Category Archives: how to

Purifying Water with Charcoal

DSC04041I first learned of charcoal purification from Erin. I wanted to try it, but still had some life in our Brita filter. And then that ran out, and never replaced it. Tap water is fine! I will drink it regularly for the rest of my life. But when I did some reading on the toxins that can be in tap water that can harm our health over time, I thought I could at least give the charcoal a try. So in the name of detoxifying and minimizing waste in our kitchen, I took the plunge. The charcoal is inexpensive, recyclable and easy to use. And I did notice there is a sweet, clean taste in comparison to the original tap water.

I. BOIL FOR TEN MINUTES

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II. REMOVE AND COOL

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III. PLACE IN PITCHER, FILL WITH TAP WATER, LET SIT FOR AT LEAST SIX HOURS.

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IV. DRINK UP!

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5 Tips For Treating Motion Sickness

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In a lifetime we can spend thousands of hours in planes, trains, and automobiles traversing tens of thousands of miles across the globe. I know I have enjoyed most of my travelling, but have definitely paid my dues when it comes to the motion sickness monster, and sometimes you need a little something more than the old, “Just look at the horizon” technique.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way from flight attendants to fellow travel-queasy friends…and they work!

1) STAY COOL: Try to stay cool by removing your layers. Take off your coat and scarf and try to leave your ankles and wrists exposed so you’re not trapping in body heat. Keep your hair off of your neck in a loose bun. If you’re flying, once your plane has started it’s engines the cool air vents will actually be cool, so point them in your direction. It’s much better to have goose bumps than to be reaching for that brown bag in the pocket in front of you.

2) CHOOSE AN AISLE SEAT: This is a small sacrifice to make to miss the view out the window, but totally worth it if you want the freedom to get up and walk around or use the washroom without disturbing your neighbor.

3) UNBUTTON: So far as you are able, don’t wear pants that are tight around your waist line. If you are wearing skinny jeans *discreetly* unbutton the top button, if leggings, roll them down to your hips so the pressure is off of your stomach. A seasoned flight attendant once told me that even the slight pressure on the stomach can precipitate symptoms of motion sickness.

3) TREAT YOURSELF: If Ginger Ale, pretzels, and ibuprofen are going to make you feel comfortable, indulge. This isn’t the time to be thinking about how bad high fructose corn syrup and Advil are for you. Before or at the onset of queasiness or a headache do what you have to to make your symptoms subside. Not a ginger fan? Any carbonated caffeine free drink will do the job.

5) USE THE BIG GUNS: I have used Gravol to treat my motion sick symptoms and have friends who use Dramamine for the occasional trip with great success.

Some other options? Sea Bands, Chimes Ginger Chews, and from the guys who spend more time on water than land.

And when it comes to travel, Aspiring Kennedy and Mr. and Mrs. Globe Trot know what they’re talking about.

What do you do? I would love to add it to my arsenal.

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Jewelry

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As it is with make-up, I am also a minimalist when it comes to jewelry. I’ll go classic for most pieces and funky for some. My one staple is to wear a pair of earrings (usually my mini bling from JoJo) every day. I also make sure to take them out every night.  Here is a small collection of some of my favorite jewelry stops for birthday gifts and that little addition to your collection.  Also, some tips for cleaning and keeping!

Elisabeth Ashlie

JoJo Love You

Stella and Dot

Seoul Little 

Pradman

CLEANING YOUR RINGS AND EARRINGS

Soak in warm water with a few sprays of Windex and a dash of Dawn dishwashing liquid. After 30 seconds, remove and clean with a soft toothbrush. Dry with a clean cloth.

OR

Soak in a small bowl with half ammonia half water. Remove after 15 seconds, clean with a soft toothbrush. Dry with a clean cloth.

*For cleaning Opal see this three step guide from Overstock.com

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KEEPING JEWELRY ORGANIZED

I love this recent creation from Emily Henderson and I may try it someday if I ever own more than three necklaces.

