by Mary Jane Butters

QUESTION: I love your magazine! Do you have any ideas for eating out? This always ends up being a problem for me. -- A fan, Georgeann Cheney, Stillwater, MN

MARY JANE: One important reason to eat organically grown foods is the effect it has on your immune system. With every organic bite you eat, your lymphatic system thanks you. Disease and allergies can be the result of a weakened immune system; laughter and feeling good bolsters your immune system. Author Norman Cousins claims he cured his cancer by laughing for several hours every day.

Pay attention to the food you eat at home and then limit how often you eat out. Choose a restaurant where the employees seem happy and there is a good selection of vegetables and fruit dishes available. Choose fish (unbreaded) over meat. Ask your host if they can leave out the MSG. Go with good friends, relax and enjoy it. Throw your head back and laugh.

P.S. Remember, the typical artificial strawberry flavor found in fast food milkshakes contains things like amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl proprionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone, (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine, carbonate, methyl napthyl ketone, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, y-undecalactone, vanillin, solvent, etc.

QUESTION: I've read that most aerosol furniture polishes contain harmful additives like nitrobenzene and phenol. What else can I use that really works and is easy? -- Mary Ogle via email

MARY JANE: For routine dusting, put one cup of warm water into a spray bottle. Add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender, lemon or pine. Choose a favorite. Shake it well and spray two or three shots onto a lint-free cloth. It's simple, but it works. Launder your dust cloth after every use.

If you have some furniture that is unvarnished, you'll want to oil it occasionally. In a small jar with a lid, mix 1 tablespoon olive oil with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. (Pour the lemon juice through a screen so it's free of pulp.) Shake it up and apply it with a clean lint-free cloth. The lemon juice dissolves the accumulated dirt and the oil is absorbed into the wood, replenishing the natural oils that have been lost over time.

QUESTION: I've been gardening for years now, but I've never taken composting seriously. Information about how and why to build a compost bin is everywhere, and I've finally decided it's time to get started. But I'm not sure which foods I should compost and which I shouldn't. -- Cindylou Ament, Moscow, ID

MARY JANE: You can compost almost any food, even marshmallows. Meats, oils and dairy, however, can attract animals like rats, flies and maggots -- and they can make your compost smell bad. Stick with vegetable and fruit wastes, breads, pastas and coffee grounds. Even coffee filters and tea bags will decompose. The old, moldy leftovers from your refrigerator make great additions to compost. Make sure your compost pile is inaccessible to dogs and cats. On occasion, they'll be tempted, and the moldy old food can make them sick.

QUESTION: My feet sweat a lot in the summer. Is there something natural I can use to prevent odor? -- Emil McCarthy, Moscow, ID

MARY JANE: Stinky feet are the result of bacteria that thrive in dark, warm, moist places. When you shower or bathe, scrub your feet with soap and then dry them thoroughly. Wear clean socks. (Hang your socks outside to dry, if possible. Sunshine and fresh air kill bacteria.) Buy some powdered sage and mix it with equal portions of baking soda and cornstarch. Sprinkle the dry mixture on your feet and rub it in. (Sage has excellent antibacterial properties.) Next, dust your socks with some of the mixture. Avoid rubber or plastic shoes. Choose socks made of cotton or a blend that wicks perspiration away from your feet. Don't wear the same shoes two days in a row; let them dry out for 24 hours. Consider the anatomy of your feet also. If you have a weakened arch, try an insert, which will allow your feet to relax more, giving off less heat.

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Sundays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Fridays, 4-9 p.m. Continues through Dec. 11
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