7 Ideas for a Happy, Healthy Valentine’s Day

MaidPro Nj/DE

This year for Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on heart-shaped things and material symbols of love, why not plan a day that makes your heart truly sing? Make it all about nurturing the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your own heart, the ones you love, and even the hearts of pets and people you don’t know. The great thing about such an approach to Valentine’s is that it matters not if you are partnered, single, surrounded by friends and family, or feeling alone in the world just now. Here are a few ideas for making this February 14 a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day:

Renew vows for healthier, happier living. Perhaps you made a New Year’s resolution—to quit unhealthy habits, lose weight, exercise more, eat less sugar and refined carbs—that you have already let go. It’s never too late to get back on track, so make February 14 the day you forgive yourself for transgressions and renew the vows you made to honor and care for own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Cook at home. One of the heart-healthiest things you can do for yourself and your family is to cook real foods from scratch at home where you control menu choices, ingredients, flavors, and portion sizes. If you’re not the greatest cook or need to lighten up your repertoire, make a Valentine’s date for yourself—and maybe a mate—for a heart-healthy cooking class. If you’re already handy in the kitchen, spend quality time with loved ones finding and experimenting with new heart-healthy recipes and finding different ways to add flavor to food with healthy spices and seasonings rather than excess fats and sodium.

Get active. Research shows that a moderate-intensity walk or hike can yield the same heart-healthy benefits as high-intensity running. It’s also a great way to escape distracting devices, chores, and other cares, and share quality time and conversation with the ones you love. If it’s too cold to go outside, find ways to get active inside: climbing stairs, dancing, or practicing yoga with an app or online video.

Go outside. Wintertime depression is closely tied to a lack of Vitamin D, which your body manufactures from exposure to natural sunlight. If your winter climate is cold, you might be especially susceptible to the February blues. Hiking, sledding, skating, skiing, and even ice fishing are all great ways to get outside, boost vitamin D stores, and tend to your heart happiness on Valentine’s Day.

Give compliments. How often have you thought of nice things to say to people, but, for some reason, just never said them? Resolve to spend Valentine’s Day looking for reasons to appreciate people in your life and then following through and verbalizing the compliments—or, if you are really shy, writing them. While you are at it, be sure to find a few compliments for yourself.

Do anonymous acts of kindness. While, for many, Valentine’s means grand romance, it can be a hugely painful day for anyone suffering loss, grief, or loneliness. The act of making others happy—without taking credit—always rebounds to the giver, so resolve to spend at least part of your Valentine’s Day doing random, anonymous acts of kindness for those who really need it.

Practice gratitude. One of the best ways to relieve stress, to make your heart sing, and improve heart health is to spend a few moments of each day in a state of pure appreciation and gratitude for all you have—be it your partner, family, friends, acquaintances, knowledge, talent, passions, possessions, and life itself. If you don’t do this regularly already, let Valentine’s be the day you start a new habit of daily gratitude and appreciation.

More Great Activities for When Your Kids are Stuck Inside

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Rain, snow, and cold weather often translate into more inside time for kids. Unfortunately, it often means more screen time, sedentary behaviors, unhealthy snacking, and ‘I’m bored’ complaints. Our November holiday postincludes a host of great non-screen activities for kids. Here are a few more ideas for keeping your kids occupied in positive ways on foul-weather days this winter:

Reading three ways. (1) Start a reading challenge where kids earn markers (such as stickers) for each book they finish. Offer non-material rewards for reaching specific goals: for 10 books, a favorite meal for dinner; for 15 books, the privilege of choosing what to watch on family movie night. (2) Select a beloved book somewhat above your kids’ reading levels, get cozy, and read it aloud. (3) Download a free kids classic audiobook and settle back to listen while a professional with lots of great voices makes the story jump right off the pages.

Build a fort. Gather a big pile of blankets, comforters, sheets, and pillows. Give kids permission to move furniture to add structure and let them go wild building an intricate blanket fort. They’ll play in it for hours, but be prepared when they want to sleep there too!

