Beyond Words

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The Real Dirt on Houseplants March 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:02 am

House in plant2


Even as parts of the country continue to dig out of snow and ice, I’ve been treated to unseasonable high 70s and low 80s. So, what’s a girl to do on a day off? Plant flowers! I’m not an overly proficient “green thumb” and I leave the beds and gardens to a professional, but I do enjoy some potted plants on the porch and patio. They bring color, life, and even a little joy to outdoor spaces and I love seeing them. But, did you know plants also bring life and much more inside your home?


Just being near a plant can actually result in many benefits, including increased health, a reduction in headaches and coughs, more energy, reduced allergy symptoms, faster recovery and healing following an illness, reduced stress and anxiety, increased creativity, and an overall feeling of happiness. Really? Really!


It’s all true, and we have NASA and other experts to thank for this great info. When NASA employees recently researched ways to clean the air in space stations, they learned that certain plants are great at doing so. In fact, they found that live plants can actually remove mold and toxins from the air and filter out common toxins and pollutants found in space stations and homes everywhere.


This is not only good news, it’s great news, as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the inside of our homes are often more polluted than the outsides. This is due to toxins released from household cleaners, synthetic fabrics, and plastic products as well as the toxins we produce when we cook. Cooking and cleaning it seems, can cook up some very unclean household pollutants!


What to do? Yes, you can choose environmentally friendly and organic cleaning products but you are still going to bring toxins into your house through your shoes and any items you bring into them. Your best bet say many experts is to have numerous houseplants scattered throughout your home. It’s actually recommended you use at least 15 air-cleaning plants every 600 square meters. Some of the most effective include:




Peace Lily. Often considered one of the most effective choices, this hearty and white-flowering lily removes chemicals like formaldehyde and trichloroethylene; benzene, a common household chemical and known carcinogen; and mold spores in the air. They also purify the air of trichloroethylene, a chemical found in cleaners and solvents, and they remove alcohols and acetone in the air.


Philodendron . Noted by NASA among the best types of houseplants for removing especially higher concentrations formaldehyde.


Aloe Vera.  These succulents not only relieve burns, they release and produce oxygen, and have earned the nickname “oxygen bomb.”


Spider Plants. Said to absorb toxins, gasoline, formaldehyde, styrene, and carbon monoxide, Spider Plants are among NASA’s top 3 types of houseplants.  It is said one Spider Plant cleanses 200 square meters, “exhale” oxygen overnight, and remove carbon monoxide and other toxins or impurities.


Estragon/Tarragon. Thought to remove 60 percent of air toxins and 50 percent of feces particles within six hours, the plant also releases oxygen during the night, making it a great bedroom plant.


Florist’s Mum. The chrysanthemum got its name from the Greek words for “gold” and “flower,” the “gold” coming from the mystical healing powers the flower.  Very effective at removing benzene, a cancer-causing carcinogen associated with chemicals, plastics, cigarettes and off-gassing; mums also remove trichloroethylene found in solvents and cleaners, formaldehyde, and ammonia. And Texans think they’re only for football Homecoming celebrations!


Ficus Tree/Weeping Fig. Said to be overall great air purifiers, these trees not only do good things but look good in a room.


Gerbera Daisies. These bright, multi-color, flowering plants are effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning, and are also good for filtering out the benzene found in many household inks. NASA says they also absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen overnight, which is said to improve your sleep. They make the perfect pick-me-up plants for bedrooms and laundry rooms.


Golden Pothos. NASA places this plant among the top 3 types of houseplants great for removing formaldehyde. Also known for removing carbon monoxide and increasing general indoor air quality.


Boston Fern. Act as humidifiers and help restore moisture in the air, making them the perfect plant for those who suffer from dry skin and other cold weather problems. Plus they are so full and pretty!


Queen Fern. Known to clean out and eliminate formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene you may have hiding in your home.


Moth Orchid. Said to remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde commonly off-gassed from paints, solvents, and other synthetic materials, orchids may be considered by many “hard to grow,” but they are oh-so-pretty. I like putting one in my shower!


Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm. According to NASA, these stately palms remove formaldehyde and also act as natural humidifiers.


