Wednesday, October 28, 2015

To Eat Meat or Not?

"WHO: Processed meat can cause cancer; red meat probably can"


What kind of scientific study uses the word "probably"?

Here is my 2 cents on this:

Do not get your panties in a bunch over this misleading headline. They must have used Common Core math for this article.

The article claims an 18% higher rate if cancer for meat eaters, when the research only shows an increase of 5% to 6%. In my world, that is a 1% increase, NOT 18%. 

So eat meat if you want to...or don't eat it if you don't want to. So tired of the misinformation and scare tactics that 'journalists' use to get traffic, and of the subsequent freaking out by the readers because people only read a headline and do not read the rest of it carefully enough.

So stop stressing-and over-reacting. Just read, read some more. Research and decide for yourself what is best for you.

That is all.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Just Say "No" to Shopping on a Holiday

In my humble opinion, There are very few good reasons to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day. Its not like we don't know these holidays are coming. We have plenty of time to prepare and shop for what we need. 

While not everyone celebrates Christmas, or Easter, or Haunnuka, etc., I have never met any American who did not celebrate Thanksgiving.

One of the reasons I have never chosen to work in retail is because I believe that there are several days throughout the year that people should be home with their family if they want to be, and many retail stores are open on some of these days. Thanksgiving is one, Labor, Day, Mother's/Father's Day, and New Year's Day are my core list. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are  the other two I would add to my own personal list.

The cashiers, stock people, customer service associates, managers and others who work in the retail industry, deserve that time off if they want it. I would like to see retail stores be more flexible and sensitive to supporting family time, especially those who have ailing parents or other family members, or children and maybe are caring for/raising therm alone.

Having been previously married to a police officer/EMT/Fireman, I know that crime, accidents, fires and illness never take a holiday. There were plenty of Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners, as well as vacation time, that my (now ex) husband would be needed. The pager would go off and he would have to leave in the middle of dinner, for an accident or a fire call (such as this one and this one on 4th of July, 2002, where 3 children & 3 firefighters died, one of them being a good friend of ours) and there were several times before my daughter was born, that I along with the Ladies Auxiliary made sure firefighters or displaced residents on a scene had blankets, refreshment and a bite to eat, but that was only out of urgency & necessity. When it comes to retail shopping, there is no urgency and it is certainly not a necessity. 

I was just on one social network. Here are some of the comments I saw:

My mom used to work at wal-mart and every thanksgiving she had to leave early so she could go to bed and get up to go work Black Friday and the last she worked she didn't have to be there until 10, so I can't imagine the associates now getting any time with their family since the sales are starting at 6. It's shameful that corporations are doing this to the people who keep them running, and what's worse is knowing the CEOs will be enjoying their family in their mansions while some who barely make livable wages will be missing out.

I am just saying, I use to work in retail and loved to work on holidays. We received, Time and a half and a holiday bonus. Everyone had choice to work or not too but again it was a choice. I chose to work because I needed the extra money and I cherish everyday with my family not on just one day. 

I work retail.. I am a manager at one of the stores listed above... I think retail should be mandatory for everyone's first job ever... I love my job, but customers would rather spit on you that wish you a Merry Christmas.. Or Happy Holiday's. They get upset because you can not get little Tommy or Mary that one and only toy.. Consumers have totally made this a commercial holiday. I wish the holiday would get back to tradition.

The only way to stop stores from being open thanksgiving n Christmas is for people to STOP shopping on these days

I remember making sure that you put gas in your car the day before because most gas stations were closed. And the grocery store was only open until noon. If you forgot it, you went without it.

I certainly applaud and support those businesses that are able and willing to close for certain holidays and let their employees off!! But I also am thankful for those employees that put in a shift at their jobs to allow travelers to eat and purchase family is made up of cops, firemen and nurses (and an airman in the air force)...we have always had holiday workers and always enjoyed our slightly skewed timeline...

Jay and I do our best to NOT shop on ANY holiday, unless an absolute emergency, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas & Labor Day.

What do you think? Do you work in retail or another industry? Do you think retail stores should be closed on holidays? Tell us in the comments!

Further Reading:

Stay Home! Stores Who Say "No" to Turkey Day Shoppers


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Easy Way to Clean up Liquid Soap Spills

Photo: What a soapy mess! 
You never know what you will be greeted by when working with a client.

