Archive: Jan 2019

Air Fresheners

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To breathe easier indoors, nix air fresheners. They can contain volatile organic compounds and phthalates that can cause headaches and eye, nose, and throat irritation and even worsen asthma symptoms. As an alternative, get rid of the source of the odor and leave an open box of baking soda in the area. or consider natural fragrances, such as herbs and spices boiled in water.

Making your home, apartment, or office a positive place to be is sometimes as simple as making it smell good. Scents can affect a person’s mood or work performance, as crazy as that sounds. Think about walking into your home after a day of work and smelling fresh cinnamon and baking cookies… How could you not be in a good mood and love everyone you see after that? It makes sense why consumers spend thousands of dollars on candles, oil diffusers, scent sprays and more. A fresh smelling space makes us much happier than a stinky, gloomy one (just think of how you felt in your gross college apartment). However, you don’t have to run to the store if you want to make sure your place is smelling great. These simple DIY projects are not only cheap, but they’ll leave your house smelling great in no time.

1.) Lemon-Rosemary Simmer Pot

To make this simple concoction, all you need is: -A small stockpot -Water -Rosemary -1 lemon -Vanilla extract. Fill the pot about 2/3 full with water. Add 1 lemon (sliced) and a few sprigs of rosemary. Then, add the 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Let this mixture simmer all day, it’ll fill your rooms with a heavenly scent. You can use the same mixture for about 2 days, but you’ll want to change it after that or else it’ll smell a little weird.

2.) Scented Wood Blocks

Making scented wood blocks is easy. Just make sure you have: -Wood blocks -Scented oil or perfume -Small paint brushes. By either painting or spraying it on, cover the wood blocks in the oil/perfume. After covering them, you can even put them in a closed container with extra oil. Shake it up to make sure they are coated. Let it sit in the oil overnight so that everything is absorbed. Then you’re done! You can even refresh your wood blocks over time by simply adding more oil to them.

3.) Orange Peel Candles

You thought oranges were just for eating? Think again. You can make simple candles out of them (without wasting the fruit). -An orange -Knife -Oil (canola, vegetable or olive) -Candle lighter The steps are simple, too. 1.) Begin by cutting your orange in half. 2.) Take your knife and run it around the edges of the orange. This will loosen the fruit from the peel. 3.) Take a fork and scrape out the inside of the orange. BE CAREFUL to NOT remove the inside stem. This is the white piece that rests in the center of the orange. It is rather tough, so just continue to scrape away the fruit around it. 4.) Once the inside of your orange is nice and clean, you can fill it ¾ of the way full with oil. Remember you can use any oil of your choosing. 5.) Let the oil sit in the orange for about 45 minutes. It is important to let the oil sit and the stem of the orange (the white piece) absorb it. This is what will help keep it burning well. 6.) In 45 minutes, you can try lighting your orange. You will need a candle lighter to do this as a match or cigarette lighter does not stay lit long enough to get the job done. Hold the lighter to the stem and let it heat up the stem. You will need to do this for 2-3 minutes. 7.) Let the stem rest for a moment. It should be nice and brown/black at this point. To the touch, it should feel dry now. 8.) Try relighting the stem. This may take a few seconds. You should hear a little crackling and then the flame should take off on its own.

4.) Gel Air Freshener

If you love air fresheners but don’t want an open flame in your home, this DIY gel air freshener may be just for you. You’ll need: -Heat proof jars (like mason jars) -4 packages of unflavored gelatin -Food coloring -Salt -Essential oils/fragrance 1.) Clean and prepare your jars. (This entire recipe filled up one pint jar, but you can use several smaller jars.) 2.) Add a few drops of coloring and approximately 30 drops of essential oil or fragrance (the more you add, the stronger it will be). 3.) Boil 1 cup of water on the stove. Pour in your gelatin packets into the pot. 4.) Make sure to keep whisking or the stuff will clump up. 5.) Once dissolved, add 1 cup of cold water and 1 tbsp of salt. Stir it all in. 6.) Pour into your prepared jars and stir. 7.) Let it sit overnight until the gel is set. 8.) Time to decorate your scented gel jar any way you choose.

5.) DIY Reed Diffusers

Oil diffusers are also a simple solution to scenting your home without using heat or an open flame. You don’t need much, either: -Vase -Baby Oil -Essential Oil -Bamboo Skewers (or rattan diffusing sticks for better scent) -Ribbon & Washi Tape (optional).  1.) Fill your vase with essential oil (as much as you want) 2.) Fill the remainder of the vase with baby oil 3.) Place washi tape at the end of the skewer and fold over (for decoration) 4.) Place skewers in the vase and tie a ribbon around to finish The oil will diffuse into the room up through the skewers. You’re done!