A ring dish for the Francophile

Gilded Jewelry Box

Kate Spade Inspired DIY

What are your favorites and how to do you take care of and store your jewelry?

photo credit: Stella and Dot; Emily Henderson

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Black Tea

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My sister, mom, and two dear friends hosted a lovely tea sampling bridal shower for me last year. Everything from the cheese platter to the laughs and conversation were just the ticket to celebrate. Among the three teas we sampled was the most delicious and creamy black tea I had had since a vacation to the UK almost 13 years ago.

I can remember pot after pot of tea shared amongst us three Plouffe ladies on that cozy and adventuresome holiday together and have been looking for that taste ever since. But I can close me eyes and be transported to those small Irish streets or cozy Scottish cafe’s with a cup of David’s Nepal Black or a cup of good ‘ol Red Rose. Milk, sugar, scone. Mmmm.

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I’m withholding from an abundance of things that should be said about black tea. But I will leave you with a couple of valuables I’ve learned. My questions and researched/experience answers are below (I didn’t get fancy here. This is for the layman).

What popular teas are black?

Orange Pekoe, Breakfast Teas, Early Grey, Chai, Ceylon. All are naturally caffeinated unless specified otherwise.

How do I properly steep tea?

Generally two to three minutes. But of course, steep to your taste.

Is it milk or tea first?

Twinnings says that putting the milk in first was historically the way of preserving the fine bone china from shock of the hot tea entering the cup. Now a days, it’s up to you!

What is the difference between English, Irish, and Scottish Breakfast Tea?

After doing some reading, I learned that all three are blends of black tea, with Irish/Scottish being stronger than English Breakfast. It would seem that the Brit’s don’t drink English Breakfast unless at a hotel or abroad.

What is the “tea” that the British are always talking about?

Black tea and whichever suits your fancy. PG Tips? Yorkshire Gold? Tetley? 

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A Few Black Tea Recipes

Jo’s Masala Chai

Rachel’s Butter Chai

Christina’s Early Grey Latte

I’m sure you know more about tea than is said here! Please share, I would love to know your tea tips.

photo credit: The Yellow Table and A Cup of Jo

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How I Beat Those Winter Blues: Move

NYC Balletall images from the New York City Ballet in the 1960’s.

No fail, if I get movin’ I’m a happy girl. I sleep better, think clearer, sing louder. My go-to, get-me-up, clear-my-mind secret is simply–move. My parent’s example is the greatest encourager to me on this topic.

Sometimes I get bummed out by the statistics that unless I run on the treadmill for 45 minutes I’m not going to burn any calories (note a hint of exaggeration). And it often prevents me from remembering the “something is better than nothing” motto. Because really…something is better than nothing. “Just get that heart pumping, you’ll feel so much better,” my mom always says whenever I mention feeling sluggish or unmotivated.

So this post is for me. A little shameless motivation to MOVE.

DANCE

My favorite form of cardio is to dance. Put on a pump up playlist and I’m a goner! I’ll do anywhere from 20-30 minutes jump, skipping, leaping, all around the kitchen.

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SKIP

I get shin splints so I need to diversify. If I want to get out of the house I’ll go the gym, get on the treadmill and skip. I look like a maniac for the first few minutes but then once I’m in the groove there’s no stopping! I usually hide at the farthest treadmill so as to not draw attention and then skip front-to-side, high knees, etc for 30 minutes. It’s a great workout. Check with your gym and dr. if it’s ok first and check out these videos for some guidance. Dance Aerobics on the Treadmill and Treadmill Routine

STRETCH

If I don’t have time to exercise regularly, I am sure to at least stretch in the morning or before going to bed. Jordan will often find me in small spaces of our apartment swinging my arms around or touching my toes at random times.  I’ll start with standing stretches then go to the floor. Usually it’s no more than 15 minutes.ballet15

REBOUND

Another achy knee and shin splint alternative is to join the rebounders. My sister got me a mini trampoline for Christmas last year and I just love it. The video I follow is here.

A friend of mine posted this the other day: “Summer Goals for 2014: run a half marathon , the electric run, and the warrior dash !! …It’s about living a healthy lifestyle, and never letting yourself get in the way of doing things you want to do.”