This is an image from my client's bathroom earlier today. You can't see it too well, but it is a big puddle (almost a full bottle) of Organic Baby Bath Wash that has spilled on the floor next to the bath tub. The (triangular) puddle is just about 14 inches wide at the back and 1/4 inch deep in the corner and by the baseboard.

Ok. So now we know why you don't let the kids play with full shampoo or body wash bottles in the tub. (Unless of course you like cleaning up soapy gooey messes like this one!)

The good news: the shampoo bottle is now empty so the kids can play with it without making a mess ! 

The better news: in this post, I am going to tell you and show you exactly how to clean a mess such as this.

The first thing to remember is DO NOT use water! At least not yet. Water will only make more suds and you will be here for a week trying to get all this goo cleaned up.

So the first thing you want to do is use some clay-based  Cat Litter, which you should keep on hand whether or not you have a cat, for all sorts of alternative uses which you can read about right here and also here.
Sprinkle Kitty Litter right on  the spill

Take the litter and sprinkle generously on the spill covering it entirely. You want to let this sit for several minutes-(about 10) to give it a chance to do its job. 

Next, you want to take a plastic scooper or an old spatula you no longer want to use for food (I happen to carry one with me and had no use for it until today)
Scoop us clumps

As the kitty litter begins to clump, take the spatula and scoop it all up, placing it into a trash bag or dustpan. Be sure to press down on the surface as you scoop to lift up the excess soap that might not have been completely absorbed.

If a substantial puddle of soap still exists, dump some more kitty litter right on it and repeat the process.

Once you have scooped up the majority of the soap, take a dry paper towel and wipe up the remainder of litter and soap. (Unfortunately I do not have photos of this-they came our blurry so I did not include them.) You are NOW ready for water.

Repeat process
if necessary
I used a small bucket, filled with plain warm water-no cleaning agents. I soaked a microfiber cloth in the water, wrung it out and finished wiping and cleaning the area. Depending on the type of soap and how much excess was absorbed by the kitty litter, this could take a couple of times, but you will not have an abundance of suds to deal with. If you do get suds, some salt sprinkled on them will minimize them. 

Allow area to dry completely. Test for residue by feeling with your hand or stepping on it. If it feels sticky then you may need to wipe again with a new cloth and bucket of warm water. You may use some white or cider vinegar in the warm water to cut the soap (and oil) if need be, but if you used enough kitty litter, you should be able to wipe the rest up with the first bucket of water.

Hopefully you will never have a soapy spill, but if you do, you will now know exactly how to handle it with less mess and less stress!

What other secret or unusual uses do you have for Kitty Litter? Tell us in the comments area!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Italian Christmas Cookies

Photo: Italian N Proud
Every year around this time, I think back to when my grandparents were still with us, and the fall garden harvest. There would be home canning, and herb drying, and such wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen-and in the upcoming holiday months, all these delicious foods that they lovingly grew and preserved would be incorporated into the holiday meals.

There was nothing like holiday time at my grandparent's house. Christmas was the most special time of all, not just because of the food and the gifts, but because of the love and care that went into planning, cooking and serving each meal-and the people who would be gathered at the table to enjoy each other's company and a delicious meal.

My Grandmother's favorite part was the baking. She must have had at least a dozen different types of cookies, including Biscotti and Perfect Pizelles that my grandfather made by saying one "Hail Mary" while the cookie dough was in the press. They came out perfect every time. But one of my all-time favorites used to be these Italian Christmas Cookies, that look very similar to the "wine" cookies she used to make. (That recipe will be in another post.). 

I just came across this recipe and it brought back a memory-of me, about 6 or 7, and my grandmother would keep a few dozen of these cookies (with no icing or sprinkles) in a large Tupperware container on her kitchen counter, with the lid not sealed all the way so they would get stale and rock hard for my grandfather. (He liked 'dunking' them in his coffee.) 

I would notice the lid partially opened, and would keep sealing the lid tight, thinking I was helping her, and she kept unsealing it, wondering who kept snapping the lid shut. 

I know its still 2 months away, but it is with great pleasure that I post this recipe here so you can add it to your collection. 

My grandmother had a secret ingredient that you should also use generously: Love.

