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Thursday, December 12 , 2013

5 Tree-Trimming Tips

Trimming a Christmas tree is easy when you have help...and what a great excuse for a party! Invite your trimming crew over, and try these fun ideas...

Decorating your tree with strings of popcorn is an attractive, natural and inexpensive option—but fresh-popped kernels tend to break apart when you try to string them. Solution: Air-pop the corn kernels a few days before the stringing. Stale popcorn is a lot easier to work with than fresh—it’s tougher and holds together better. And fresh popcorn is too tempting to eat!

Ask each of your tree-trimming guests to bring one inexpensive ornament. You can have a contest to declare the sweetest, goofiest, classiest, most retro...whatever categories you'd like. Tell your trimming crew in advance that homemade ornaments are welcome...even preferred.

Try to keep your food selections to easy handheld munchies because people will be busy decorating your tree. The best holiday-party food we know is take-out pizza cut up into small 3-x-3-inch squares. What says Christmas better than a Margherita pizza—red sauce, white cheese...topped with fresh green basil leaves. Finish up with Christmas cookies and hot cocoa.

More ways to make your holiday special...


Wednesday, December 11 , 2013

Firming Fruit Facial for Super-Healthy Skin

The best time to apply a face mask is just before going to sleep, when your skin remains makeup free for at least six to eight hours. Also, try to apply the mask right after you've taken a bath or shower or after you’ve gently steamed your face so that your pores are open and ready for a healthy treat.

Here's an all-natural mask that will make your skin look great: In a blender, purée one cup of fresh pineapple and one-half cup of fresh (slightly green) papaya. Put the pureed fruit in a bowl, and mix in two tablespoons of honey. Apply it to your just-washed face and neck, but not on the delicate area right around your eyes. Leave it on for five minutes—not more—and rinse with cool water.

This once-a-week natural alpha hydroxy facial can boost the production of collagen (making your face firmer), slough off dead skin cells, even out skin tone and make tiny lines less noticeable. The enzymes in pineapple (bromelain) and papaya (papain) do most of the work, while the honey acts as a natural antibiotic, gently healing blemishes.

More natural remedies for your skin...


Tuesday, December 10 , 2013

Mood-Boosting Food Combinations

One of the best ways that food works as medicine is as an antidepressant. We mean healthy, heart-warming (OK, sometimes slightly decadent) comfort-food combos that make you feel glad to be alive! Indulge in these, and you'll turn less often to the junk.

Here are some of our favorite food combos...

Salmon and spinach: This not only tastes great, but the omega-3s in the salmon and the magnesium in the spinach actually promote sleep. You'll feel great after eating these two foods together, and you will enjoy blissful ZZZZs.

Mango and lime: Want something sweet but don't feel like a fake sugar product? Mangoes contain vitamin B6, which helps produce serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to slice. The easiest way is to lay it flat and slice it lengthwise along the pit. Then cut the flesh to look like a checkerboard, still intact to the skin. There's a bunch of step-by-step instructions online, such as http://homecooking.about.com/od/howtocookbasics/ss/cutmango.htm. After you cut your mango section into cubes, squeeze a bit of fresh lime juice on it. It's an easy, inexpensive way to make yourself feel good (and delicious enough for guests).

Now for a food combo that's completely indulgent—but still a better choice than processed junk food...

Fried chicken and coffee: This is a favorite of truck drivers who need to keep the blues at bay while driving hundreds of miles a day. If you ever come to a rest stop and there's a decent coffee vendor and a fried chicken restaurant, give it a try. It's a tasty combo that lives up to the phrase “ comfort food.”

What's your favorite comfort-food combo? We'd love to know!

More ways to get happy...


Monday, December 09 , 2013

Homemade Tea for Stomachaches

Minor stomach cramps can erupt from a variety of causes—something you ate, how you ate it (too fast, usually), a punch, an elbow poke, premenstrual tension. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Here's a remedy to help soothe minor cramps no matter where they came from: Steep one teaspoon of fresh coarsely chopped or dried parsley in one cup of hot water. After five minutes, strain out the leaves and then slowly drink the parsley tea. Note: Parsley tea can act as a diuretic, so make sure you plan accordingly, just in case you have to “drink and run.” Caution: If your stomachache is severe, contact a physician immediately.

More natural help for stomach pain...