Rubber Plant. This trusty houseplant cleans the air by emitting high oxygen content and it also purifies indoor air by removing chemicals like formaldehyde.


English Ivy. Known for removing the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen found in cigarette smoke, detergents, pesticides, and the off-gassing of other synthetic materials; English Ivy is also said to be fantastic for asthma and allergies.


Snake Plant.  Found by NASA to absorb toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde, the Snake Plant is not only gorgeously multi-green in color, it requires minimal watering.


Although these and other plants are great for purifying your home’s air quality and removing toxins from it, they may not be for everyone. Some may cause an allergic reaction to handlers, while several are considered potentially poisonous to kids and plants. Be sure to check any and all precautions before purchasing a plant for your home.  In addition, be honest about your commitment to a plant and choose wisely. Travel a lot or not good at tending to a plant? Go for those that are easy to grow and maintain.



Plants in living room



Not only do live plants add a level of cleanliness to your home, they add a feeling of the outdoors and nature too. Enhancing your living space with a botanical style is something Interior Stylist and best-selling author Selina Lake specializes in. Lake never shies away from placing a bold plant somewhere or implementing a leafy designed wallpaper or fabric in her unique way of mastering bringing the outdoors in. It’s a design element popular from coast-to-coast and in all architectural styles.


Mimicking nature is a fabulous way of giving a room an organic and truly alive feeling. When starting out, be sure to mix shapes, sizes, and kinds of plants in addition to different types of greenery. This will add both a surprise element as well as texture. Make a grouping of multiple plants for a fun centerpiece, find a spot for a large potted tree, and even consider cut branches and berries from the outdoors.


Fiddleleaf Figs are especially popular décor items as their violin-shaped leaves lend a visual interest to any space and they are also very low-maintenance.  Another easy-to-care-for plant is the Philodendron mentioned above. Their heart-shaped leaves and trailing stems are designer favorites and the fact that they can survive in even the lowest of light make them a “go to” for all habitats and climates.



Plants in office



But don’t limit your plant plans to your home. Researchers in the U.K. and the Netherlands found that employees who had live plants on their desks, or at least in view from them, had higher levels of concentration and performed tasks faster and more accurately than their plant-free counterparts. And you don’t need a large tree to do the trick. In fact, a small container of peppermint is a great choice as its invigorating scent is said to increase alertness. Plus, who doesn’t love peppermint?!


So the next time you’re looking for that unique décor item, skip the pillows and knick-knacks and head to the plant aisle. You’ll be glad…and maybe ever healthier…you did!




Price Check and Clean Up on Aisle 5 March 6, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:51 pm

I want to preface this blog by saying I do not like going to the grocery store, I’m not one of those who enjoys cooking or experimenting with different foods, and I’m the first to admit that if I ever win the lottery one of the first things I’ll treat myself to is a personal chef who will cook for me and shop for me. Okay, I said it, I own it, and now I’m writing about it. Grocery shopping that is. Say what?



Grocery store Barbie


On a girls getaway over the weekend the recent grand opening of a ginormous HMart Asian Grocery was the topic of conversation. Word on the street was that it’s good, it’s different, and it’s HUGE. The store encompasses nearly 70,000 square feet…that’s bigger than a football field…and took over the space formerly occupied by Sports Authority AND Bed, Bath & Beyond. When I hear these numbers, it’s beyond me how anyone isn’t overwhelmed just walking into the place. I’ve yet to do so.


But, a person’s grocery store is a special and personal place, as I came to find out when we moved just a little more than a year ago. Even I, a self-confirmed non-liker of grocery shopping, missed my former grocery store! I longed for it and am only now warming up to my new one. Think about it; there are few things in life as daunting as doing major shopping in a grocery store you’re unfamiliar with. It can take twice as long and be three times as frustrating.



Grocery store clipart


Grocery stores are big business. Annual sales hover around $7 billion and the industry employs nearly 5 million Americans. And as HMart demonstrates, big stores are not uncommon with just over 40,000 square feet being the median grocery store size. That’s a lot of crackers and cucumbers! In fact, the number of products found in an average grocer in 1975 was a mere 9,000. Today that number is nearly 40,000. I’m pretty sure half of those items are just toothpaste and cleaning supply choices. Good night. What ever happened to simple toothpaste and a do-it-all disinfecting cleaner?  But I digress.