Cook or bake. Involve kids in cooking and baking projects. Let them do all the measuring and mixing, and demonstrate how to safely use knives, mixers, burners, and ovens. Teach other things, too. For example, what does each ingredient add to a recipe in terms of nutrition, flavor, and function? How is baking a lot like being a chemist?

Teach them to clean. Teach kids how to operate real household appliances such as a vacuum cleaner, washer, or clothes dryer. If vacuuming, let them explore what each attachment does and explain what it means to do a thorough job of vacuuming. Show them how to sort, wash, dry, and fold laundry. As an incentive to learn and help, let them keep any loose change they find under cushions or in pockets. If you do this when kids are still relatively young and eager to learn, they’ll have fewer excuses for not helping around the house in their teen years.

Introduce ‘old-fashioned’ games. You might not have many board games lying around the house anymore, but there is plenty you can do with a simple deck of cards. Rediscover the joys of playing Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Slapjack, Rummy, Blackjack, Solitaire, Spit, and so many more. You can also encourage kids to research, learn, and practice cool magic card tricks.

Online learning. If your kids simply must use their screens, encourage them to spend at least part of the time learning and practicing valuable digital skills such as photo or video editing, making music, animation, orkeyboarding (typing with all ten fingers without looking down). There are literally thousands of great, free tutorials available on YouTube and other sites.

Tips for Keeping Kids Occupied During Holiday Gatherings

MaidPro Holiday

If you have ever hosted a large holiday gathering featuring kids as guests, you’ll know they tend to feed off each other’s energies and create chaos. Here are some ideas for helping the kids at your holiday gathering to channel their energies in positive—and occasionally quiet—directions:

Crafts. Have a few age-appropriate, easy table craft projects set up before kids arrive. The key is to make sure the crafts can be done independently or with help only from elder children in the group. Pick crafts with practical applications, such as holiday decorations or this TP-roll winter bird feeder.

Science experiments. It’s a fair bet that not every kid in your group will have an interest in doing crafts. Where crafts fail, science experiments often succeed! For inspiration, check out these recipes for play snow, dissolving candy cane experiment, making frozen bubbles, or this collection of 20+ winter science experiments for kids.

Hunts. Kids need to move, so plan at least a few activities that promote big positive motion. You might organize a candy cane or similar type of hunt. If entertaining during the day, you can send kids outside to collect pinecones, acorns, evergreen branches, and other seasonal items you might use to decorate your home for winter. Offer an incentive prize to the kid who collects the most, but have plenty of consolation prizes to avoid drama and meltdowns!

Group exercise. There’s also a very good chance the kids at your holiday party will consume more sugar than they are accustomed to doing. Soon after you serve dessert, suggest a group walk outside. Or, crank up a contemporary playlist for a 20-30 minute dance party to help the kids—and any willing adults—at your gathering to burn extra energy just as their glucose levels are spiking.

Talent show. Most kids these days participate in a host of extracurricular pursuits—music, dance, martial arts, singing, sports, and so forth—and love to show off their accomplishments. Provide a quite space far removed from the adult party (playroom, basement, etc.) and encourage the kids to collaborate on developing a talent show to put on for the adults. Let parents know in advance in case they need to bring instruments or other items, and provide props such as costumes, microphones, and music clips, and encourage the kids to spend sufficient time planning and rehearsing their show.

Recruit kids into service. Kids love to play in adult roles, such as waiters and waitresses. Use this to your advantage, recruiting them to make place cards and seating arrangements, escort people to their seats, take beverage orders, pass hors d’oeuvres plates, and to help set and clear your table.

Games. Most kids are quite capable of making their own fun in groups. When fights break out—as they are wont to do—organized games are a great way to quickly restore peace and harmony. Provide a distinctive holiday item that the kids can take turns hiding in creative places for others to find while taking ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ directions from people in the know. Or set up a game of indoor snowball toss.

