The best ways to kill germs around the house

Colds, stomach flu and food-borne illness are all spread by exposure to germs. No matter how clean you keep your home, the surfaces in your home can still harbor the germs that can make you sick.

Believe it or not, the germiest place in your home isn’t the bathroom—it’s your kitchen.

Your kitchen drain and faucet, refrigerator door handle, microwave buttons and even the sponge you use to clean your kitchen all harbor bacteria more than any other surface in your house. TV remote controls and bathrooms surfaces are also often contaminated.

Bacteria and viruses can survive on household surfaces longer than you may think. Some viruses, such as the norovirus, can last several weeks.

Tips to Get Rid of Germs in Your Home

  • Clean with bleach water. The simplest (and cheapest) way to kill germs in your home is to clean surfaces with diluted bleach water. Bacteria are not resistant to bleach. Mix three tablespoons in a half-quart of water and use it to wipe down doorknobs, light switches, handles, countertops and other surfaces frequently touched in your home.
  • Wash your hands. We all touch contaminated surfaces every day. Scrub your hands for 15 to 20 seconds with warm soap and water frequently throughout the day to prevent the spread of germs, whether you’re in your home or elsewhere. Keep hand sanitizer easily accessible in your home to encourage clean hands.
  • Disinfect your kitchen sponge. Chances are, you’re spreading more germs than you’re cleaning up when you wipe your kitchen counters with a sponge. To help keep your kitchen sponge from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria, put it in about an inch of water in a microwave safe container and microwave it for about one minute daily.
  • Keep sheets, blankets and pillows clean. It’s not just hard surfaces where germs may be lurking. Your bedding and living room pillows and throws can also be covered in germs. Wash them regularly in hot water and dry on the highest temperature setting to help kill off germs. It’s also not a bad idea to disinfect your washing machine every now and then. Empty your washing machine and run a normal cycle with bleach and hot water.

Your home will never be 100 percent germ-free, but with these simple tips, you can dramatically reduce the number of germs lurking in your home and reduce your risk of getting sick.

5 Easy Ways to Promote Heart Health

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Did you know that heart disease (including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases) is the number one cause of death in the United States? For women, heart disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. The good news is that in most cases, heart disease is entirely preventable. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise can cause problems with your heart.

February is American Heart Month, and there’s no better time to start showing your heart some love with these five easy heart health tips.

  1. Watch what you eat. Eat more healthy fats, such as fish oils and raw nuts, and skip the trans fats found in deep fried and processed foods. Stick to natural, whole foods (lean meats and produce) and avoid packaged foods of any kind. Eat more fiber, which can be found in whole grains and legumes. Get your protein in the form of lean meats (like chicken), fish and shellfish.
  2. Don’t stress. No matter what difficult issues you may be facing in life, managing your stress level is essential for your heart health. Find healthy ways to manage your stress, such as exercise, positive thinking, deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. Spend at least a little time each day doing something you enjoy, too.
  3. Get up and move. You don’t have to exercise for hours a day to have a healthy heart. Just 20 or 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise will keep your heart strong and healthy. Set aside time each day to go on a walk (pick up the pace as much as you can!), or make a point to take the stairs instead of the elevator, if you’re able. Swimming, tennis or a day on the golf course—find something active that you enjoy doing and carve out room in your schedule for that activity.
  4. Quit smoking. Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. If you need some help or encouragement to stop smoking, check out these resources from the American Heart Association.
  5. Manage your health. Stay on top of your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Allowing any of these to get out of control increases your risk of heart disease or a cardiac event, such as a heart attack. Follow doctor’s orders to manage any health issues that may contribute to poor heart health.

By making even these small daily changes, you can dramatically reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Does Your Kitchen Need a Makeover? 5 Tips for Organizing Your Cabinets, Pantry and Fridge

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When was the last time you organized your kitchen cabinets, pantry or fridge? Is it time to tackle the project again? Here are five tips to get you on your way to an organized kitchen:

1. Start clean. The best way to get organized is to start with a clean slate, so empty out your cabinets or refrigerator before you get started. Trash broken utensils, mismatched food storage containers and any food products that have spoiled. Next, pull out any duplicates or items you do not frequently use and place them in a donate pile.

