Monday, August 27, 2012

Beyond Salmon: Technique of the Week: FAQ about Herbs

Beyond Salmon: Technique of the Week: FAQ about Herbs: If I had to choose my second favorite ingredient (you can guess what the first one is from the name of this blog), it would have to be herbs...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Random Wild Card Post: Household Hints Edition

I have a few household hints I'd like to share with you tonight.  One has to do with cleaning pots and pans, one has to do with cleaning and oiling cutting boards and butcher blocks, and the last has to do with eradicating stains from clothing.  I've gleaned these hints from various sources:  Apartment TherapyReal Simple Magazine and of course, that font of wisdom, Mom.
  • To clean stains off pots and pans, spread some baking soda over the effected surface.  Pour some hydrogen peroxide over the baking soda, and leave it to stand for 10-20 minutes, depending on the severity of the stains.  A paste will form.  Using a non-scratch scrubbing pad, polish the surface until the stains are removed.  Rinse with warm water, and dry.  Your pot should now be shiny clean!
  • To clean and oil a wooden cutting board or butcher block, sprinkle kosher salt or other coarse salt over the surface.  Cut a lemon in half and use one half to scrub the surface of the cutting board or butcher block. This will sanitize the cutting board or butcher block.  Sanding butcher block or a cutting board will also cut down on the bacteria hiding in the surface of the block or board.  Wipe the surface clean of the wood dust with a clean tack cloth or cheesecloth.  
  • To oil a wooden cutting board or butcher block, use food safe mineral oil specially treated for wooden surfaces.  I use Tree Spirit Mineral Oil, which is food safe.  I bought it at Bed Bath & Beyond.  Coat the surface with the oil and using a cloth or paper towel, evenly distribute the oil over the surface, first in circles to get into all the cuts and grooves in the surface, then following the grain of the wood, so that the oil soaks in and is absorbed into the wood.  Let stand overnight or for several hours until all the oil has been absorbed and the surface is dry to the touch once more.  

 This is the butcher block kitchen cart after I cleaned and oiled it.  

Close-up of the grain.  Note the dark honey color.  Previously it was more of an anemic, ashy blond.  
  • To eradicate stains from machine-washable clothing, create a stain-removing kit.  I have in my stain-removing kit, a bottle of Shout! Ultra Gel with Stain-Lifting Brush, a Tide stain-removal stick, and my secret weapons, a couple of used toothbrushes and stain removal potion.  
  • To make the stain-removal potion, mix equal parts ammonia, dishwashing liquid and water.  I like to use Palmolive Ultra dishwashing liquid, because it's really good at removing grease and stains on pots and pans, and, as it turns out, it works on clothes too!  Put it in a bottle with a pop-up top, like a dishwashing liquid bottle.  I actually use a TSA-approved 3 oz. bottle for liquids like shampoo and lotion, that has a pop-up top.  This way you can control the amount of liquid you pour on the stain.  When you have covered the stain in the potion, commence rubbing the stain with a clean used toothbrush.  Continue until the stain has been eradicated.  Rinse the stained area in cold water.  For a little extra oomph, or if the stain hasn't been completely removed, use the Shout! gel with the brush.  Don't rinse the garment this time.  Instead, let the Shout! soak in for awhile, and then launder the garment according to the manufacturer's instructions. 
I had some stains that settled into my white t-shirts recently, and I used this method.  I send out my laundry to be done once a month, so it was awhile before my t-shirts got washed, but they came back nice and white, no stains.  It works best on oil-based stains, like ice cream and salad dressing (yes, I eat the iconic, ironic American diet: diet soda with my deluxe burgers, and ice cream with my salad!)

The kit revealed:  Clean, used toothbrushes, Shout! Ultra Gel with Stain-Lifting Brush, Tide To-Go, which I take with me on fancy dress occasions, and the Magic Stain-Removing Potion.

Don't use this on your fine hand washables, though.  To get my fine washables smelling fresh, I use a splash of white vinegar in the final soak, before I rinse them off.  You can also use a cup of white vinegar in the washing machine for the final rinse, instead of fabric softener, which is actually not so great for your clothes.  White vinegar gets your clothes nice and soft and smelling fresh.

Peace out, and be well everybody, until next time!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Search for Organization Solutions Continues ...