The possibilities are endless. All you need is a little creativity, research, and planning to keep kid-driven chaos to a minimum at your next holiday gathering.

DIY Scents to Make Your Home Like the Holidays

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Ever wonder why particular aromas have the power to instantly evoke cherished childhood memories? It’s because your sense of smell is the only one of the five with a direct connection to your mood, memory, behavior, and emotion. With the incredible power of smell in mind, here are six easy and inexpensive techniques to fill your home with evocative holiday and winter scent combinations.

Simmer pots. A scented simmer pot consists of nothing more than water, fruits/fruit rinds, fresh herbs, and spices, simmering gently on a back burner, in a crock pot, or atop a wood-burning stove. It’s likely you already have most of the ingredients for a yummy smelling simmer pot or can easily find them at your local grocer’s. Think: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, fresh ginger root, vanilla beans; baking extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint; and fruits such lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, apples, and cranberries. The possible scent combinations are endless. Be inspired by this simple winter recipe.

Potpourri. The word translates as ‘rotten pot,’ following a 17th century French custom of collecting and layering fragrant herbs and plants over the course of spring and summer, allowing them to ferment and mold, then mixing in aromatic spices in the fall and winter to scent rooms. Contemporary potpourris favor drying over fermenting and molding of plant materials – something you can accomplish quite easily in your oven on low heat with a baking sheet and parchment paper. Check out these winter spice and aromatic winter potpourri recipes.

DIY scented candles. You could spend upwards of thirty bucks on one great-smelling holiday candle. Or you can spend a great deal less making dozens of winter-scent combos to either burn in your own home or give as holiday and hostess gifts. DIY scented candles are a great way to use up mason or jelly jars and other beautiful containers you might have lying around the house or can pick up for next to nothing at yard sales and thrift shops. If melting wax seems like too much work, try this simple technique for making scented olive-oil candles.

Essential-oil combos. Used for thousands of years in spiritual, cosmetic and natural health practices, essential oils are thought to represent the purest essences of plants. They also happen to smell wonderful. Only a few drops will go a long way to scenting a room and there are countless combinations of essential oils you can assemble to evoke happy holiday and winter feelings. Do read up on safety precautions when using essential oils, as some can be unfriendly to pets, children, and the elderly. Some simple ways to diffuse winter and holiday essential oil combinations are with a DIY reed diffuser, creating your own EO-based room air spritzers, or using essential oils to make classic winter decorations such as cinnamon-scented pinecones.

Scented fire starters. If you have a traditional fireplace or outdoor fire pit, consider creating your own scented fire starters to layer comforting, traditional winter scents over the smell of burning wood. You can create dry sachets, plant and herb bundles, or these aromatic wax fire starters. Note: scented fire starters are not for use in gas fireplaces or enclosed wood-burning stoves.

 

Fall Chores to Ensure a Bright, Healthy, and Safe Home for Winter

MaidPro Fall

There are certain big household chores that need to be done only once a year, and fall is the perfect time. Here is a quick checklist of things you can do to ensure a bright, safe, and healthy home now that temperatures are beginning to drop and winter lies just around the corner.

Wash your windows inside and out. Now that windows will be closed more often than open, you’ll want them to allow in maximum light and to keep views crystal clear. While you are at it, remove and wash all screens and thoroughly vacuum outer sills.

Replace batteries in all smoke detectors (even hardwired devices use batteries for backup). Also, test all carbon monoxide detectors and check original paperwork so you know exactly when your CO1 devices are due to reach end of life. Typically this occurs every 10 years or so and will be indicated by some type of signal, but better to be safe than sorry.

Disconnect and thoroughly clean your clothes dryer vent. Unplug and move the machine, so you can clean both behind and underneath as well. Consider removing the back panel to clear lint trapped inside the machine. Trapped lint is a big fire hazard and also reduces the drying efficiency of your machine.