Italian Christmas Cookies (Recipe Courtesy of Italian N Proud)

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder

Sift dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs; add vanilla and dry ingredients.

Knead and add flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to hands. 
Pinch off dough, roll in your hands to form a log and then twirl into shape. 
Place on greased cookie sheets. 
Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
6 tsp. water
Stir until creamy

Dip cookies into icing and top with sprinkles. 
Place on wire rack with wax paper on counter to collect the dripping icing and sprinkles
Store in airtight container.

Do you have a favorite Cookie recipe? Please share it with us below!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Raggedy Ann & Vaccine Injury

Raggedy Ann & Andy

I had a Raggedy Ann doll as a child-but I never knew her origin.

I came across an interesting story about her today. She was created by American writer Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938) for his daughter, Marcella, when she brought him an old hand-made rag doll she found in the attic. He drew a face on it.

From his bookshelf, he pulled a book of poems by James Whitcomb Riley, and combined the names of two poems, "The Raggedy Man" and "Little Orphant Annie". Raggedy Ann was born.

Sadly, Marcella later died at age 13, of what Gruelle and his wife believed to be a side effect of the smallpox vaccine she had received at school, without their permission. Raggedy Ann has since been a symbol of the anti-vaccination movement.

The reason I am including this on "Stress-Free Spaces" is because I found the videos at the bottom of the article even more interesting and extremely informative.  

In recent weeks the push for Flu shots has begun, and my doctor has recommended the HPV Vaccine for my daughter (which I declined as 95% of HPV viral infections clear themselves up with NO other symptoms or harm to the patient.) As a parent, I am only looking for the truth, and have a hard time accepting the medical vaccine paradigm as it directly conflicts with common sense and even science itself.

I personally have always been on the fence, since my sons (now in their 30s) were little. After my own personal experiences and research, as a mother and as a former medical professional, I have NO idea how anyone can emphatically say that the vaccines we currently use are safe-and illness and injury is coincidental-when there is so much evidence to the contrary. 

Thimerisol, mercury, aluminum hydroxide, formaldehyde-all known neuro-toxins and/or carcinogens - latex, bovine serum, monkey kidneys, aborted fetal tissue...??? This is the actual ingredient list for some of our flu shots and other vaccines. 62 different chemicals are injected directly into your and your child's tissue along with the vaccine. These are toxic substances, and the animal tissue can carry its own inherent diseases. If we have so advanced in medicine, why can we not remove the toxins? 

A logical question is, why are we told these substances are harmful if we are otherwise exposed, and yet its OK to inject it directly into our bodies with a flu shot or vaccine? In fact, its pushed and mandated?

My own answer is simply that Pharmaceutical companies are not in the business of health-they are corporations in the business of selling pharmaceuticals. Their #1 goal is to profit off of illness by selling vaccines and drugs. (And they certainly do with a whopping $600 Billion yearly.) These companies have been sued on numerous occasions, have been repeatedly charged with criminal offenses and yet are what drives our vaccination laws. In order to profit they must use school officials, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals for propaganda, and intimidate and scare the masses. They prey on a parent's fear and community misunderstanding. In doing so, they are breaking local, federal and constitutional law, and not be held responsible.

With that said, I firmly believe that every parent should research and decide what is best for their own families and their own children. If you have concerns about vaccines, or even if you firmly believe in vaccines, please add the links below to your resources and take the time to read, watch and listen to the information on the first link on the list- it is well worth the time. This is information presented by highly educated medical professionals. My hope is that the link below will bring you closer to the truth and help you to decide for yourself. 

Saying No to Vaccines: A guide for All Ages

The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us & What to Do About it

AIDS, Opium, Diamonds and Empire

*If you have a resource to add-supporting either position on vaccines - please feel free to post a link (and a brief explanation of what it is) in the comments area.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

When Clutter Control Needs More Than What a Housekeeper Can Give


I think its safe to say that most of us would be happier with a bit less clutter. We look at magazines with photos of well-furnished, clutter-free living rooms, and gorgeous bedrooms with a fancy breakfast tray carefully balanced on the bottom corner of the bed, and then we look around our own home and see random items strewn about and wonder if those pictures are even possible in real life.

