Monday, February 25, 2008

The First Whiff of Spring?

We’re breathing cleaner air in this house tonight. We have been having a heat wave, and the girls and I took advantage of it to air out the house and pot some new houseplants.

Really we indulged in all things spring today. Maya wore a spring-green dress. We put on a little skit for Elliot about all the animal and bird sounds that we’ll hear in the spring (quite the duet - Maya’s various bird noises were a riot!). We ate potato salad and barbeque for lunch.

We even achieved that zenith of personal success: all three of us were dressed, bundled, and accessorized at the same time. Granted we only drove about a mile, but it was a liberating, spring-like journey that didn’t jeopardize Elliot’s safety. Our little troop made quite a stir in the local nursery. All three of the unoccupied staff members dropped their watering cans and pruning sheers to help us put together a fun afternoon of gardening.

Once home, Elliot watched Maya and I plant marigold seeds, repot a parsley plant for the kitchen, and repot a jade plant for the dining room table. We spread a disposable table cloth on the floor and delighted in making a mess of the soil and water and seeds. Surprisingly, a lot of it even made it into pots! Who knows if any of it will live to see the actual spring (that’s what, two months away for Minnesotans?) But we had a terrific time smelling the potting soil, watering all the plants, giving them names, and talking about what will happen to them in the coming months. I so hope that at least one of them survives. My green thumb has historically only applied to outdoor plants!

In theory, the houseplants should help improve our indoor air quality all on their own. According to a study by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), many common houseplants, including my own favorite philodendron (absolutely indestructible!), improve air quality. Check out this link for the top ten houseplants.

More importantly, I opened all of our windows for 20 minutes today. Elliot, Maya, and I huddled under a blanket and read some books together while the cold air cleansed months of stale, recycled winter air. Sure it was a waste of energy, but the sinus headache I’ve sported off and on for a month has already cleared up, and Joe noticed the fresher air as soon as he walked in the door (and yes, the house had warmed up by then). Most sources advise doing this for 3 to 4 minutes at least twice every day, but when it is sub-zero, that just seemed silly. Here are a few simple tips for improving indoor air quality, like opening windows, removing your shoes, and keeping ventilation fans clean. A lot of longer lists include ditching carpet in favor of a hard surface floor with washable rugs and purchasing organic mattresses, but this list is a good set of practical strategies that don’t require remodeling (just dusting, which for me is equally daunting).

Our next think-spring activity? Track down a raincoat and goulashes for Maya and baby rain poncho for Elliot. Doesn’t that have Easter basket written all over it?

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