Unscrew, clean, and disinfect all airflow vents, and replace HVAC filters as needed. With less fresh air circulating throughout your home, you’ll feel good knowing your vents are free of added dust, dander, and pathogens.

Remove and clean all permanent lighting fixtures so your lights can burn more brightly. For the same reason, consider taking the time – or hiring a professional – to give your walls a good scrubbing down. Clean walls reflect light better, which is definitely what you want as the days grow shorter and darker.

Clean and inspect all fireplaces, chimneys, and flues. This is one task for which you definitely want to hire a professional who is trained to look for cracks and other damage that can pose winter home safety hazards.

9 Tips to Beat Summer’s Heat!

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Melting in summer’s sultry heat? Here are a few tips for surviving the dog days of summer:

Perform heat-generating activities – such as exercise, cleaning, laundry, running the dishwasher, and cooking – early in the morning when temps are at their lowest daily ebb. Prolong morning’s cooler temps by pulling window shades, closing curtains, and otherwise minimizing lighting inside the home.

Eat light and skip the alcoholic bevvies. Aside from being dehydrating, fatty foods and alcoholic beverages force your liver and other detoxifying organs to work overtime. The added energy expenditure generates heat that your body must address in order to maintain its normal temp.

Hydrate. Adequate hydration enables your body’s natural cooling mechanisms to work at top efficiency on hot days. It’s also key for replacing fluids and electrolytes lost when you perspire.

Run cold tap water or ice cubes on the insides of your wrists, the sides of your neck, your temples, and other ‘pulse points’ where blood vessels run close to the surface. This rapidly cools your blood, which transports a feeling of cool to other parts of your body.

Wear natural fabrics. Keep garments loose and make sure your head and feet can breathe. In the same way you keep your head and feet warm to preserve body heat in winter, uncovering your extremities has the opposite effect when summer temps are soaring.

Avoid heavy lotions and creams, which can clog pores and contribute to heat rash. Fragrances can also be especially cloying on hot, humid days, so either forego altogether or keep applications extremely light.

If you don’t have A/C (or prefer not to use it), place a big bowl of ice in front of a fan as an inexpensive, more environmentally friendly alternative. A misting bottle full of ice water – spritzed a few feet in front of a fan – can provide welcome refreshment too.

Take a quick, cool shower or bath right before going to bed. This will enable you to sleep more comfortably and leave you better rested and prepared to cope with the energy-sapping heat.

De-clutter and keep your home tidy! Air circulates most freely in neat, open spaces. Clean, tidy rooms virtually always feel cooler than dirty, messy ones! If living in humid climes, take a few extra moments to dry out sinks, tubs, showers, and so forth after using both to combat the feeling of humidity in your home as well as the added risk of growing molds and mildews.

Stain Removal Tips

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Step 1: Determine type of stain. Most will fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Greasy: common examples include butter, olive- and other cooking oils and fats.
  • Nongreasy: common examples include fruit juices, wine, soda/pop, dye and mud.
  • Combination: common examples include mayonnaise, tomato sauce, salad dressing, soups and chocolate syrup.