We would love to have more space for things that we love, need, and actually use. We would love to have less stress due to having less things to manage, keep track of or clean, and we would love to be able to find the belongings we are looking for much more quickly.

Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us have a hard time getting rid of things. Even though we know that deep down inside it is causing us additional time and stress. We justify this by telling ourselves that the item(s) is/are valuable in some way-either something we really will need in the future, or something sentimental that we cannot part with. In my own case, I have tons of paper-notes (written in longhand), notebooks, book drafts and various curricula from my last business venture-(designing children's recreational programming). Over the last few months, since my current business venture has picked up, I have been downsizing and getting rid of old materials and equipment I no longer use/need to make room for the equipment and projects I am currently taking on. 

It happens to me too: I have had a hard time parting with some of these items, (mostly the notebooks) because writing is my first passion, and I tell myself that this is great stuff for a book. The truth is that I have been so busy with other projects that I have not had time to get to it just yet. So I have had to decide which is the best of the best to keep stored until I am ready for it, and what to shred and use for our fireplace bricks.

I help clients to keep their own homes and offices organized-and in some cases I realize the clutter goes much deeper than what a few baskets and tubs can solve. Sometimes its more than just simple disorganization. Sometimes the problem is not about housekeeping at all, and has an emotional element, one that needs to be addressed in a different manner than how a housekeeper or professional organizer would.

Below I have attached several articles discussing these emotional aspects. Rather than me trying to paraphrase, I will just leave the links and allow you to read the articles in full. I find it interesting to study human nature and why we do the things we do as it helps me understand myself better, my clients needs better and helps me provide the best in every aspect of what I do.

Tell us in the comments below: what is your worst clutter problem and how do you go about solving it? 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Top 5 Things to Ask the Housekeeper Before you Hire Her

What 5 Things should you ask
the Housekeeper before you hire her?
Once you have decided to hire a housekeeper, there are several ways to go about finding one. 
The best way (in my opinion) is to ask for a personal referral from a friend, family member or neighbor. Most independent housekeepers and services like to have clients in the same neighborhood, to limit travel time, and some even give a small discount for referrals, so that may be a good place to start.
You could also place and ad in a local paper, or post a flyer at a local college. With the rising cost of tuition, many college students are looking for ways to earn extra cash for books and course work when they are not taking classes. Be specific as to what you are looking for: (Examples: non smoker, English speaking, has own transportation, has liability insurance, brings own supplies, etc.)
In order to be clear with prospective housekeepers, you should also come up with a tentative schedule and a list of tasks that you would like taken care of on a regular cleaning day. Be specific about what you want done-(the bathroom light fixtures, make beds, etc.) and what you do NOT want done-(your home office, the spare bedroom, the antique dining room curio cabinet, etc.)
So now as the calls come in-take a few moments to talk with each caller-don't just schedule a meeting. Learn a little bit about them and tell them a bit about what you are looking for. (You don't have to go into detail, you are just getting a feel over the phone as to whether or not you want to set up a meeting.) Skype with them to get an idea of facial expressions and general appearance. Ask if they will give a free estimate at your home. If you feel comfortable, set up a meeting. If you do not, ask if you can call them back in a day or two once you see how your schedule looks for a meeting. Then follow up by Skype or by phone, and see if you still feel uncomfortable or if you want to go ahead and schedule a meeting. 
As you schedule interviews & meetings, keep these top 5 questions in mind as you make your list of others you would like to ask:
  • Experience: How long have you been cleaning houses? Ask if there are 3 or 4 clients you can talk to as references. Actually call and talk with those references. Ask for a 3-4 visit trial period to see if it will be a good fit for you, your family and your pets. Let her talk and tell you about her experience and skills, and see how well she communicates. 
  • Insurance: Are you insured? By whom, for what services & for how much? Even if you have a homeowner's policy, this is an important question to protect both you and your personal items as well as the housekeeper. A general liability policy for housekeeper is very inexpensive (less than $300 yearly for $2M of coverage) and every professional housekeeper should carry it. 
  • Finances: How much do you charge? Are your rates and services negotiable? What forms of payment do you accept? Don't feel uncomfortable inquiring about and negotiating prices & services, but be sure to be fair to the housekeeper and pay her for the results she is getting and the problem she is solving for you.  Its easy to just rattle off an hourly rate, and view housekeeping as "unskilled" labor, but remember something: that housekeeper is doing tasks that you don't have time, to, don't want to or don't know how to do. It does take skill or you wouldn't need her in the first place. So please consider the expected tasks, experience, skill and efficiency of the housekeeper along with the end result you are getting. If she is supplying her own supplies, insurance, (medical and liability,) and traveling a distance to help you, that all needs to be compensated for in addition to her service.  If you ask for additional tasks, expect to pay extra for them. Nothing is more de-motivating than working hard for someone who does not value your time, effort or knowledge, so once you do hire her, as long as she is delivering quality service, remember to tell her and show her how much you value her expertise, and don't be tight with what you budget for your services. Be sure to have her cash or check ready when she comes.
  • Schedule: How do you handle bad weather and reschedules? Weather and sick kids will happen, so most housekeepers leave one day open for reschedules. If a client  would need to change their day for any reason, that "open" day would be the alternate day. Talk about this with with prospects and find out how she would reschedule you if she had to come late, or had a doctor's appointment or personal errand to run.
  • Privacy: Tell me about your worst client/cleaning job? This is a sneaky trick question, but an important one to ask as the housekeeper's response will be very telling. If she begins by rolling her eyes and telling you a detailed story about her worst client ever, take a step back. Not only is she indiscreet and demonstrating a negative attitude, but she is invading that other client's privacy. Even if she does not mention a name, it is in poor form to talk about other clients, especially with a prospective one. Sure we sometimes work with people who get on our last nerve, but in this case we should really keep it to ourselves. Would you want someone talking about you and your messy home, or your toilet overflowing or your personal routine, vacation plans, etc. to strangers-or worse, neighbors? Probably not. Now, if she responds with "I can't think of any off hand..." or "I never had a client I didn't like", give this candidate some serious consideration. 

