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Monday, July 21 , 2014

Sweet Trick for Warts

No matter how you feel about warts, they seem to have a way of growing on you. Verruca vulgaris is the medical term for the common wart. And we think that's a very fitting term! We have more folk cures for warts than pretty much anything else, so here's one more pantry product that will make that ugly bump disappear.

Dab a drop of blackstrap molasses on the wart, and cover with an adhesive bandage. Keep it on all day. Repeat the molasses/bandage treatment every day. In about two weeks, the wart should drop off without leaving a trace.

More natural cures...


Friday, July 18 , 2014

Counter Stain Remover

How many times has the purple or red ink from a stamped-on price stayed on your countertop? It does not have to be there forever. Here's what to do...

Rub off the ink with rubbing alcohol or the inside of a piece of lemon rind. Then wipe with a damp cloth or sponge. If the alcohol or the lemon doesn't do it, try nail-polish remover.

If you have any hesitation about using alcohol or nail-polish remover on the surface of your counter, test a tiny can't-be-seen-area first.

More help with stains...


Thursday, July 17 , 2014

Homemade Sugar-Free Drinks

We love homemade lemonade. What we don’t love are all those lemons (buying, squeezing) and all that sugar it takes to make it! So we have moved on to a sweeter fruit and some ingenious help from a root to make delicious, no-sugar-added beverages—all without artificial sweeteners. These are quick, easy and super-refreshing drinks that you can make yourself. The following three recipes each make two to three generous servings.

Homemade Ginger Ale. As kids, we loved store-bought ginger ale. Then it got way too sweet. Then we looked at the ingredient labels on a few popular brands…ginger is not even listed! Ingredients include high fructose corn syrup and other euphemisms for sugar. Enough of that! Here are two ways to make your own…

In 12 ounces of plain seltzer water (original Perrier has the best flavor), add one teaspoon of pure ginger extract (available at specialty-food stores, such as Whole Foods or online at Amazon.com or iHerb.com). Make sure that it’s sugar-free ginger extract for consumption, not aromatherapy—alcohol-free extract has the best flavor. Pour over ice, and garnish with a lime wedge or a few sprigs of mint. This mix has a spicy zing with zero sweetness. If you’re tired of fake flavors from too much sugar, you’ll love this.

You can also peel and cut up two to three two-inch pieces of gingerroot (make sure the root is fresh with a strong ginger scent and bright yellow flesh), and use a garlic press to squeeze out fresh juice into your plain seltzer. Then add the pieces left in the press to your drinking glass. This also makes a great digestive!

Watermelon Raspberry “Ade.” Watermelon is everywhere in the summer! This lovely blend was inspired by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Here’s a version without the sugar…

Mix three cups of seedless watermelon cubes, one-quarter cup of raspberries, one-eighth teaspoon of salt (optional) and one cup of filtered water. Put everything in a blender, and whirl until smooth. (We used an immersion blender, and it worked fine.) Pour over ice, and add a lime-wedge garnish. Refreshingly simple and delicious!

Delicious Sugar-Free Iced Tea. This is just a basic way to make deliciously brewed sugar-free iced tea. If you’re trying to remove sugar from your life, try this and soon you'll be hooked.

Steep four black tea bags (any brand is fine) in four cups of just-boiled water for at least 15 minutes, but no more than an hour. We like to do this in a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Slice one-quarter lemon into smaller slices. Squeeze the lemon slices into the tea, and put the slices (rinds and all) into the tea. Add two sprigs of fresh mint (this is optional...still delicious without). Remove tea bags, and chill in the refrigerator overnight. (You need to cover only if there are smells in your refrigerator that you think the tea will absorb.) The next day, pour over ice. Delicious!

More summer recipes...


Wednesday, July 16 , 2014

The 2 Natural Laxatives

Everyone has an occasional bout of constipation...and some bouts are more troublesome than others, so it's nice to have a little help. Store-bought chemical laxatives can kill friendly bacteria and lessen the absorption of nutrients. They can also become habit-forming...and eventually cause constipation. Who wants to pay good money for that? Here are two natural (and less expensive) solutions...