How true! My 2014 goals are to get in the pool for laps and to continue walking outside in all weather.

photo credit: Ernst Haas

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How To Cook Videos

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Martha Stewart put together several short vignettes for the novice cook. There’s a How To on pretty much anything you want to know from “How To Cut Up A Whole Chicken” to “How To Julienne” (although I would still like a more thorough tutorial on how to chop and dice onions like a pro [my favorite clip below]). I bookmarked this link on my browser bar and it’s been quite handy!

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(from 0:00 to 0:05)

Good Luck!

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How To Read When You Don’t Have Time

Audio Booksphoto credit: thechangeblog

In real life it can almost seem impossible to pick up a book for enjoyment. time. just. flies. Anyone?

When I moved back to Connecticut after school I was away from my boyfriend, adjusting to the “real world”, reuniting with family and working three jobs. And I spent a lot of time in the car going from one place to the next. Driving the kids I nannied here and there or commuting to teach.  But I wasn’t alone. During those two years between graduation and marriage I drove with Jo March and Presidents John Adams and George W. Visualized Julia’s food and France and received council on faith and finances, holiness and happiness…all by listening. IMG_0192

Audio books revolutionized my idea of when and how to enjoy books when time is short at home but long on the road. A few things on audio books:

#1 CHOOSE YOUR ADAPTATION CAREFULLY

If it is fiction the characters will most likely be acted by a single speaker. Depending on the story, you could be listening to the same narrator anywhere from 8 to 40 or more hours in total…so if you’re not fond of the voice or quality, simply try for another.

#2 NO SHAME

I was glad that I picked picked up Little Women and Decision Points on audio, because otherwise I may not have sat down to read them. I plan to do this with a few intimidating classics I’ve always wanted to read but never got around to. For example, if reading War & Peace scares you, but it’s on your bucket list, here’s an alternative. It’s a good thing I’m not a purist.

#3 DOWNLOAD OVERDRIVE or GO TO YOUR LIBRARY

A family friend introduced me to an app called Overdrive. You can download audio books from your library right onto your smartphone. You can also get books in CD at the library just remember to renew, because it could take several weeks to get through some of them.

#4 REMEMBER WHERE YOU LEFT OFF

Whether on CD or your iPhone, be sure to remember where you pause each time. Take a screen shot or a mental note of the track numbers your on. This will save time if it ever gets kicked back to the beginning.

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My listens for 2011-2013:

Decision Points by George W. Bush; John Adams by David McCullough;  Money and Marriage God’s Way by Howard Dayton; The King’s Speech by Mark Logue & Peter Conrad; Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott; My Life in France by Julia Child; Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen; Wherever I Wind Up by R.A. Dickey; Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

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Coconut Oil: 3 Beauty Uses

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There are almost a million posts on the internet concerning uses for the oh-so-amazing coconut oil. But for the sake of storing it away for my future recollection, I’m taking a moment to put it all in one place.

In recent days I have been using coconut oil, aside from for cooking, as a part of my health and skin care routine. (Be sure to keep you skin care oil in a separate container for hygiene purposes)

USE #1 EYE-MAKE UP REMOVER

Anyone who has combination-to-oily skin may cringe at hearing this….Oil! On my eyes! Near my face! Trust me, I hear ya. I thought this way at but when my skin did start getting a bit better I felt the freedom to use more oil based products like Vaseline and coconut oil as an inexpensive eye make up remover. AND often times we forget to moisturize when we are breaking out and instead only use astringents that strip our skin of natural (and needed!) oils. But to each her own! I certainly struggled with skin stuff long enough to know its so, so different for everyone.

Take the tiniest bit, warm it between your thumb and index finger and massage over eye lids. Wipe away with a cotton ball or tissue until make up is gone. It will leave your eye area silky smooth. Wipe away thoroughly so as not to get excess oil on your pillow case.

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USE #2 **SKIN MOISTURIZER**

**Due to break outs, I have stopped using the coconut oil directly on my face. I still use it for a skin moisturizer and eye-makeup remover. I cannot directly associate the break outs to the coconut oil, but because it was one of the biggest changes in my routine, I decided to stop using it for that purpose.**

Take about a small amount and warm between finger tips. Apply to body. Thoroughly massage into skin and allow to set and dry before going to bed or getting dressed.