These 5 questions will help you determine if a housekeeper candidate will be a good fit for you, your family, your pets and your home. Start with these and add your own questions which are personal to you and your situation.

What other questions would you add to this list? Place them in the comments below.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Avoiding Household Task Overwhelm

Stock Photo
Overwhelmed with too many tedious tasks? You are not alone!

A recent Time Use survey found that Americans spend on average, about 22 hours per week (about 2-3 hours daily) on housekeeping tasks.

That is almost one full day every week, of cleaning, organizing, laundry, food shopping, cooking, dishes, yard work, errands, and others. What's more is that those 20+ weekly hours could be used for more important things: family, educational pursuits, making more money, recreational activities, exercise, hobbies, vacation, etc.

While we cannot always entirely eliminate that sense of overwhelm, you can take action to minimize it. There is nothing more stressful than coming home to visual noise in the form of clutter. Hiring a personal assistant or a housekeeping professional can greatly reduce your stress by removing the clutter and reducing the number of hours you spend on these daily tasks. The benefit is that you only have to focus on your higher priorities: helping with homework, watching kids play sports, running your small business, bonding with your newborn, healing from surgery or just simply relaxing.

The trick is to find an independent housekeeper or a housekeeping service who offers add-on services. For example, my service offers a variety of interrelated products & services geared towards handling home, hospitality tasks, that go well beyond cleaning & organizing and into the realm of entertaining, household management & care-taking.

If your housekeeper does not currently offer add-on services, ask them if they would be willing to. At the very least, be sure that the housekeeping service or individual you select offers customized services as opposed to one-size-fits-all approach, and bonded and insured, professionals who will offer a schedule that fits your needs.

Most services offer a complimentary walk through and consultation along with a free quote and a set scheduled appointment day. Other perks to look for or inquire about would be highly personalized housekeeping plans, citrus-based, "green" or minimally obtrusive supplies; a non-smoking, fully insured, fully trained, bi-lingual, English speaking housekeeper or housekeeping staff; convenient monthly or weekly online billing and a money back guarantee.

On a budget? Negotiate with your housekeeper or service based on what you can spend. If you have a $50 monthly budget-ask what services that $50 will buy you and negotiate from there. (For example, I have a retired couple on a fixed income, who has me come in once a month to clean their 2 small bathrooms and small kitchen & dining area. I usually throw in the powder room, or the stairway because they are long-term clients.) As you feel less stressed, and are able to pay for them, you can gradually add services back in to your schedule.