6.) Cinnamon Stick Candles

All you will need is -Pillar candle, at least 3-inches in diameter -Cinnamon sticks -Floral shears -Hot-glue gun -Dish or coaster.  1.) Measure candle height; cut cinnamon sticks to size with floral shears. You’ll need about 20 lengths per candle. 2.) Run hot glue along cinnamon stick; affix it vertically to side of candle. (Use low-temperature setting to minimize melting.) 3.) When first stick is dry, glue next stick snugly against it; repeat to cover candle. 4.) Place finished candle on a dish or coaster. Not only will it be pretty, but you can also smell the glorious cinnamon!

7.) Custom Potpourri

Potpourri isn’t just for outdated offices and homes. It can be a simple and brilliant idea. Just follow these steps, -Dried flowers -Essential oil -Any herbs, spices or other trinkets you want to include (have fun with it!).  1.) Prior to making your potpourri, you’ll need to dry out your flowers. Gather a bouquet and tie the stems together with some twine. Hang them upside down and give them a couple of weeks to fully dry out. 2.) Once your flowers are dry, put them in a container and add a few drops of essential oil. It’s recommended that you close the container and allow the flowers to absorb the oil for a couple of weeks. 3.) Then, arrange all of your ingredients in a bowl or jar. You can add any extra oils or scented ingredients that you’d like.

8.) Baking Soda Air Freshener

Baking soda isn’t just good for making your fridge smell fresh! This recipe can make any room fresh, too. -1/2 cup baking soda (per jar) -Essential oil of your preference (8-12 drops) -Mason jar -Scrapbook paper -Tapestry needle -Scissors and pen 1.) Take the scrapbook paper and trace out the inner lid of the mason jar (not the screwable ring). Cut out that piece of paper. 2.) Pierce the small piece of paper with the tapestry needle, making holes so the scent can waft through. 3.) Pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into the mason jar and add in 8-12 drops of essential oil of your choice. (Start off by adding less oil and if you find it’s not strong enough to scent your room add in a bit more. A bigger room will need more oil and a smaller room like a bathroom will use less.) 4.) Place the scrapbook paper inside the mason jar ring and tighten it onto the jar. Gently shake up the baking soda/essential oil mixture. This air freshener is more natural than chemical sprays… and it’s flameless.

9.) Pouch Air Freshener

You can keep a car, small room or closet smelling fresh with just small sachets or pouches of scents. Plus, this is easy. -Light weight fabric -Thick hemp or thread -Makeup pads or cotton balls -Scented oils/spices/incense cones -Items to decorate the pouches such as stamps, paint, or dried flowers -Scissors -Sewing machine (or needle and thread) 1.) Begin by cutting rectangles of fabric 5×10 inches. 2.) Then, start the sewing process by sewing a loop on each end of the rectangle. 3.) Then, with the edges of the loop facing outward, fold the fabric in half and sew each side up to the loop. 4.) Next, flip the pouch right side out and begin decorating. 5.) Then, thread a large piece of hemp through both loops to where both ends come out of each loop, facing the same direction. 6.) To add scents to your pouches, pour in spices, incense cones, and oil soaked makeup pads or cotton balls (you’ll want to change out the spices regularly to keep them fresh). And that’s it. The most difficult part will be sewing the little pouches, but it’s still not hard.

10.) Lemon-Basil Spray

Room sprays keep your place fresh, but many contain harmful chemicals. This one, however, does not (and it’s just as effective). http://hellohomeshoppe.com/blog/2013/8/22/lemon-basil-linen-spray -16 oz spray bottle -1 1/4 cups water, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup -4 tablespoons of dried basil -Coffee filter -Funnel -1 tablespoon vodka -5 drops of lemon essential oil 1.) In a small pot, bring 1/2 cup water to boil. Add your 4 Tablespoons of dried basil to the water and let steep for a few minutes. 2.) In another pot, bring 3/4 cups of water to a boil. 3.) Line your funnel with a coffee filter and place funnel in your opened spray bottle. 4.) Pour in your steeped basil water mixture into the funnel, making sure that the coffee filter catches the tiny pieces of basil. Remove the filter. 5.) Pour in the boiling water, vodka, and essential oil. 6.) Put on the spray bottle top and shake to mix.

