Archive | May 2014

Living With Lyme (Part 2): Preventing Tick Bites

This post, originally published in May 2013, still contains very timely information as we approach summer 2014. We are republishing it today in hopes of spreading the word and continuing to educate families about the prevalence of Lyme Disease, in conjunction with May’s Lyme Awareness Month. 

By Mary Ann Filler

Are there changes that you should make to live a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps you need to get more sleep, drink more water, or eat healthy and exercise to lose a few pounds. Information about healthy living can be overwhelming and confusing. But one fact is certain–prevention is the key to good health. And yet many of us do not take measures to ensure our health. In fact, sometimes it takes a major “wake-up” call for us to take action and make positive changes.

I’m going to address a subject that seemingly may not apply to you. If you or a loved one doesn’t have Lyme Disease, you may wonder why you would need to concern yourself with what I have to say. Of course, it is your choice to take heed or not. However, I hope that you will educate yourself and take precautions before you have no choice! “They Won’t Get It Until They Get It,” is a common saying in the Lyme community. May this saying NOT apply to you!

As mentioned in my first “Lyme” blog, Living With Lyme (Part 1), Lyme Disease is both difficult to diagnose and treat.  In his book, Lyme Disease Solution, Dr. Kenneth Singleton suggests that for every case of Lyme Disease that is currently detected, there are as many as ten or more cases of Lyme Disease that go undetected or undiagnosed.  These cases often result in chronic Lyme Disease, which causes debilitating and many times irreversible disease that is difficult to treat.  As a result, preventing Lyme Disease should be a high priority for everyone.

What are some measures you can take to prevent Lyme Disease?

 Be Aware that Ticks are Your Enemy

First, be aware that the primary vector for Lyme Disease is the bite of a tick.  The majority of information in the news perpetuates the belief that only the tiny deer tick, also known as the Blacklegged Tick, carries the Lyme bacteria.  In the interest of time, I’m not going to debate that belief; I’m just going to state that I don’t believe ANY tick is a good tick, and that all ticks have the capacity to carry and infect you with disease.  AVOID ticks if at all possible!

Note:  While not popularly held by “the mainstream,” it has also been suggested that fleas, flies, gnats, mites and mosquitoes may also transmit Lyme disease.  It is certain that these pests do transmit other diseases and it makes sense to avoid them as well.  In addition, humans have possibly passed Lyme and other tick borne diseases along in pregnancy and via blood donation or organ transplant. 

Know Your Enemy

A tick is a tiny parasite that feeds on the blood of animals and people.  They do not have wings and cannot fly or jump.  Ticks get around by walking or hitching a ride on an animal.  When the tick latches on to get a blood meal, it may transmit a bacteria “cocktail” that it obtained from a different host in an earlier feeding in the life cycle.

Life Cycle of a Tick

Life Cycle of a Tick

The length of time that a tick needs to be attached to transmit disease is somewhat debatable; most sources agree that it takes 24-48 hours.  Regardless, proper tick removal (how to remove an embedded tick properly) is critical to preventing the tick from infecting you with disease.

Tick Size Comparison

Know Where and When to Expect Ticks

Since a tick bite is the primary vector for Lyme Disease, you will want to know that tick bites may occur ANY time of the year, but most often during early spring to late summer.  As the weather gets warmer, ticks become more active and more likely to bite.  Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs.  Small animals including birds, mice, rabbits, squirrels or chipmunks can carry ticks on to your property.  In addition, if you have a pet dog or cat that frequents your yard or walks in suspect areas, they may carry ticks in to your home.

Caution Tick Habitat

Take Precautions Before Going Into Potentially Tick Infested Areas

When frequenting areas that are potentially tick infested, wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be seen.  In addition, pick clothing that is made of smooth or tightly woven fabrics making it more difficult for ticks to latch on to you.  Tuck your shirt in to your pants and your pants in to your socks.  Of course, long-sleeved shirts, pants and closed toed shoes are preferred.

 Choose a Tick Repellant that is Right For You

Applying a tick repellant helps to reduce the chances of getting bit by a tick, but you will have to decide which repellent is right for you.  Many sources will tell you to spray yourself with a bug repellant that contains DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).  While DEET is an effective agent for tick repulsion, caution must be used when applying it, as it can be toxic to the nervous system, and it’s not the most pleasant to use (not to mention the environmental impact).  Avon has a product line that repels ticks and is DEET free.  However, it still contains a chemical called Picardin.  There are natural alternatives including essential oils, but unfortunately little testing has been done to show that these alternatives actually work to repel ticks.