Keep in mind that when you hire a housekeeper, you are not just purchasing cleaning and organizing services, you are reclaiming hours and hours of lost time and spent energy. You are helping to eliminate that sense of dread and overwhelm and create a calm, clean, stress-free space that you, your family & your friends can relax in, live in and make memories in.

Ask yourself, how much is all of that worth to you?

No matter how big or small the job, a housekeeper or cleaning service should be able to efficiently create the perfect plan for you: Your home, your way.

To get started, visit our website at to see what we have to offer. Then call us to schedule your consultation.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tea Time

"I don't need a ting dear."
“In Ireland, you go to someone's house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you're really just fine. She asks if you're sure. You say of course you're sure, really, you don't need a thing. Except they pronounce it 'ting'. You don't need a ting.

Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble.

Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn't mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it's no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don't get any damned tea.

I liked the Irish way better.”

― C.E. Murphy, Urban Shaman

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to Avoid Halloween Candy Overload

I will never forget the Halloween that my younger son (and middle child) went on a candy binge so fiercely that he made himself sick on sweet treats. (And neither will he!)

My sons were about 9 & 10. As I went through their pillow cases full of candy to toss out questionable looking items, I placed the "good Stuff" in a bowl for later. I allowed each of my sons to pick out 2 pieces to enjoy now, and set the bowl on top of the refrigerator instructing them that they could have another piece or two tomorrow.

The next morning, Michael, (my older son and oldest child) came in to wake me because his brother was, (in his words) "turning green and fluttering his eyes. Be prepared because I think he's gonna stay that color for a while mom..."

When I walked into the room, I immediately diagnosed the problem: empty candy wrappers littered the floor. My son was curled up in a ball, moaning & groaning in pain like there was no tomorrow. I asked him as I looked at the wrappers in shock how much he ate and he couldn't even answer me, partly because he had lost count of how much he had eaten, and partly because he was running past me holding his mouth with both hands, about to throw up. (Michael informed me that not only had his brother eaten "two handfuls" of candy after we went to bed, climbing up on a chair to reach it, but also had grabbed a few pieces for "breakfast" and ate it until he felt sick. Michael assured me that HE only ate one extra piece that Steven offered him as a bribe, and that he had warned Steven of the horrors of too much candy.)

Needless to say, the lesson was learned by both kids. To this day, there is nothing my sons hate more than the sensations of being nauseated and throwing up, so that was enough to stop him from binging like that ever again. In fact, I don't think he even eats candy at all.

In between my son's trips to the bathroom that morning, and my wondering if I should take him to the hospital, I threw out ALL of the rest of the candy-(well I stashed a few pieces of the better chocolate for later.) to drive the point home, and I changed some rules for the following year:

1-Between the parties and the rounds of Trick or Treating with friends, it piles up and I really don't want the Halloween candy still around on New Year's Day. Its insane. I only allowed the kids one round of Trick or Treating, and enough candy to fill a small bowl (the equivalent to about one regular sized bag of store bought candy) which is all they really need. The rest I would donate to the local middle school, pediatrician's office or children's hospital.

2-I made sure they were well-fed with something warm and satisfying prior to embarking on the yearly candy hunt. No more would the excuse "I'm not hungry" cut it. No one went out until they ate a full (healthy) meal and cleaned up the dishes.

3-Its more about the dressing up, and the experience than the candy itself-so I had them trade their candy up for other good stuff-like movie tickets (which were not expensive back in the 80's) glow sticks, Hot Wheels, Silly Putty (which later was banned from my home - but that story is for another post!) plastic Army Men, etc. This trend has become popular in recent years. I had no idea I was on to something back then!

Here are two links for you:

Halloween Candy Alternatives

10 Ways to Get Rid Of Excess Candy (Including a list of places that will take candy donations)

What are some other ways you help your kids (and you) avoid Halloween Candy Overload? Please share with us in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Building a Better Centerpiece

A centerpiece adds color, interest and personality to your dining table, coffee table or buffet. While some are highly talented with elaborate floral arranging, others (like me) prefer to keep it quick, simple and somewhat whimsical.

There are no hard rules for building a centerpiece, except that it should serve as a point of convergence and as a way to welcome your guests or to get a conversation going. I like to use a mixture of textures and colors that reflect the event I am hosting.

