M” in the subject line. Please indicate if you wish to remain anonymous.
toniasimeone {at} gmail {dot} com

Winter Pastimes

Posted on January 14th, 2012 by Tonia 5 Comments

Here we are in that sloooooow part of winter, void of holiday shindigs to look forward to {or dread, depending} and with summer still a long ways away. Although Mike and I are big fans of all the different seasons, there’s no denying that January and February can be really dark and dreary.

So what do we do to keep ourselves in good spirits? Here are some of our favorite winter pastimes {and please share your own in the comments- we’re always looking for new ideas to help speed along these cold months!}:

Move it move it – Moving our bodies and getting our blood flowing is probably the number one most effective thing we have found for chasing away winter boredom and blues.

Co-ed hockey: We joined a league that plays every Saturday night. Full pads, no checking. We look forward to it all week long. It’s a release of energy and aggression that leaves us both feeling much more peaceful and calm afterward. Plus it’s just really super big-time fun.

Modern dance: How many towns of 2000 people have a yoga and dance studio that offers a wide array of classes with a large staff of talented and skilled teachers?? We’re so lucky. I love the Saturday morning dance class for warming up my entire body and allowing me to let loose and stretch my muscles.

Bodyrock: THE BEST home exercise practice I have ever tried. Following their short and intense daily routines has toned my body and developed muscle faster than I thought was possible. I’m amazed and hooked.

X-country skiing: A wonderful activity to do with friends. I love being out in the quiet woods with the stars over-head and the moon as our only light. It’s so peaceful and exhilarating at the same time. And nothing feels better after a ski than a hot sauna. We fire ours up about once a week to get a good muscle-relaxing and body-detoxifying sweat going.

Swimming: My friend Alison and I like to hit the local pool once a week to swim and enjoy long chats in the hot tub. I usually go for lakes over pools any day, but thankfully the Bayfield Fitness Center doesn’t use chlorine in their water, so I don’t experience that skin-tightening dryness that I can’t stand.

Horseback riding: My most favorite activity of all, in any season. I will admit that it’s sometimes difficult to muster up the motivation to bundle up and go to the barn on the coldest winter days, but I never regret it once I’m there. The horses’ company, their smells and sounds, the warmth of their bodies- it’s all very therapeutic and calming for me. My favorite hours of the day are the ones I spend there…freezing fingers and all.

Walking the dogs: Jack loooooves his walks. Charlie chickens out once there is snow on the ground {the poor guy is so low to the ground that really any amount of snow makes him wet and cold almost instantly. And he is much too proud to wear any sort of coat or sweater, so…}, but not Jack. Jack will walk rain or shine or full-on-blizzard. We love the walks too- it’s a chance to chat about life together away from our phones and computers and other distractions.

Relaaaaaaax – Winter provides some much needed down-time with no garden to tend or farm projects to complete. These are our favorite low-key activities.

Movies/TV: We actually only get three channels on our TV, but we use the internet to stream our favorite shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad, and BBC’s Human Planet. Snuggling on the couch together with Charlie wedged between us is an almost-every-night occurrence. Sometimes with hot chocolate and popcorn even.

Reading: Mike and I favor very different kinds of books. I’m a fiction fiend while he can be found curled up with how-to’s such as The Craft of Modular Post and Beam. To each his/her own, I suppose. Either way, nothing beats laying under a pile of blankets next to a roaring woodstove with a really good book.

Music: He plays guitar, I play the fiddle, we both like to sing, and once upon a time we made a very cheesy music video together, which no one besides us will ever, ever, ever see. Anyway, playing music together is a wonderful way to spend a dark winter night.

Crafts/art: Sewing, knitting, painting…these are the artsy hobbies we barely ever have time for, and it’s so fun to get to explore that side of ourselves. We cover the whole kitchen table with newspaper, spread out our paints/supplies and go to town. Mike is a much better painter than I am, which is annoying…but his dad is actually a painter, so I guess I understand.

Socializing – Getting out and about in the community keeps us from turning into hermits in the winter when the urge to just hunker down and never leave the warm house is strong.

Folk dancing: There is a great monthly dance with a live band at the college in the next town over. Lots of folks packed into the dance hall means that the room is nice and toasty warm. It’s really nice to be able to run around in a t-shirt, meet new people, and have physical contact with other people. Swinging, waltzing, and sashaying all over the place.

Packers games: We wait all week for Sunday. The tradition is to meet our friends at the bar in town, order food and beer, and hang out there pretty much all day. It’s a great bar- they serve the beeeest Bloody Marys I’ve ever had EVER, and they give free shots to everyone in the bar every time the Packers score.

Pot-lucks: Nary a week goes by around here without someone hosting a pot-luck. Great conversations, delicious food, and laughter equal the perfect recipe for chasing away the winter blues.

Volunteering: Giving back to the community in a way that is specific to your skills and talents is a wonderful way to pass these slower, less hectic months when many of us find ourselves with a little extra time on our hands. I have been helping out with an equine therapy program for disabled and at-risk youth once a week this winter. I love it and the kids are awesome.

Book Club: A friend of mine started a ladies’ book club that meets once a month. It has always been my dream to live somewhere where people do quaint, sweet things like book clubs together. I have arrived!! It’s fantastic. All of the ladies are so well-spoken and thoughtful. And we eat the yummiest treats…

Maker’s Club: And while the gals talk books, the guys make shit. Really. They hang out in the garage inventing stuff out of junk and drinking beer. Alrighty then!

I hope you get some good ideas from this list for ways to enjoy winter instead of wishing it away! I’d love to hear what you do to pass the time as well. Have a wonderful weekend…GO PACKERS!

Ode to Avocado

Posted on January 11th, 2012 by Tonia 5 Comments

Aww, you’re so cute, little baby avocado trees in our window. Your tropical-ness is really refreshing in the middle of winter. Thanks for putting up with the measly amount of daylight we get here in the northland.

Now hurry up and grow big, so I can put you next to the claw-foot tub and pretend to be in Costa Rica every time I bathe.

Homemade Stain Remover

Posted on January 9th, 2012 by Tonia 5 Comments

{Alternative title: Adventures in Wifery}

Mike is packing for a business trip to California- and shoot!– we discovered that he somehow had a colorful New Years cocktail spilled on his favorite dress shirt.

“Can you get it out for me?”

“I’ll try, honey…”

These things are tricky when you have to stick to biodegradable products…but wait! That magical substance called baking soda is here to the rescue again. There is nothing it can’t do. It’s the Chuck Norris of household supplies.

Unfortunately, Mike’s lovely wife didn’t notice the stain before throwing the shirt in the wash a few days ago…so now the stain, though faded significantly, has been set into the shirt. I’m sure that baking soda will be able to handle the situation, though. I hope. I pray. Please.

Can you even see the stain?? It’s not very obvious, but it’s there. Like the punch-line to one of my father-in-law’s puns.

Here we go. Mix 1/4 of a cup of baking soda and enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Spread onto the stained area, like cake frosting. Use fingers to rub into the fabric for several minutes.

Soak the garment in very cold water, agitating occasionally.

Rinse in cold water to get out any baking soda that might still be hanging on. Hang to dry, smoothing out the wrinkles.


Stain is history, and my reputation as Pretty Good Wife is intact.