While many people are aware that they should spray their skin with tick repellent, they are unaware that treating their clothing may be one of the most preventative measures available. When sprayed on clothing and camping gear, Premethrin is highly effective in repelling and even killing ticks as well as other pests.  Premethrin treated items kill ticks on contact.  However, Premethrin cannot be applied directly to your skin.  Spray clothing (especially socks and shoes) and gear a day before you will be heading in to the woods.  Once clothing is treated, the Premethrin is still effective through 6 washings.  Premethrin can be purchased on-line or in stores that sell outdoor gear.  As with any chemical compound, follow the directions for use very carefully.


Take Extra Precautions If you Spend Time in forested areas.

If you camp, hike, or hunt, you may want to consider purchasing clothing that is pretreated with Premethrin by checking out Insect Shield Clothing (  Pretreated clothing can be washed up to 70 times and still be effective.  When hiking, stay on the path as much as possible.  Also, use a hiking stick to push any branches that may be across the path out of the way.  Spray all sleeping bags and tents with Premethrin.

 What Should You Do After Spending Time in Potentially Tick Infested Areas?

 After an activity in a potentially tick infested area, when arriving home, immediately place all clothing in the dryer (prior to washing) on high for 1 hour.  The high temperatures from the dryer will kill any ticks that may be hanging out waiting to latch on to you or your pet once inside your home.

If you are camping, remove your clothing and place in a plastic bag; close the bag with a plastic tie until you can get home.  Loose clothing lying around a tent or camper may provide an opportunity for ticks to latch on while you are walking around or even sleeping.

Shower as soon as you are able using a brush.  Do a through tick check.  Ticks can hide under armpits, behind knees, and in the hair.  Having another person check in difficult to see places would be the most advantageous.  Of course, an adult should inspect children closely.  Caution:  ticks may look like a small freckle and can be almost undetectable!

Tiny Tick!

Tiny Tick!

Apply a Tick Treatment to Your Pet

If you have a cat or dog that spends time outside, make sure to apply a tick prevention strategy to them as well.  As with treating yourself, you will have to decide which tick treatment is best for your dog.  Of course there are the once a month applications of flea and tick protection or the flea and tick collar.  However, if you’re looking for a more natural/chemical-free approach, you may want to consider, Natural Flea and Tick Defense.

If you prefer, you can make your own spray using essential oils.  One source for recipes and ordering essential oils is experience-essential-oils.  This source recommends using a dog shampoo that is infused with essential oils when you bathe your dog as an added precaution.

Again, the efficacy of many of these items is debatable.  Our family has chosen to use natural alternatives and to create a tick free zone in our back yard for our dog.  Unfortunately, I no longer walk my dog off of our property due to an increased risk of picking up ticks.

 Modify Your Landscaping to Create a Tick Free Zone

Harvard Health recommends doing a “tick drag” in your yard to determine whether or not you have ticks.  Attach a square yard of white flannel to a 3-foot stick and tie a rope to each end of the stick.  Drag the cloth over the lawn and leaves, and examine it for ticks that have latched on.  Do this several times.  Use a cloth mounted like a flag on a stick to determine whether you have a tick problem in your bushy or grassy vegetation.

Reduce your risk from getting a tick bite on your own property by clearing shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation away from patios, play areas and playground equipment. Clear leaf litter and mow regularly.  Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from areas where you and your family spend time.

If you think you have a tick problem on your property, University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center, suggests a dual action treatment plan for your property that includes host-targeted Tick Tubes and the habitat-targeted perimeter spray.  When used together in a program, they provide outstanding protection from tick encounter, especially for backyards.

To be honest, prior to being diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I thought very little of tick bite prevention.  Now, our family has taken action to reduce the likelihood of getting a tick bite.  We have hired Natural Lawn of America to spray our lawn.  The company has a more organic approach to lawn care and pest control.  In the upcoming months, we will also be placing Tick Tubes on our property.  We keep our lawn mowed and clear leaf debris.  In addition, our dog is no longer allowed to venture off of our property for walks, and he is treated with the shampoo mentioned above.  I personally believe that preventing your pet dog or cat from encountering ticks can be one of the biggest precautionary measures you can take.  I haven’t done any hardcore research, but I understand that veterinarians are encountering tick borne disease in dogs in record numbers.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late…

At this point, I would encourage you not to wait to incorporate the tick prevention strategies that apply to you.  If you will be spending time in the woods this summer, I cannot stress enough the need for you to protect yourself and your family members.  Please do not wait until it’s too late!

Web Sources:,0

From Beth’s Kitchen: Mom’s Best Potato Salad


By Beth Heeschen

Join us in welcoming Beth to “Off the Merry-Go-Round!” Look for her blogs “From Beth’s Kitchen” on a regular basis–you won’t want to miss her outstanding recipes and stories. Read more about Beth’s fascinating background on our Bloggers page. For her first article, we thought a Memorial Day-inspired Potato Salad recipe would be perfect… enjoy!