 

 

Cleaning Countertops

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Countertops

Sponges, dishcloths, and cleaning rags are havens for germs and bacteria, so using them to clean countertops can leave more bacteria behind than were originally there. Use paper towels to clean countertops instead. Thaw food in the refrigerator rather than on the countertop to keep from breeding food-borne bacteria. Specific care, cleaning and disinfection directions will vary according to the material from which the countertop is made.

Butcher-block countertops

This type of countertop dents, scratches, burns, and stains easily. It is also vulnerable to fluctuations in humidity, so it is a poor choice for use over a dishwasher. Cleanups will be much easier if you seal a butcher-block counter with a least two coats of polyurethane; make sure it is suitable for use on surfaces where food is prepared.

Do not prepare raw meat on butcher-block counters. Clean the surface with water and a little dishwashing liquid after each use. Rinse thoroughly and let air-dry. For light stains, scrub the surface using a nylon pad. If the stains remain, apply a diluted solution of bleach directly to them and let it sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing. To remove deep stains, as well as scratches and burns, sand the affected area with very-fine-grade sandpaper. It may be necessary to apply another coat of polyurethane to the places you have sanded. If the countertop is severely stained, scratched, or burned, y0u may want to hire a professional to refinish the surface.

Granite countertops

Granite is very resistant to scratches, nicks, and scorching. A granite countertop is almost always treated with a protective seal and is easy to clean. Just go over it with a sponge dipped in water and a mild detergent. To remove stuck-on dirt, use a plastic scrub pad. In bathrooms, wipe down granite surfaces frequently to minimize soap scum. Id soap scum does build up, clean the surface with an all purpose cleaner.

Laminated countertops

To preserve the appearance of laminated countertops, you need to exercise a little care when working on them. Laminates nick and cut easily, so you should never chop directly on them. The advantage od laminated counters is that they are easy to clean. Simply wipe surfaces with warm water and mild detergent. Never allow standing water to remain on the countertop because it can seep through the seams or between the countertop and backsplash, weakening the material underneath. To remove stains, follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Marble countertops

Marble is extremely porous and stains easily. Only use marble in a kitchen or bathroom if it has been treated with a penetrating stone sealer. Wipe marble countertops routinely with a clean cloth or a sponge dipped in warm water and mild liquid detergent, and dry the surface with a soft cloth. Be careful not to use too much soap and to rinse thoroughly, because soap can leave a film on marble and cause streaking. Soap buildup, is a common problem in marble baths and showers. wipe these surfaces down with a soft cloth or a squeegee after each use and occasionally clean them with a commercial bathroom cleaner that is safe to apply to marble. If you find a stain, apply a paste of baking soda and water to the area, let it dry and wipe it off with a damp cloth. You may be able to minimize damage form oil or grease by  sprinkling the area of the spill with cornmeal, leaving it for several hours and then wiping it up with a warm, damp cloth. Some red wine or wine stains can be remove with hydrogen peroxide.

Solid-surface countertops

These material imitate marble and other types of stone and consist of polyester or acrylic resins combined with mineral fillers. They are sold under various brand names. Solid-surface countertops are much easier to maintain than the stone surfaces they imitate. Knives can easily scar the surface and the countertop mat discolor when exposed to prolonged heat. Clean with a paper towel dipped in a solution of warm water and detergent.

Stainless-steel countertops

Stainless steel is quite easy to clean and maintain, but unfortunately water is your number 1 enemy with these otherwise serviceable surface. It leaves spots, so you should wipe a stainless-steel countertop with a clean dry cloth every time it gets wet. Stainless-steel surfaces usually come clean readily with hot water and detergent. Do not use abrasive scouring powders or scrub pads, they can scratch the surface. Be careful, when using special stainless-steel cleaners because many are formulated for industrial use and can harm a home countertop.

 

 

New Years

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Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.

Early New Year’s Celebrations

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. In addition to the new year, Atiku celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat and served an important political purpose: It was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed.

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

January 1 Becomes New Year’s Day

The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox; according to tradition, it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. A later king, Numa Pompilius, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius. Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today.

As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation); Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.

New Year’s Traditions

In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere. In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” in many English-speaking countries. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)

In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at the stroke of midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of items ranging from pickles (Dillsburg, Pennsylvania) to possums (Tallapoosa, Georgia) at midnight on New Year’s Eve.