2. Sort your stuff. Group the items from your cabinet into piles that make the most sense to you. For example, you may want to place all baking items in one central location. Dishes can be grouped by type or style (everyday, formal, holiday, entertaining, etc). If you are working on organizing your fridge or pantry, group foods with other similar items. (Canned goods and non-perishables; salad dressings and condiments; spices; coffee, tea, and other drink mixes.)

3. Use clear storage containers. If you easily forget what’s what in your fridge, then only use clear storage containers to store leftovers. When you can see what’s in a particular container, it’s less likely you’ll forget about it. And don’t forget to keep your storage containers and lids together. Purchase stackable storage sets to maximize space.

4. Look up. Take advantage of vertical space to help clear out your cabinets. Cooking tools like measuring cups can easily be placed on hooks inside the cabinet door, and a hanging rack for pots and pans will preserve valuable real estate in your kitchen cabinets. Making use of vertical space is especially important if you are working with a relatively small space.

5. Organize your fridge. Keep foods like meat, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and milk on the back of the bottom shelf, where they will stay the coldest. Eggs should be stored in the original container on the middle shelf. Place veggies in a high-humidity vegetable drawer, while fruit should go in the crisper. (Do not wash produce until you are ready to eat it! This will prolong the shelf life of your food, as water promotes mold and bacteria growth.) Deli meats belong in the shallow drawer toward the middle of the fridge. Butter and soft cheese can be stored in the dairy compartment.

Once you get your kitchen organized, now you’ve got to keep it organized. Choose tasks in the kitchen that need to be completed on a regular basis, and then make a note of (or assign tasks to another family member) which tasks should be completed with daily, weekly, monthly or even annually. Keeping your kitchen clean and organized will reduce stress and make baking, cooking and eating in your kitchen more enjoyable.

Using Your Personal Photos to Decorate Your Home

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Photos are often the final touch in making home really feel like home. Store-bought decorations can certainly reflect your personal style and taste, but using your own one-of-a-kind photos of family, friends and your favorite places makes your home uniquely yours.

The difficulty in decorating with photos is that too many photos can quickly create what looks more like clutter than a decorative display, especially in a small room. Use these tips to decorate your home with your treasured photos.

1. Go big. Small photos add clutter and are difficult to see, but you can create a stunning gallery-style display in your home by using photos of varying sizes larger than 8”x10”.

2. Designate a single location. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to cover every inch of wall space in your home with photos. Instead, select one central, eye-catching location for your photo display.

3. Keep it clean. Give your photo arrangement a clean look by using matching frames in a variety of sizes rather than a hodgepodge of mismatched frames. Again, this will help cut down on the clutter.

4. Make an impact. Print an even number (four or six is ideal, depending on the space you have to work with) of your favorite photos on large canvasses. You can have this done at a place like Walgreens or Walmart. Hang the photos together in one organized group to create a focal point and leave a big impact.

5. Get cozy. If your wall space is minimal, create a photo collage and have it printed on a large blanket that can be displayed on your bed or the back of your sofa instead. Again, this can be done at a place like Walmart.

6. Start reading. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a photo book has a lot to say. Photos are memories to be treasured, but when a room is overwhelmed with photos in small frames placed in every nook and cranny, those memories can often go overlooked. Create a photo book to store these memories in one easily accessible location that both you and your guests can enjoy.

By using large photos, clean lines and reducing clutter, you can create your own in-home art gallery filled with happy memories.

Energy-Boosting Foods for Senior Citizens

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If you’re like most of us, you’re often in awe of the “young folks” and their seemingly boundless energy. Where does all that energy come from? Do you ever wish you could get your own dose of extra energy?

The secret to boosting your energy may be in the foods you eat. Different foods affect the body in different ways, and some foods contain just the right nutrients to give you a little jolt of energy when you’re feeling sluggish.

Top 5 Energy Boosting Foods

1. Water: It’s not a “food,” but it is essential for sustaining life—and energy! Water helps clear your body of toxins that may be dragging you down. It is also responsible for hydration, which in turn can prevent fatigue and depression. Add a bit of lemon to your water, and you’ve got a natural energy drink!

2. Fresh Fruit: The natural sugar found in fruit helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Vitamin C, found in many fruits (including citrus), helps the body convert fat to energy. Iodine, found in other fruits like pineapple, controls how quickly the body uses that energy.