The most natural time to move your bowels is within the first few hours of the day. Drinking water on an empty stomach stimulates peristalsis (the wavelike muscle contractions that move food forward). So, before breakfast, drink the juice of half a lemon in one cup of warm water. While it may help cleanse your system, it may also make you pucker a lot. If you find it hard to drink, sweeten it with a little honey.

If lemon and water is not for you, try this: Take seven dried figs, and soak them overnight in a glass of room-temperature water. In the morning, drink the water and then eat the figs.

Note: Constipation may be a symptom of disease or lead to major health problems. It is important to consult a medical professional before starting any self-help treatment.

More help with digestion...


Tuesday, July 15 , 2014

How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting

Most jellyfish are not dangerously poisonous, but their sting can be painful. To be extra-safe when swimming at the beach, ask the lifeguards or other locals what to be aware of with regard to jellyfish and other critters in that locale. And remember—even detached jellyfish tentacles can sting if touched. Here's what not to do (and what helps ease the pain) if you get stung by a jellyfish.

Do not rub the stung area. It will spread the venom. If you—or someone helping you—need to touch the stung area, wear gloves, if possible. Jellyfish venom can be easily spread to exposed hands and then to other body parts. Don't put freshwater on the sting—it will release more venom.

What you should do: Pour saltwater or place ice or an ice pack on the stung area—this will neutralize the venom and cool the heat. Applying white vinegar will also help to deactivate the toxins. You can also use beer, vodka or wine. These beverages help dry out the stingers, which will relieve the pain from jellyfish venom.

Good news: Contrary to what you might have heard, urine is not an effective remedy for jellyfish stings (thank you, Scientific American!). In fact, if the pee comes from someone who is well-hydrated, it'll be like a freshwater treatment, which might actually spread the pain. Aren't you...relieved?

More help with pests...


Monday, July 14 , 2014

Avoid Soggy Salads

Where we live, lunch out can run close to $20 just for one person! And that's for just the two martinis! No, seriously, we know you've probably heard it a million times, but here it is again—you save a lot of money when you brown bag it. And it does not have to be a huge bother. Here is a creative way to make brown bagging effortless (almost), appetizing...and definitely not boring.

Packing a lunch on a workday morning is easy when you plan ahead and overlap at the meals you make at home. Here's what you do...

Whenever you cook, make a few extra chicken cutlets or thighs (we love this marinade)...or an extra inch or two of flank steak at dinnertime...boil some extra eggs...or fry some extra bacon at breakfast. Also while preparing supper, chop up extra tomato, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, nuts, cheese, peppers, celery, cucumbers, olives or whatever it is you're chopping...and set aside some drained beans and/or artichoke hearts (or any other canned salad ingredient) and some washed and spun lettuce.

In the morning (or the night before), based on whatever you're feeling, pick and choose your lunch ingredients from all the great stuff that's now cut up and ready to go in your refrigerator (we like to call it Refrigerator Salad Bar), and make a terrific salad out of it to take with you. Here are some brown-bag salad recipes we enjoy. Remember that your salad container does not have to be fancy. Even those round plastic jobs left over from Chinese takeout work fine.

To avoid soggy salad greens at your lunch break: Pile your meats and cheeses on top of your leafy greens and vegetables, and pour your salad dressing on top of that protective layer. (Put the dressing on in the morning even if you make the salad the night before.) Just before eating, shake your container to toss and your dressing will cover those delicate greens.

Bonuses from homemade lunches: You don’t have to wait in line for overpriced food...and you know you're going to love what you eat for lunch that day.

More ways to save money...


Friday, July 11 , 2014

Protect Your Hands While Gardening

There's nothing like a relaxing afternoon in the garden. But hot weather makes you sweat, and moist hands blister easily. Then there's the occasional scratch or bug bite that can really make you uncomfortable. Here's what to do...