I did a Google search for "CD/DVD storage" and this came up from the Staples site.  It eliminates the need for the 20 Kassett boxes and 7 Motorp boxes I had in the last post.  I can combine my entire CD and DVD collections into three of these albums, and save a great deal of shelf space in the process.  Plus, it would be a lot cheaper - $66 as opposed to $144!  The albums are only $21.99 each, and they hold 256 CD's and DVD's.  They zip closed, so they protect against dirt and dust, and they're padded, so they protect against scratches.  The only drawback is that they don't have a looseleaf binder, so you can't add pages where you need them, but the looseleaf pages are prone to tearing, anyway.

So here it is, the Targus CD/DVD storage album.

Source: via Edith on Pinterest

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bookshelves and Media Storage; Musings on Organization and Time Management

Bookshelves and Media Storage

My roommate insulted me today by pointing at all my ... er, STUFF, shall we say, that lies in a neat pile in the living room and saying, "When, Edie???  WHEN????"  In other words, get yer crap outta the living room, girl!!!  Or at least organize it neatly so it's not an eyesore.  I'm reconciling myself to the fact that my roommate is a more visually-oriented person than me, so when things look nice and orderly, it pleases her no end, and when they don't ... she doesn't say anything unless asked, but today she said something, because (dummy me) I brought it up by pointing out all the nice Billy bookcases in the new IKEA catalogue.

Neatness, organization and creating a pleasant home environment have always been a challenge for me.  I like the IDEA (rhymes with IKEA!) of being organized, neat and having a pleasing home, but I falter in the execution.  Strangely, since becoming more organized with my finances, I've become more organized in other ways (no more dirty dishes lying in wait overnight in the sink, the bed gets made most days; showering and dressing, that's another story), but as my roommate's statement proves, I have a long way to go.  I have a lot of stuff, and I could stand to get rid of a lot of my paper (my sister suggested I get a Kindle and get rid of my books, but after the shock wore off, I had to tell her I was not ready to do that), but I also need to store the things I have in a much better way.

Also, I need to spend a lot less time cruising the Internet and more time actually reading the books and magazines I have.  I suspect a lot of people living in the modern world have this problem.  Before I got the computer, I read 50 books a year, plus any periodicals that crossed my path.  Last year, my first year with a computer since 2009,  I was down to a paltry 15 books, and this year I'm clocking in at a scant three (according to my LibraryThing)!

For a geek like myself, this is unacceptable.  Despite being retired, I have a lot to do, and a lot I want to do, so I decided I needed to improve my time-management skills.  Now I use my iCal on my iMac to create a daily schedule, a weekly schedule, a monthly schedule, and input any appointments that I have coming up in future months.  I have to recognize that my energy level and health fluctuate (I get sick days like everybody else) from day to day, so I acknowledge that some days I'm going to be able to accomplish more and some days less.

Rest is important, too.  Some people can keep going and going, like the Energizer Bunny, but I'm not one of those types.  I need time to relax and refresh myself after a period of being busy.  The Day of Beauty that I mentioned some time back is important in this respect.  This is important for everyone ... just to take some time to relax and recharge.  Otherwise you're running on empty, and that's no good for you or anyone who is depending on you.  This seems to be a really difficult lesson for women, and also for parents.  There are so many competing demands for today's families, whether you're a parent or guardian, or an adult son or daughter.  It's a constant challenge to balance one's own needs with the needs of people around you, whether they are family, friends or coworkers.

My unsolicited advice is to make sure you take some time for yourself.  Get somebody to watch the kids, don't overbook yourself and schedule in some quiet time with yourself, and spend it taking care of yourself, whether that means a Day of Beauty or pampering, or journaling, meditating, listening to music, dancing alone, taking a walk or a going for a run.  Everyone needs time to get in touch with their center.  Without that, life becomes a meaningless exercise, a round of obligations through which one suffers, without real enjoyment.  The point of it all, the purpose of your life, the divine spark, gets lost.

So, if you, like me, are on an organizing binge, in anticipation of the start of the school and work year, remember to schedule some "me" time in your agenda.  Try to stick to it, too.

Peace out and be well!  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Closet Post Clean-Out and Prepping for Fall