In Iowa, potato salad is taken seriously… very seriously.  The season begins at Memorial Day Picnics, and doesn’t end until the high school football team has shut off the lights at the last home game.  The bowls of yellow, mayonnaise laden potato salads line up at church picnics, family reunions, holiday get-togethers, and tailgate parties.  All of them alternately placed between bowls of “not potato salad.”   Lined up like aspiring contestants waiting to be crowned, but never being recognized with anything other than a knowing nod, and comment of “this is really very good.”  Alternatively, you’ve blown it if your potato salad is met with the inquisitive “interesting, what’s in it?”…Sound the gong! Iowans go to great lengths not to be rude or overly praiseful.  You become very adept at reading into subtleties.

It is very important to bring THE best potato salad.  It’s a matter of humble-pride, and you want to be the humble crown bearer.  Everyone in town knows who makes the best potato salads, as it is discussed after the aforementioned gatherings.  In the small Iowa town I grew up in, it was a well-known fact that Vi Roberts, who worked at the courthouse, was the reigning potato salad queen.  For years… and years… and years… Finally she decided to take five pound orders and set up a nice little side business for herself.  It also expanded into some fabulous meatballs, but that is for another blog… There were many wonderful second place potato salads, that shifted around from person to person, and year to year.  I like to think, and believe, my Mom’s was one of these.

In true Iowa fashion, simple is best.  Potatoes, eggs, and mayonnaise are the standard.  Other secret ingredients can be added to enhance these primary ingredients, and are what makes each potato salad unique.  Add to your own peril, anything weird like radishes would be deeply frowned upon… and NEVER EVER use light mayonnaise!  ENJOY!


2 ½ lb Yukon Gold Potatoes, washed and unpeeled

½ C Finely chopped Vidalia Onion

4 Hardboiled eggs, 3 finely chopped, 1 sliced

2 Celery stalks, finely chopped

˜  ˜  ˜

1 T White vinegar

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1 tsp Celery Seed

˜  ˜  ˜

3/4 C Hellman’s Mayonnaise

1/4 C Miracle Whip

1 1/2 T White Vinegar

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

˜  ˜  ˜

Salt and Pepper


Use potatoes that are similar in size, or put the larger ones on the bottom of a pot.  Cover potatoes with water and boil until a fork easily pierces.  Remove using a slotted spoon to a strainer (avoid dumping, as it might damage the potatoes).  If using potatoes of different size, the small ones will be done before the larger.  Cool completely.

Mix the white vinegar, Dijon, salt and celery seed in a small bowl.

When potatoes have cooled, scrap off skin with a paring knife, and cube into desired size (I find that ½” works best).  Place in bowl, and add vinegar mixture.  Stir until completely coated.  Add onion, eggs, and celery.

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and add to potato mixture.  Fold gently until completely coated.  Salt ad pepper to taste.

Garnish with sliced egg and paprika.

Mom's Best Potato Salad

Mom’s Best Potato Salad


Happy “unofficial” summertime, this Memorial Day weekend!

What are your traditional Memorial Day picnic dishes?

Gardening: Good for the Soul

A hidden treasure found inside my hanging fern... I am watering it carefully these days!

A hidden treasure found inside my hanging fern… I am watering it carefully these days!

By Karen Hendricks

As I’m writing this, a gentle spring rain is falling… music to my ears, because it means my garden is being watered. How many of our Off the Merry-Go-Round readers also maintain gardens? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s compare notes and exchange tips…

Every spring, I love rediscovering one of my favorite hobbies all over again–gardening. Through the long winter months, I enjoy dreaming about and planning my next gardening adventure, but it doesn’t turn into reality until I pull on the gardening gloves and actually start digging in the earth. What is it about gardening that draws me back year after year? There are many wonderful reasons, but one underlying and main reason: it feels good for the soul. There is something that resonates within me, deep down. And it’s certainly time spent “off the merry-go-round” of busy, hectic days.

I’ve compiled a free-form list of words, triggered by brainstorming about gardening and why it’s so good for the soul:

  • nature
  • peaceful
  • God’s creation
  • therapeutic
  • exercise
  • weeding
  • planting
  • nurturing
  • rewarding
  • earthy
  • healthy
  • beauty
  • green
  • growth
  • discoveries
  • wonder
  • sunshine
  • outdoors

Come with me and take a tour of some of my gardens, through photos, below… I hope it inspires you and touches something within your soul too.

Nothing says "spring" like a pot of pansies by your front door. This is one of my favorite spots to catch a cup of coffee or tea.

Nothing says “spring” like a pot of pansies by your front door. This is one of my favorite spots to catch a cup of coffee or tea.


"Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts." - Shakespeare

“Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” – Shakespeare


The vegetable garden... a (mostly) blank canvas, waiting for this year's crops.

The vegetable garden… a (mostly) blank canvas, waiting for this year’s crops.


My husband built me this little "greenhouse" from our home's old windows. The top window is hinged so that it can be opened. It's the perfect place to grow spring lettuce!

My husband built me this little “greenhouse” from our home’s old windows. The top window is hinged so that it can be opened. It’s the perfect place to grow spring lettuce!


Nothing tastes as fresh as lettuce straight from the garden... Can't wait for it to grow some more!

Nothing tastes as fresh as lettuce straight from the garden… Can’t wait for it to grow some more!


Spring onions!

Spring onions!


Parsley in a pot, beginning to grow from seed. I can't live without fresh parsley for summertime dishes, and growing it in an pot makes it versatile because I can move it right to my kitchen doorstep.

Parsley in a pot, beginning to grow from seed. I can’t live without fresh parsley for summertime dishes, and growing it in an pot makes it versatile because I can move it right to my kitchen doorstep.


This little bed features white tulips and a thick bunch of mountain bluets... a very unique flower that's one of my favorites.

This little bed features white tulips and a thick bunch of mountain bluets… a very unique flower that’s one of my favorites.


A closer look at the mountain bluets... they remind me of bright blue firecrackers.

A closer look at the mountain bluets… they remind me of bright blue firecrackers.


Several of our bloggers have recently written about family ties. These irises are very special to me, as they are the same ones that grew in my great-grandmother's garden. A wonderful reminder of her!

Several of our bloggers have recently written about family ties. These irises are very special to me, as they are the same ones that grew in my great-grandmother’s garden. A wonderful reminder of her!

Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages.  Greek men would often plant an iris on the graves of their beloved women as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields.”   -Hana No Monogatari, in The Stories of Flowers

What does gardening mean to you? Do you enjoy tending a vegetable garden or flower beds? Any gardening “secrets” you’d like to share? Thanks so much for stopping by for a tour… and perhaps I’ll share photos of my garden again, later in the season! 

Introducing “Chick Clicks!” with a Cinco de Mayo Recipe


By Mary Ann Filler

Hello, Off The Merry-Go-Round readers! It’s been a while since I have contributed to the blog. I have been back on the Merry-Go-Round teaching 14 credit hours this semester. As a mom of three very active teenage sons, I have had to cut back on extra activities such as blogging. However, I have been brainstorming ways that I can still continue to contribute to the blog without it taking too much time. Fellow OTMGR writer Karen and I came up with a plan… and we are proud to introduce my first installment of “Chick Clicks!”

What are Chick Clicks?

In my new series, I’m going to share online “treasure” with you. Chick Clicks are links to wonderful articles, recipes, projects and more—all online and all (hopefully) helpful to you as a family-oriented mom and wife. I’m looking forward to shining a spotlight on other fabulous blogs and websites written by moms (chicks) just like us, with words of wisdom, helpful tips and tricks that I have personally found useful. Blogs form a great network of resources!

I was telling Karen about an amazing recipe for refried beans that I discovered, and she thought it would be the perfect first Chick Click to share in honor of Cinco de Mayo. So here goes!

Consider: Cutting Down on Processed Foods

Are you familiar with the 100 Days of Real Food website? I have found some really great recipes there.  Lisa Leake started the blog/website when she and her family pledged to go 100 days without eating any highly processed or refined foods including white flour or sugar. They made this decision to draw attention to our society’s dependency on processed food. So, the recipes are very healthy and use only real food ingredients.

Her refried bean recipe is one of my favorites because it’s inexpensive, easy and delicious. In addition, it also freezes well. Beans are super high in protein, iron and fiber, which make them the perfect option for “Meatless Mondays” if you follow that trend. Or serve them alongside your favorite taco recipe for the perfect side dish today, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Ole!

So without further ado… here is my first Chick Click!

Click here for Lisa Leake’s Easy Slow Cooker Refried Beans


The recipe uses dry beans that are normally soaked overnight prior to cooking. However, according to the recipe, this step may be eliminated. As a side note, I still like to soak dry beans for at least 24 hours and for nutritional reasons that you can read about here, in a bonus Chick Click from the Healthy Home Economist.  

I highly recommend soaking your pinto beans overnight, first.

I highly recommend soaking your pinto beans overnight, first.


Load all of your ingredients into your handy crock pot. It is a busy chick's best friend!

Load all of your ingredients into your handy crock pot. It is a busy chick’s best friend!


This is how the beans will look when softened and ready for mashing.

This is how the beans will look when softened and ready for mashing.


And presto... time for a fiesta!

And presto… time for a fiesta!

Enjoy the recipe!

P.S. Many thanks to Karen for these great pics! 🙂