Friday, December 06 , 2013

Fizzy Fix for Slow Toilets

Is your toilet being sluggish and a few good plunges aren't helping? Don't call the plumber yet or purchase any expensive, harsh chemicals that will hurt your pipes. Here's what you do: For a toilet that's slow but not completely stopped up, pour one cup of white vinegar and one-half cup of baking soda in the toilet and swish it around until it fizzes quite dramatically. Give a few more plunges, and flush the toilet. The strong reaction between the vinegar and baking soda should clear the way. 

If you do not have a plunger, skip the baking soda/vinegar mixture, and squirt about four tablespoons of hand-dishwashing detergent into the semi-backed-up bowl. Flush. If it looks like an overflow is about to happen, quickly turn on the cold water in the sink and the shower (or tub—whatever is in your bathroom) to detour the water. The overflow shouldn't happen because the detergent will clear the way. If it doesn't, you need to call a plumber (sorry).

More home help...


Thursday, December 05 , 2013

Tongue Trick Stops Nervous Cough

Why is it the minute we have to be quiet, like during an uncomfortable scene in a staged play or during a speech, we cough? It's nerves, and if you are a human being, your body sometimes reacts when you feel a little squirmy. You don't have to leave the scene. A theatrical stage manager we know gave us this advice: To stop a nervous cough, press hard on the roof of your mouth with your tongue or your index finger. Your cough should stop immediately. You won't have to add to the noise by opening up a cellophane-wrapped cough drop...and the show will go on.

More quick fixes...


Wednesday, December 04 , 2013

Remove the White Rings from Your Wood Table

This tip comes courtesy of Brenda, who asked us on Facebook: “How do you get white stains off a wood kitchen table?” That's a great question. A white ring on your wood furniture is a water stain from a warm bowl, plate or pot, or from condensation off a beverage glass. It looks like your table is ruined, but it should be OK. Here's our favorite fix for a water stain: Mix plain white toothpaste with an equal amount of baking soda (usually a half-teaspoon of each will work), then massage the mixture into the problem area. Wipe the paste away and buff dry. If the area seems a little dull, rub with furniture polish or even a little olive oil, if you want to go completely homemade.

More homemade help for your furniture...

Tuesday, December 03 , 2013

Better Than a Book Club

When it’s time to get out and socialize, the usual advice is to “start or join a book club.” Well, what if you don’t have the time to read, or you dread finishing a book that you don’t like, or you just aren’t an avid reader? How about starting a movie club instead? Movie buffs love to critique what they see, and you can schedule it so that club members watch the movies together or watch them separately and then get together to yack about them. And it doesn’t have to be movies...plenty of TV series, old and new, are talk-worthy as well.

There’s lots of advice on the Web about how to create a book club—and those tips work very well for movie clubs, too. (One place to start: ehow.com/how_2077518_start-movie-club.html). Money-saving movie night: Check your local library for films and television series. Many libraries now carry extensive collections of DVDs in both regular and Blu-ray format.

More ways to better socializing...


Monday, December 02 , 2013

Soften Your Sweaters and Prevent Pilling

We know you couldn’t wait to hear a bit of wool-sock history, so here it is: In the latter part of the 19th century, a pair of wool socks, estimated to be over 1,000 years old, were found buried on the banks of the Nile river. The socks were perfectly preserved. Ok, you won’t need your wool socks in 1,000 years, but here are a few tips to help take care of your woolens so that they’ll last for as long as you enjoy wearing them:

To prevent pilling of the wool, loosely put your woolens in a pillowcase and tie the case closed with ribbon or string. (Make sure the sweaters or socks aren’t packed together too tightly. You may need another pillowcase to accommodate multiple items.) Run this through your washer’s gentle cycle with your usual laundry detergent. (Specialty soap for delicates, such as Woolite, is OK to use.) If your woolens are feeling stiff or rough after storage (or after sitting on a store shelf), add one teaspoon of olive oil after the washer fills with water (with or without the pillowcase)—this will soften the wool. Cozy!

More money-saving laundry care...


Friday, November 29 , 2013

Soothing Foot Massage for Tired Feet

Holidays (the cooking, the cleaning, the visiting, the shopping) can really do a number on you...and your poor feet! When your feet hurt and you’re tired, soak them in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then (and this is the unusual part) massage your feet with about one-quarter cup of lemon juice, which is a natural anti-inflammatory that helps detoxify overworked muscles. Take your time and, while massaging, thank your feet for all they’ve done for you. After a thorough job of massaging your feet, rinse them with cool water. Dry them completely, then take five deep breaths. You and your pain-free feet should be able to settle down for a good night’s sleep.

More feel-good tips for your feet...