3. Nuts: Nuts are the perfect healthy snack to give you the gusto to get through your day. Magnesium, fiber and protein are all found in nuts such as cashews, almonds and hazelnuts. The magnesium helps the body convert sugar to energy, fiber stabilizes blood sugar and protein generates more energy while fighting off hunger.

4. Dark Chocolate: Not a coffee drinker? Get your daily dose of dark chocolate instead! Dark chocolate contains theobromine, a natural stimulant that boosts energy and mood, much like caffeine. Just don’t overdo it—it is chocolate, after all.

5. Whole Grains: The body needs carbohydrates to function, so find a source of whole grains, whether it’s pasta, bread or whole grain cereal. The complex carbs found in whole grains contain vitamins and minerals that can keep the blood sugar stable. These carbs also help prevent an energy crash during the day, because the body breaks them down differently than it does refined carbs or processed foods.

This is only the beginning when it comes to energy-boosting foods. Others include eggs, edamame, quinoa and many more. Next time you need a pick-me-up, reach for one of these energy-boosting foods and see if it doesn’t give you just what you need to get through the day.

 

 

Couponing 101: Learning How to Use Coupons

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Couponing isn’t just for stay-at-home moms with a minivan full of little ones. Anyone can save money by using coupons. If you want to stretch your retirement dollars even further, couponing can help you do that.

Coupons can get you a great deal, and when used most effectively, they may even allow you to pay virtually nothing for some of your favorite products. But clipping coupons can also be a hassle and take some work. Use these tips to help you get the most out of your coupons.

  1. Keep coupons handy. Clipping coupons does you no good if you can’t find a particular coupon when you need it. Keep coupons paper-clipped to your shopping list so you’ll know exactly where they are when you get to the register.
  2. Only clip coupons for products you normally buy. You don’t have to clip every coupon in the newspaper. Pick and choose your coupons for the products you buy normally. The exception to this rule is when it comes to specific brands of the same product. If there’s no coupon for your favorite brand of toilet paper, but there is a coupon for a comparable alternative, clip away.
  3. Maximize your savings with store specials. Many stores will double and triple coupons on certain days. Find out what those days are and plan your shopping trip accordingly. When planned just right, you can even stack manufacturer’s coupons on top of a store discount or store coupon to save even more cash, so watch the store ads for what’s on sale this week.
  4. Read the fine print. There are some stipulations to using coupons, so be sure you know exactly when and how to use a particular coupon so you won’t be surprised when it comes time to pay.
  5. Price-match. Many retailers, such as Walmart, will honor a competitor’s store ads and coupons. It’s not worth it to spend your day shopping at multiple stores, so take advantage of price-matching opportunities so you can get all your shopping done at one store. At Walmart, you can show competitor ads and coupons to the cashier at checkout to receive the discount. At other stores, like Target, you may have to stop by customer service on your way out to get a refund for the difference.
  6. Get a raincheck. Many stores will offer a raincheck option if they run out of a particular item that is on sale one week. If the store is out of an item you want that is on sale, ask the manager for a raincheck.
  7. Plan ahead. This is the most important trick to successful couponing. Go through store ads before you go to the store. These can be found in the newspaper or online. Make your shopping list and then sort through your coupons and only take the ones you plan to use that day.

You don’t have to be an “Extreme Couponer” to save money. If you use these tips, you’ll will be surprised just how much the savings will add up. There are even online resources you can use to simplify your couponing experience and help you save more money. Click here to check out one of these resources.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Senior Adults

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Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? If not, it’s not too late! The new year is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and set new goals.

Keeping these resolutions can be challenging, but not impossible. The key is to set realistic measureable goals, to celebrate the small achievements on the way and to avoid beating yourself up when you have a bad day.

The type of resolution or goal you might set depends on your stage of life and what you want to accomplish in the coming year. An adult in the midst of his or her career might set goals related to work. Many people make resolutions to get more fit or lose weight (in fact, this is one of the top five resolutions people make each year), while others may be more focused on improving a certain characteristic or quality to become a better person.

Senior adults are in a different stage of life: retired from work and focused simply on living the best life possible. Here are some of the top New Year’s resolutions for seniors.