Step 2: Determine constraints of fabric you are attempting to clean. (Note: the do-it-yourself remedies contained in this article assume it is okay to wet-clean fabrics. If an item says ‘Dry Clean Only’ or you are unsure, consult with a professional dry cleaner before attempting to clean with these remedies).
Step 3: Test. If you are unsure about damaging your fabric, carpet or other textile, always test your stain removal solution in a low-visibility spot to see how it reacts.
Step 4: Stop. While effective stain removal often involves several steps, you should stop treating at the earliest possible step to limit risk of damage and deterioration to fabrics.
Step 5: Obtain Tools. Some useful solutions and tools to keep on hand for stain removal are as follows: acetone (basically, nail polish remover), ammonia* (for starred items, see precautionary notes at the end of the article), white vinegar*, chlorine bleach (a strong bleaching agent)*, hydrogen peroxide (a milder bleaching agent)*, corn starch, dishwashing liquid, glycerine, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, an oxidizing solution, a nonflammable dry-cleaning solution, and an assortment of clean sponges and strong-bristled brushes (toothbrushes work great for working detergents into laundry stains).
To treat most greasy stains, work detergent directly into stain and rinse with hot water. If that does not work, a dry cleaning fluid may be needed. However, many dry cleaning solutions are flammable, so pay close attention to label warnings and do not place fabrics into a clothes dryer or expose to other heat sources or flame after treating with these solutions.
To treat most nongreasy stains sponge immediately with cold water. Soak (also in cold water) if sponging is not sufficient to remove most of stain. Work liquid detergent into the remaining stain and rinse. Use small quantities of diluted (1:1 ratio) hydrogen peroxide (mild) or chlorine bleach (strong) to remove final traces of stain (excluding any items that specify no bleach such as silks, wools, and many synthetics).
Combination stains should be treated like greasy stains with the exception that fabrics should be allowed to dry before applying dry-cleaning fluid to remove any greasy residues and/or repeating the stain removal process if necessary.
For common household stains, here are specific recommended procedures (assuming fabrics can be wet-cleaned):

  • Coffee/tea. If black, follow directions for nongreasy stains; if milk or cream has been added, follow directions for combination stains, but do not use heat as it may set a coffee or tea stain.
  • Chewing gum. Rub with ice cubes then scrape with a dull knife. Sponge any remaining gum with dry-cleaning fluid. Then sponge with warm water to remove any remaining sugar stain.
  • Fruit or vegetable juice. Sponge quickly and/or soak both using cold water. Do not apply heat as it may set the stain. Work liquid detergent into the stain and rinse. If residue remains, treat with a small quantity of white vinegar, then repeat with detergent and water.
  • Blood. Soak in cold water until stain fades. Do not apply heat as it may set the stain. Wash with warm water and detergent. Persistent bloodstains may be treated with a few drops of ammonia (*see precautions below).
  • Wax. Scrape off as much wax as possible with a dull knife. Placed stained area between paper towels and apply warm iron, changing paper towels as needed to absorb wax. Remove final traces of wax with dry-cleaning fluid. If wax is colored and leaves a dye residue, treat with a 1:1 solution of alcohol and water then rinse with water.
  • Grass. Sponge with alcohol (note: test first to see how alcohol will affect colors and dilute 1:2, alcohol to water if treating fabrics containing acetate). Work liquid detergent into stain and rinse with cold water. If needed, apply a few drops of ammonia (*see precautions below) and then launder.
  • Perspiration. Sponge new stains with ammonia and older stains with white vinegar, taking specified precautions for both. If sponging treatment affects appearance of dye, use the opposite (ammonia or vinegar) in solution with water to restore. Use dry-cleaning fluid to treat any remaining oily residue then launder as usual. Treat persistent odor by soaking in a solution of 4 tbsp salt to 1-quart of warm water for at least one hour.
  • Wine. Promptly work in concentrated solution of glycerine and detergent. Leave in for a few minutes then sponge with cold water. If stain persists, apply ammonia and water, taking specified precautions. If stain turns from blue to pink, use white vinegar to turn it blue again and use bleach on the blue stain (using all precautions for bleach and ensuring all traces of ammonia are removed first).
  • Mildew. Remove spores by brushing outdoors if possible. Wash with soap and water and dry in sun. Sponge mildewed rugs with thick soap suds or rug cleaner, remove suds with clean sponge and dry in sun if possible or with an electric fan.

*Precautions for ammonia: dilute 1:1 with water for silk or wool. If ammonia changes appearance of fabric dye, rinse with water and white vinegar solution to restore. Never mix with bleach. Precautions for white vinegar: If white vinegar changes appearance of fabric dye, rinse with water and ammonia solution to restore. Precautions for bleaches: dilute 1:1 with water and rinse well. Do not use chlorine bleach on silks, wools, synthetics such as spandex, or flame-proofed fabrics. Never mix with ammonia.