When your hands get sweaty from working with a shovel, hoe or pruner, rub your palms with some soil to help keep them dry and blister-free.

Soothe the sting and stop infection: It's not unusual to get a scrape...a scratch...a nick...a gash...or an insect bite while working outside. However, you don't want to run into your house to tend to every little abrasion. The answer is to keep a small spray bottle of full-strength white vinegar and a few adhesive bandages in your garden tote. Spritz the minor wound with the vinegar—which will help prevent it from becoming infected—then cover the boo-boo with a bandage until you go indoors and can clean and dress it properly.

Bonus sweet secret to help your hands: After gardening, add one teaspoon of sugar to your soapy lather, and wash your hands with it. The sugar acts as an abrasive to clean away grass and garden stains.

More help in the garden...


Thursday, July 10 , 2014

The Secret to Spotless Crystal

We'd like to help you care for your crystal—the fancy tumblers and stemware and serving pieces you take out only for company and on special occasions. That ice bucket wedding gift, that beautiful vase that's heavy as heck...

To clean these irreplaceable treasures, fill a basin or sink with three parts hot water to one part white vinegar. Dip a nonabrasive sponge or cloth into the solution and gently clean the item...or dunk the whole piece into the mix, whatever's easiest. Once all the crystal is clean, rinse each piece with water and dry with a lint-free cloth. Your best bet in terms of lint-free is a linen towel or a cloth made of least 25% linen.

No-more-broken-glass tip: Crystal can be scary to clean because you don't want to drop it and chip, crack or break it.

Here's what to do: When you wash delicate crystal (or any glassware that's difficult to handle), line the sink with a very fluffy towel or a thick rubber mat in case a precarious piece slips out of your hands. Keep your basin of washing solution to the side, and gently wash and rinse the item over the towel or mat, which will protect your treasure even when wet. Now you can relax!

More help with housework...


Wednesday, July 09 , 2014

Neat Packing Trick

You know those cardboard separators that the liquor-store cashier uses for wine when packing the bottles in a brown paper bag? Save those, and when you're packing for summer vacation, use them to separate clothing in your suitcase. What, you don't drink wine? Go to the nearest liquor store, and ask if they have any extras. If you’'re a woman, roll up tops, shorts, a light jacket or two, a dress (or two) skirt and place each type of clothing in a sectioned area. If you're a man, section out the T-shirts, wrinkle-free dress shirts, shorts and a light blazer or two. Then (no matter what your sex!) lay folded pants on top. And then do this...

Be sure to pack what you'll need first last. For example, if you have an overnight stop at a hotel, you may want to have your nightclothes handy. For the next morning's swim or jog, you may want your bathing suit or running shorts within easy reach. Place those items on top of the pants layer. Now you don't have to search for those garments, messing up the other clothes you packed so neatly.

More help with travel...

Tuesday, July 08 , 2014

No Eggs? Bake with This Instead

You crave a little cake, so you check your pantry and refrigerator for the needed ingredients. All's good, except no eggs! Here's what to do...*

If you have zero eggs and need only one: Add two tablespoons of liquid (milk or water...whatever's in the recipe), plus two tablespoons of flour, plus one-half tablespoon of shortening, plus one-half teaspoon of baking powder. This provides the leavening agent usually supplied by the egg. We tried this substitution in cornbread. It came out a little denser than usual, but it was delicious!

If you don't have enough eggs: If you’re baking a cake and you’re short one egg, add one teaspoon of baking powder or white vinegar to replace the missing egg. We do not suggest this if eggs are the main ingredient for the cake, like a chiffon or a custard.

For a recipe other than cake: Try this when you're minus one egg—use one teaspoon of cornstarch plus three extra tablespoons of liquid (whatever you're using in the recipe).

If you want to halve a recipe: Don’t bother splitting an egg in half. Just use a whole egg.

More tricks for delicious goodies...

*Thanks to Substituting Ingredients: An A to Z Kitchen Reference, Third Edition by Becky Sue Epstein and Hilary Dole Klein (Globe Pequot Press) for help with this tip.