  1. Spend more time with family. Time spent with loved ones is precious and should be cherished at any given opportunity. Invite your family to share a meal with you, or have the grandchildren over to work a puzzle or play games. If you and your family are separated by distance, take advantage of technology and plan regular phone calls or video chats. If you don’t know how to use the internet or the computer, don’t hesitate to ask someone to help you.
  2. Participate in more group activities. Whether it’s enjoying a movie night with other residents in your community, challenging your neighbor to a game of cards or simply taking a walk with a friend, make 2015 the year you really live life to the fullest.
  3. Exercise regularly. No matter your age, exercise is key for a healthy mind and body. Walking, swimming and water aerobics classes are just a few great forms of exercise for senior adults. Pick a physical activity you enjoy and plan to do that activity two to three times each week. Finding a friend to exercise with you can help keep you accountable and make your exercise more enjoyable!
  4. Learn something new. You’re never too old to keep learning. What is one thing you’ve always wanted to learn? Maybe you’d like to learn how to use Facebook so you can keep up with your grandkids, or perhaps learning to knit interests you. Whatever it may be, keep your mind sharp in 2015 by increasing your knowledge.
  5. Write letters to loved ones. Handwritten letters are nearly extinct in our society, but there’s something nostalgic and charming about receiving a piece of real mail. Take some time each week to write a letter to a friend or family member. Share stories, offer encouragement, and most of all, let them know just how loved they are.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be January 1 to start a new resolution or begin working toward a new goal. Set your mind to achieve something new this year and get started!

 

 

The Origin of the World’s Most Popular Drink

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Are you a tea drinker? Hot tea, in particular? As you sip your cuppa, have you ever pondered the origin of drinking tea or how “tea time” got its start?

Grab a hot cup of your favorite brew and sit down for a little history lesson, courtesy of tea.

The History of Tea

Tea was first discovered in China potentially as early as 2737 BC, according to one legend. At that time, tea was known for its medicinal qualities, but through the years it also became used for religious offerings. During the Han Dynasty, in the years 202 BC to 220 AD, tea plants were limited, so only the royals and the wealthy had access to tea. During the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD), more tea plants were discovered, and even the lower classes could drink tea and reap its benefits.

Around this same time, Japanese priests studying in China brought tea to Japan. At first, as in China, only royalty and the rich drank tea. Buddhist priests also drank it to help keep them awake during meditation, eventually spawning the Japanese tea ceremony, during which tea was shared as part of a sacred and spiritual ritual. The Emperor of Japan imported tea seeds from China and planted them in Japan so more people could partake in tea.

It wasn’t until the 17th century that tea arrived in England, after King Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess. As in other cultures, tea in England was initially consumed by royals, and afternoon tea or tea parties became common in aristocratic society.

Tea was imported to Britain via the East India Company, and the taxes were so high that commoners couldn’t afford it, so smugglers acquired and sold tea illegally to those who couldn’t pay the tax. It was during this time that the East India Company began its exportation to America—again, heavily taxed—leading to what we know today as the Boston Tea Party.

Types of Tea

Tea is the most popular beverage in the world—even more popular than water. Each year, more than six billion pounds of tea are harvested. All “true” teas come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. “Herbal” teas are derived from the leaf, root, fruit or flower of another plant.

True teas can be divided into four categories: white, green, oolong and black. The color depends on how the leaves are processed and oxidized. Generally, the less a tea is oxidized (white tea is least oxidized), the lighter it will be in taste and smell.

Herbal teas are naturally 100 percent caffeine free. There are a number of different flavors and types of herbal tea, and the health benefits vary from one to the next. Some of the most popular herbal teas are red tea, originating in South Africa and known for its high levels of antioxidants and anti-aging properties; yerba maté, an energizing tea from the rainforests of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil boasting a high dose of antioxidants; and chamomile, from Egypt, known for its therapeutic and mild sedative effects.

Now that you know a little bit more about tea, enjoy your favorite hot brew and allow yourself feel a bit regal as you do. Cheers!

 

10 Ideas to Ring in the New Year

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Celebrating the New Year isn’t only about the party. It’s about taking time to cherish the memories made in the past year and look forward to the year ahead.

If you need a few ideas for how to ring in 2015, here are 10 suggestions:

Scrapbook. Feeling nostalgic? What better way to reflect on 2014 than to create a few scrapbook pages of your favorite memories from the year? If you aren’t particularly crafty, you can always create an online album using your Facebook page or a tool like Snapfish, which allows you to create and print photo albums.