 As you can see, the armoire isn't as crowded as usual.  I've pared down my summer wardrobe significantly, since I acknowledged that I'm leading a more casual lifestyle this time of the year and don't have to get dressed up often.  One thing I'd like you to notice is the purple afghan on the top left-hand side of the armoire.  My Mom made that for me over 30 years ago, and it's still going strong.  I love that afghan!
 The top of the closet stays pretty much the same.  Those are all my handbags, some shoes in boxes and bags, and of course, my Dad's snakeskin that he brought back from New Guinea, in the blue shoebox.  Everyone's got a weird little something hiding in their closet, don't deny it.
 A close-up of the garments in my closet.  To the left are my belts and my fall/winter handbag, which I put away for the summer.  There are some button-down shirts (I can't even remember the last time I wore a button-down shirt, but you never know when you'll need one).  Then there is a white cardigan, my gray velveteen LL Bean jeans, my blue cropped pants, a blue sundress, a brown sundress, a denim skirt, and my navy pantsuit and blue robe.  Then there are the scarves.  As you can see, it's a lot less crowded than it used to be.  There are even empty hangers on the left.
 Here's the bottom of the closet, mostly shoes in boxes, and the black case is my violin.
 My personal care station - from the left, Banana Boat tear-free sunscreen for Kids, SPF 50+.  That stuff is great, I don't even burn when I wear it, and I burn very easily.  In the wire pencil caddy are my lip glosses and emery boards; in the little wooden box are lotion, deodorant, perfume and hand sanitizer; then there's The Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Body Butter (delicious!) and my keepsake box - my sister made that!  Didn't she do a great job?  She's so talented.  The clear plastic shoebox has the rest of my personal care items.
Here's the view of my entire armoire, with the clothes hamper next to it, my traveling bags and seaside wreath box on top, and various and sundry items below.  The rest of my room is pretty messy, because I moved from a two-story colonial, then to a one-room studio, then to a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, in the course of six years.  I just have a lot of stuff, and not a lot of storage space.  Organization is a constant battle.  But at least my armoire and closet are well-organized!  I don't have a lot of clothes left to organize.  I have to pick up a skirt and the Old Navy capris from the tailor's.  Then I'll have three more items I can wear, yay!  I'm looking forward to it!

I hope you enjoyed the tour.  I'm sorry you had to wait so long until I got a memory card for my camera (I finally found the right kind in Walgreens, of all places).  It's almost time to start thinking about switching out the wardrobe for fall!

I think saving money is going to be more on people's minds this upcoming fall season, because clothing prices are going up.  I noticed the prices on the LL Bean website went way up.  So, my advice is to start looking at the magazines and newspapers, online and print, and the various style blogs that are out there to spot what the trends will be for fall.  You might want to go through your fall wardrobe now, to check for what you already own, what can last another season, what has to go or be repaired (rips, tears, stains, holes, missing buttons, poor fit, etc.), and make a list of items that you will need to make complete outfits and basic items that need to be replaced.  This way you'll be prepared when the pre-season sales start, and you'll know what to get, and you'll be set until spring.  I know Nordstroms already had their pre-season sale, but some stores like Macy's haven't started yet.

It's best to update the trends through accessories - you can pick up inexpensive accessories at places like Claire's or Forever 21.  Chico's, J. Jill, Coldwater Creek, Limited, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Express, Lane Bryant and Avenue all have accessories that you can use to update your look, depending on your budget and style.  If you really like a funky, trendy look, you can go to Hot Topic or Torrid.  Don't forget places like Target, K-Mart and Walmart.  Just remember you don't have to spend a lot to look like a million.  As long as you like it and it makes you feel positive and confident, that's what matters.

And don't forget your outerwear!  Check your outerwear and make sure it's in good shape for the coming season.  If you haven't already cleaned your outerwear before putting it away for the summer (which is a good idea, but *ahem* I didn't do that), wash it or dry clean it before you start wearing it for the fall and winter.  If dry cleaning is out of the question, for whatever reason, you can brush your outerwear clean with a garment brush, and, if it's safe for the fabric, you can spritz it with water and brush it off and hang it to dry, or you can spray Febreze on it and hang it to air out.  If you're lucky enough to have a clothesline, you can hang it outside.  Obviously, one should never put water or liquid on suede, nubuck or leather.

If you're in the market for an investment handbag, and you have a Coach store near you, I recommend signing up post-haste for their preferred customer list, so you can get one of the coupons that they send out for their pre-season sale.  Last year they were offering $100 off a $300 purchase.  I think you have to make an initial purchase in order to be considered for the coupons, but maybe not.  Ask at the counter.

There's also the Coach Outlet, which has similar handbags and leather goods to the regular Coach stores, but at sale prices.  You can signup online, and they have flash sales.  HOWEVER!  Do not spend money you don't have just to look good.  Save first, then indulge.  That way you won't put yourself behind the 8-ball in terms of your finances.  This is a lesson I'm still working on, but if you're lucky enough to work for a living, and earn a decent salary, you're in a position to save for what you need and want, and there's no need to go into debt.  Avoid the debt trap at all costs.