USE #3  OIL PULLING

Sorry? Oil Pulling? This is something new for me too. A friend introduced me to the idea a few weeks ago and I’m intrigued and allllmost onboard. I couldn’t give a full explanation, so in short: Oil Pulling is the action of swishing oil in the mouth for a duration of 10-20 minutes in order to draw out bad bacteria from within the body found the mouth, mucus membranes and GI system.

Ew.

But it’s actually really satisfying! The first time I did this my teeth felt so clean.

So I aim to do this three times a week. Certainly don’t take my word for it and learn more here! Be sure to follow the instructions from the video tutorial well: On empty stomach, 1 tablespoon of oil, swish, don’t swallow, 20 minutes, spit out in a disposable container/bag, brush.

On Monday: How to read when you don’t have time.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Making Clean Up Easier

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They say a good cook is one who knows when it’s time to clean up. I do like to clean, but I have a habit of making my kitchen look like an explosion (yes, the noun) after an afternoon of cooking. When clean up is daunting, cooking becomes unenjoyable so, I’ve adopted a few practices to make clean up easier. None of these may be new, but all have been really valuable to me!

Tip #1 HAVE A BOWL OF WATER AND WHITE VINEGAR NEAR BY

The presence of this bowl alone serves as a friendly reminder. But it’s not all show. Have a clean rag ready to go so when the counter clears of dishes you can come by with a disinfecting wipe down right after. Then carry on!DSC01454

Tip #2 USE A SCRAP BOWL

My sister taught me this one and life was never the same. Having a bowl near by to throw all the scrap food/wrappers/dirty paper towels in is magic (if you compost and recycle have a couple bowls out)! It saves room on your cutting board and counters to do the real work. And you’ll cut down on trips back and forth between the garbage can with handfuls of onion peel dropping on the way (been there?). DSC01461

Tip #3 WEAR COMFY SHOES

“But that’s not about clean up” Maybe. This is a personal preference thing: bare feet on crumby-water droplet-flour dusted-floors. Not so much. So I usually wear comfy, supportive shoes that keep my feet clean and safe from any falling kitchen tools. DSC01495

Tip #4 KEEP THE DIRTY DISHES OUT OF THE SINK

We have a tiny sink, no dish washer, and a lot of used dishes almost every day. A trick my husband graciously showed me? Keep the dishes out of the sink so when it comes to cleaning them there is room to wash. Not everything is intuitive.
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TIP #5 DO A 2-MINUTE TIDY

While the sauce is simmering or the onions are browning take a quick sweep over the counters, the floor, the sink and tidy a bit.

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(It was quite an awkward challenge to get a portrait of myself cooling down this spoon full of sauce. Snap. Snap. Snap. Taste. Snap. Taste. Refill. Snap.)

Anna, a favorite blogger, who has her own way of tidying and I love it!

What do you do?

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How I Beat Those Winter Blues: Summer Reading

Every June Chapter’s and Barnes and Noble stock their shelves with the best “Summer Reads” that are bound to keep you turning the pages on the beach, by the lake or in the pool. Mmmm, there’s nothing like it. But when it comes to the winter, I haven’t yet seen “Great Winter Reads!” maybe because we’re all busy or skiing or huddled around the t.v. (All of which are true of us too at times between December and March!)

But that’s when I need the summer reads. Something that will be cheery, intriguing, edifying. Here are a few of my favorites. Some feel like old friends. Some I simply recommend for those cozy, tea-and-slippers kind of nights.

shaunathese three are all different and all delightful. simple and real. shauna has some great insights, a few of which I have pondered upon for months after.

ChaimI’ve read and then reread Potok’s acclaimed novels. (The Promise is the sequel)

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I saw  “The Help” as a movie before reading the book. When I did get around to it, it was like hearing the story for the first time.

What are your favorites for this time of year?

Enjoy being cozied up!

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