Make a resolution. About 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. The key to keeping your New Year’s resolution is to set a specific yet realistic goal. For example, make a resolution to call a friend once a week or to spend 30 minutes exercising three days a week. When you’re specific and realistic, you are more likely to keep your resolution throughout the year.

Relax. Set aside some time for yourself this New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to relax and reflect on the past year and plan for the coming year. Book an appointment for a manicure, pedicure or massage. Go for a walk in your favorite park. Sip a cup of hot tea or coffee on your front porch. Do what is most relaxing to you.

Reflect. As you take some quiet time for yourself, stop to think about the year you are leaving behind. What are some of your favorite memories? Do you have any regrets or anyone you need to apologize to? Did you experience personal tragedy this year? In what ways can you move forward in 2015?

Get organized. Start off the New Year on the right foot by organizing your workspace at home or in the office. Clutter can be depressing and hold you back from achieving our goals. So clear out the mental and physical clutter around you and ready yourself for your best year yet.

Seek out new experiences. What is one thing you wanted to do in 2014 that you never made time for? Maybe you wanted to give yoga a try or join a book club. Perhaps you hoped to take a cooking class or start walking every day. Choose one new activity or experience you’d like to have in 2015 and spend New Year’s Day participating in that activity (or planning how you’re going to make it happen in the coming year).

Write letters to people you love. The handwritten letter is all but lost in our high-tech society. Choose three people you love and write them a handwritten note letting them know how much they mean to you.

Find a volunteer opportunity. Serving those around you will lead to a more joyful 2015. Find an organization you’d like to volunteer with near you and do your research on how to get involved. From mentoring underprivileged children to volunteering at a local soup kitchen, the opportunities are endless—and there’s something to suit any schedule and skillset. If you need help getting started, visit volunteerguide.org.

Rid yourself of negativity. Perhaps it’s a person in your life who constantly drags you down, or you let negative thoughts about yourself hold you back. 2015 is your chance for a clean slate, so get rid of the negative influences in your life and focus on the positive.

Be thankful. Look around you. If you have clothes to wear, food on the table and a roof over your head, you are among one of the most fortunate people in the world. Count your blessings and be thankful for the provisions you have in your life and the friends and family who surround you. How can you share these blessings with others in 2015?

However you choose to ring in the New Year, we wish you a happy and fruitful year in 2015!

6 Last-Minute Christmas Decorating Ideas

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Christmas is only a few days away, but there’s still time to add a few finishing touches to your Christmas décor. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite easy, last-minute holiday decorating ideas. Pick one or two (or a few) and get to crafting!

  1. The Glass Jar: Fill a glass vase or jar with Christmas ornaments, cinnamon-scented pine cones and beads. This is a simple and inexpensive, yet elegant way to dress up a table or add a little something to your centerpiece.
  2. Tiny Winter Wonderland: Similarly, you can use a glass vase to create a tiny winter wonderland. Fill the bottom of the vase with moss and bottle brush trees. Dust with fake snow, and you get a beautiful, tiny winter wonderland right in your home. Add a little sparkle and color by adding a few small Christmas ornaments.
  3. Jingle Bell Wreath: A foam wreath ring and a collection of jingle bells—all one size or a variety of sizes—is all you need to create a festive jingle bell wreath to hang on your front door. The best part about this wreath is you can buy everything you need at Dollar Tree! Get directions here
  4. Candy Cane Centerpiece: What’s not to love about a gorgeous bouquet of red roses sitting inside a ribbon-tied candy cane vase? This last-minute holiday décor idea is perfect for your holiday party or Christmas gathering in your home. For photos and instructions, click here.
  5. Button Wreath Ornament: All you’ll need for this is an assortment of buttons in varying shades of green or in a variety of Christmas colors, some thin wire, decorative ribbon, needle nose pliers and scissors. Get directions here.
  6. Sparkling Wine Bottle Display: These take a bit more time, but they certainly make for a stunning table display. To give the bottles a fresh coating of “snow,” use Epsom salt. For a little more glitz and glam, choose gold or silver glitter. Spray a coat of white primer paint on the wine bottles. Then, using Craft Bond spray glue, spray the bottles with adhesive. Next, roll the bottles in the Epsom salt (or glitter). For ideas on creating a whole centerpiece look with these bottles, click here.

A little creativity can go a long way when it comes to decorating for any holiday, especially Christmas. Even with only a few days to go until Christmas, the right decorations can bring a big dose of Christmas cheer into your home.