Still, all is not well in the industry. Classic brick-and-mortar supermarkets are facing super competition from the likes of Amazon and in-home meal kit delivery services. So what are they doing to adapt to growing competition, unique millennial shopping habits, changing technology, and finicky consumer demands? They’re strategizing how to get you in their stores and changing up traditional product placement on shelves.



Grocery store basket


It’s all about keeping customers coming in and getting those customers to spend more. Consumer psychology research is in full force and has revealed many a trick of the trade. It all starts right as you enter the store: carts are big enough to fit enough food for a family of, I don’t know, say 20? Once inside, you’re often greeted by fun and festive seasonal items that put you in a good mood and are most likely adjacent to the produce department. After filling your cart with kale and zucchini spirals, the thought is you will feel healthy and good about yourself as you make your way to the more non-healthy aisles. This is where you’ll find cereal boxes and chips placed on lower shelves so they are eye-level, which attracts attention, and the placing of previously “middle aisle” products in the prime supermarket real estate of the perimeter. Traditionally the place to find produce, meats, and dairy products, some stores are now placing boxed items and even paper products on the outer rim aisles. The coveted front-of-store end caps and checkout aisle shelves are also being used in unique ways not previously seen.


Combo shopping is also in full force. Think all those “buy spaghetti sauce and get the spaghetti and parmesan cheese for free” offers as well as the clever mix of dinner kits sold alongside cake mixes and other dessert options. Even if it’s not a healthy choice, nothing says “buy me now” like “buy one get three free” or “great value deal.” Grocery stores are also partnering with food brands in “trade spending” promotions to encourage purchases. For example, Kellogg’s recently ran a program that placed its boxes of cereal in the produce section. Genius!


Companies like Coca-Cola work feverously to determine the best ways to position their products even in the less-popular center aisles and work with stores on shelving arrangements and prominence. Clustering products is also aimed at getting your attention and money. This type of displaying may involve placing products commonly used by senior citizens or new moms in one convenient area.



Grocery stores quote


Americans spent about $150 on food per week and one in 10 say they spend more than $300. Millennials are a huge target audience for the food and grocery industry, as their average weekly food spending is more than that of older adults and their tastes tend to be more pricey and particular.


These young adults, my daughter included, spend most of their hard-earned money at the likes of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and other natural food stores and they shop often as they prefer to buy only what they need and buy fresh. Your basic chains like HEB, Kroger, and Randall’s have had to keep up and have upped their organic and ethnic options but how they sell is becoming as important as what they sell.


When you think about it, the younger generation is all about their phones and healthy eating, so why not marry the two? She said yes in that many chains are now accepting Apple Pay and other mobile payment options. One service that is sure to boom allows shoppers to scan items with a mobile app as they shop and then pay through a self-checkout and maybe even through the app itself. Sold!



Meal kit delivery


Online shopping, delivery services, and curb-side pickup are growing trends and everyone seems to be on board, with Amazon buying Whole Foods and Target buying Shipt. It’s no wonder, as online grocery spending is expected to reach 20 percent of the market and pass the $100 billion mark in the coming years. The $2.2 billion meal kits market, such as those offered by the likes of Plated and Blue Apron, is also expected to continue growing with some estimates projecting a 30 percent increase for the ready-to-make meals market that delivers to customers’ doorsteps.


Don’t count out your neighborhood grocers just yet though. They still have a firm grasp on the market and are primed to be not only your local food market, but special events locales as well. Dining areas and food courts, like those found in that spanking new HMart, are welcoming customers with events like coffee nights and wine tastings. Shoppers are encouraged to stop at various stations throughout the store to taste samples while listening to live music, resulting in their store being more inviting and a place where they can actually have fun.


Surprisingly I have yet to try any of the delivery, curbside, or meal kits options. Yes, I’m not a lover of grocery shopping but I’m also a bit OCD and like what I like. I find the idea of selecting items for someone else to purchase for me and then having to be home for the delivery as overwhelming and stressful and just doing it myself. For now I’ll just continue placing my reusable grocery bags onto a cart, checking things off my handwritten list (I still have not warmed up to any grocery list app), and hope I don’t forget anything.