Whether you opt for a simple centerpiece or a more elaborate design, here are some quick tips we've compiled to help you build a better centerpiece:

  • Use the occasion or season as your inspiration. Choose colors, textures, containers, props and little details to reflect the mood you wish to create or the event you are celebrating.
  • Personalize your centerpiece to reflect the occasion, your unique personality or the guest of honor's hobbies. For example: colorful tin watering cans with simple sunflowers in them make a gorgeous centerpiece for someone who loves to garden. OR a glass pillar filled with water and river rocks, or sand and sea shells make a lovely
    candle container for someone who loves the beach.
  • Re-purpose cans, jars, baskets or interesting vintage serving pieces into vases. Some flea market treasures or chipped or odd pieces that you never use on the dinner table may make the perfect container for a centerpiece. I once re-purposed several chipped and mis-matched tea cups and saucers for centerpieces for a child's tea party. Some E-6000 glue and some silk flowers did the trick. (That project is for another blog post!)
  • Use fruit and vegetables in lieu of flowers. Especially for people who have allergies. A colorful fruit bowl not only serves as a beautiful centerpiece, but also as dessert!
  • Be sure to keep dining table centerpieces low (below eye level). Centerpieces that are too bulky or just at eye level can prevent comfortable conversation among your guests.

Here are some links and images to get you started:

Five Minute Centerpiece Ideas (Real Simple)

Thanksgiving table Decoration

Cranberry and White Candle Centerpiece idea

Eclectic Domestics "Centerpieces" Pinterest Board

What are your favorite elements to use for a centerpiece?


Friday, October 2, 2015

11 Things to do Before Your Dinner Guests Arrive

So you are having some guests for dinner. Outside of the obvious, (buy food and beverages, clean, take out the trash.) what do you do to prepare?

I've asked a handful of my clients, blog readers and Social Network connections to contribute to this article by giving me one or two little details-things that they do to prepare for dinner guests. Their responses are below:

How do you prepare for guests? Please tell us in the comments area. 

1- Clean your bathroom. (Really clean it. Don't cover up with fake "Mountain Fresh-ness" spray. People WILL notice the dust and hair on the counter, in the drains and on the floor, even if you don't.)

2-Put out several clean hand towels by the sink. (Unless you want your bath towels and curtains used to dry off after hand washing! If you prefer disposables, here is what I use. Or these if I want something more decorative.)

3- Be sure there is at least one full roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, and a box of tissues. (Place an extra roll/box or two where guests can see them.)

4- Empty bathroom waste baskets. (There is nothing that look more clutter-y than a basket overflowing with trash.)

5- Put personal items away. (Bills, handbags, makeup, jewelry that you might leave by the door or the kitchen or bathroom sink should be put away from nosy guests, and to prevent from accidental damage/loss.)

6-Clean up pet areas and move bowls & equipment away from guests. (We love animals too, but really, no one wants to crunch on litter or step  on squeaky toys, or look at/smell your cat's litter box while they are eating dinner, getting a beer from the fridge, or using your bathroom. Try this pet odor eliminator. )

7-Have a selection of cold and warm beverages. (Iced tea, soda, wine, coffee & warm tea are easy to store and have on hand for visitors.)

8-Put something in the oven before guests arrive. (The aroma of dinner rolls baking is a wonderful way to welcome guests and builds anticipation for the meal and the company. Try some of these Rosemary Dinner Rolls for starters.)

9-Turn off computers and Tvs. (Low-volume background music is OK, but you really want to focus on your guests rather than the electronics. Unless of course it is an "Olympics" or "Superbowl" themed gathering.)

10-Purchase or create a simple centerpiece for your dining table or buffet. (A centerpiece is a point of convergence. It can set the mood and add an extra touch to your celebration. It can be simple or elaborate. Our Centerpiece Pinterest Board will give you some ideas to start with.)

11-Adjust your thermostat. (Keep the house at a comfortable temperature-between 70°-75° F . Consider the number of people, whether or not the oven is going, and the time of year. In winter, open window in a far end of the house to allow air to circulate if necessary, and leave shawls, throws or blankets nearby for anyone who might need one. In summer, be sure plenty of cooler air is flowing through the home, especially the dining area.)

What can you add to this list?