Written on November 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm , by Danielle Blundell
With November upon us, we’re about to enter prime party season—you know, that time of year when guests are coming over and your home needs to look its holiday finest. No worries! Study up on these quick-clean tips, and your space will be on its way to sparkling in no time.
De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter. Before you even pick up a mop or vacuum, best to clear off any surfaces that look messy. Grab a basket or bin and go through the rooms where you’ll be entertaining, collect out-of-place items and stash them in a closet for the time being. Target the coffee table in the family room, and get rid of catalogs and old magazines. Wipe down your downstairs bathroom vanity. Clear countertops are a must in the kitchen, and never leave pots or pans in the sink for company to see. Load and run the dishwasher before the party, even if you don’t have the chance to put everything away. The latest machines, including Samsung’s new Chef Collection model, are whisper-quiet and could even be run during the festivities if need be.
Shine surfaces in high-traffic areas. Guests tend to congregate in a few key places during get-togethers: the kitchen, the family room, the dining area. Whatever your cleaning weapon of choice—microfiber cloth and hot soapy water, disposable wipes or all-purpose cleaner and a rag—the process is the same. You want to focus on any visible surface where dust and grime build up. In the kitchen, run a disinfectant over the counters, stove, sink and island. Do the same in the powder room, wiping the sink, faucet and toilet handle. Spend a little time on the toilet, swishing the bowl with a long-handled brush and disinfecting the seat. Dust off the coffee and side tables in the family room, and make sure you wipe down the dinner table before you set it or lay out a spread of food. Be sure to use clean cloths each time you attack a new surface to avoid cross-contamination. Some pro cleaners even designate particular rags or cloths for certain rooms or jobs—a few for the bathroom, a few for the kitchen and so on.
Fake it till you make it. If you have enough time to mop the floors and dust off all your downstairs light fixtures, ceiling fans and baseboards/moldings, by all means do it. But if you can’t, your best recourse is to vacuum area rugs and give the kitchen floor a quick once-over with a wet mop or steamer. Fluff pillows and cushions on the sofa, and buff away fingerprints on stainless-steel appliances and streaky mirrors. Put out fresh hand towels and a candle in the powder room. Empty the trashcans. It’s all about the illusion of tidiness—that is, until you can actually take the time to do a deep clean, post-party.
Make it fun. Cleaning is a chore, yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complete drudgery. Bust out that wireless speaker before the party starts, and check out one of the many cleaning playlists on Spotify. Or crank your own. Make it a point to get through all the songs before you stop.
This post was sponsored by Samsung. Opinions/content are Family Circle editorial.
Written on May 8, 2014 at 1:26 pm , by Danielle Blundell
It’s only Thursday, so while the weekend’s still a couple of days away, the good news is that Mother’s Day is too. Here are a few quick gift ideas that won’t break the bank but will let mom know you’re thinking of her—and value her love and advice. Be sure to order now, before it’s too late! And don’t forget a card or a handwritten note. Chances are she’ll cherish that the most.
The best thing about Teleflora, other than the fact that they bring fresh flowers on demand to virtually everywhere in the U.S., is that this Mother’s Day they’ve teamed up with Spafinder to offer spa eGift Cards along with their arrangements. So now you can treat mom to a bouquet and a massage in one swoop. She can redeem the gift card at any of the 20,000+ local spas that belong to the SpaFinder network. Choose from four styles, each with a keepsake vase, and three different eGift Card denominations ($25, $50 or $100). Shown above is the Pink Bliss bouquet. Teleflora.com, from $83 for a standard bouquet and a $25 eGift Card
One of these lovely porcelain plates makes for the perfect finishing touch on a dresser, vanity or nightstand, where mom can use it to stash her rings and bracelets. Or pair the plate with a sweet-smelling bar of soap; it’s the ideal soap dish for a powder room. Shown above is the Porcelain Word Plate in Je t’aime. Cwonder.com, $18
Think you can’t afford to buy her diamonds? Simply not true! Get her a diamond candle, and once she’s finished burning it, there’ll be a ring with a bright sparkler inside, valued at $10 to $5,000. A modest jewel is the most likely outcome, but she’ll definitely enjoy the thrill of burning the candle to reveal the spoils—and for the pretty scent it’ll bring to the house in the meantime. Diamond Candles, diamondcandles.com, $25
Written on May 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm , by Danielle Blundell
One of the best things about Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, is that it can be celebrated the healthy way meal-wise and still stay true to its Mexican flavor. Instead of going heavy on the cheese dip and Coronas, why not focus on fresh guacamole and lime? If you haven’t given tonight’s menu a thought yet, not to worry. Here are a few quick and easy Cinco de Mayo recipes that feature an unexpected ally—the pomegranate, rich in antioxidants and potassium. We’ll drink to that! If you can’t get it together in time for tonight, these refreshing drinks make for fabulous sips all season long. And you can’t go wrong with guac—ever—just don’t overdo it on the chips.
Chef Katie Chin’s Pomegranate Guacamole (makes 4 servings)
2 ripe avocados, skin and pit removed
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt to taste
Tortilla chips or pita chips
1/2 cup arils (seed sacs) from POM Wonderful Pomegranates or 1/2 cup POM POMS Fresh Arils
1. Prepare fresh pomegranate arils, if necessary.*
2. In a medium mixing bowl, mash the avocado and stir in the lime zest and juice, red onion, jalapeño and garlic. Season to taste with salt.
3. Stir in the arils.
4. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.
*To prepare fresh arils, score pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate under water to free the arils. They will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.)
Cinco de Mango
1 oz POM Mango
1.5 oz tequila
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz agave syrup
3 dashes Hellfire Bitters (habanero)
Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake and strain over ice. Garnish with lime wheels.
1 oz POM Coconut
1.5 oz vodka (recommend green tea-infused vodka, e.g., Charbay)
.75 oz basil syrup
.75 oz fresh lime juice
5 dashes angostura bitters
Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake and pour over crushed ice.
Written on April 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm , by Danielle Blundell
Sleep—it’s that elusive thing all moms crave and rarely get enough of, especially with younger kids around. Most of the tips we’ve given you so far focus on the health angle—when to exercise, how to curb caffeine consumption and how to deal with a sleepless night. But when was the last time you considered what your home has to do with a good night’s sleep? Turns out there’s probably more of a connection than you think. The good news is that just a few small changes could have a big impact on the quality of your zzz’s.
Use your senses—smell, in particular.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, which can make you feel extra relaxed. So try a lavender-scented candle on the nightstand before turning in, or tuck a fragrant sachet inside your pillowcase. Better yet, wash and dry your sheets, PJs and other nighttime linens in the new lightly lavender-scented Sweet Dreams collection from Tide, Bounce and Downy. If you’re sensitive to fragrance, keep it to a single dryer sheet. Even a hint of lavender could help get you into slumber mode.
Make the bedroom a gadget-free zone, especially at night.
Face it, with the popularity of tablets, e-readers and laptops, more work, reading and Netflix watching is done in bed these days than ever before—it’s just so comfortable and convenient. We’re not suggesting you never marathon a series or ban the Kindle from bed, but be sure to limit that activity to daytime. Dr. Ian Smith, celebrity physician and wellness expert from The Doctors, recommends turning off all devices, including your smartphone, at least 30 minutes before bedtime. If you want to read, do it the old-fashioned way, with a book. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock, because that gives you an excuse to leave it on all night and be tempted to check it.
Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
Creating the right environment is key for falling and staying asleep. Shop for breathable sheets, PJs and other bed linens, says Kelly Ellis, director of integrated marketing at Serta International, who notes that flannel sheets, while certainly cute, are best avoided, even in winter. Dim the lights in the evening to tell your body that it’s time for sleep, and choose calming decor—think whites, blues, grays, tans and other tranquil hues.
Replace that old pillow.
Everyone seems to know that mattresses eventually need replacing, but so do pillows. According to Erik Brandt, VP of iComfort brand development at Serta International, they should be updated more frequently than mattresses for optimal comfort. (How long have you been holding on to yours?) The cooling action of the iComfort Scrunch Pillow’s memory foam particles is right on target for enhancing anyone’s sleep experience. At $79, it’s a bit of an investment, but what better to splurge on than a good night’s sleep, right?
Written on April 17, 2014 at 10:00 am , by Danielle Blundell
Can’t get Pharrell’s “Happy” out of your head? Us either. So much so, it inspired us to find a few ways to add a little bit of happy to our homes. Here, our favorite colorful, fun and downright cute decor finds. Just one will brighten up your space—think of it as a reward for a spring-cleaning job well done.