Help Kids Make Hand Painted Mugs as Gifts for Any Occasion

Hand painted mug

Ask any grandparent, teacher, or close family friend and she’ll tell you that the gifts that mean the most are the ones that come from the heart, and hands, of a child. These one-of-a-kind presents,  will be cherished for years.

For kids, giving a present that no one else can give and they made themselves, is enough to make them swell with pride. And it’s the perfect holiday solution: although their buying power may be limited, their imaginations are not. With a simple idea and a few supplies, any child will experience the thrill that comes from giving.

This is also a great lesson about gift giving, being generous, and that the holidays are not just about what they receive.

Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, we’re sure they’ll be inspired by the easy and endearing gifts on the ideas below.

Helpful tips for painting mugs

· I recommend china paint such as the Porcelain 150 which are specifically designed for metal, glass or ceramic.

· Kits for painting mug which can be bought from craft stores be careful about.  Sometimes the fine print says the mugs can only be used for display only.

When you’re starting to paint, let one color dry first before putting the second color on. For older kids, this could be a fun activity to do even without the help of adults. But if smaller children are going to do this activity, be sure there is adult help available when they need it.

· In making or creating your designs, keep in mind to keep it simple.  Encourage creativity.  Perhaps have some pictures nearby of various designs for inspiration and ideas.

· When you want add words or draw pictures, consider using small stencils.  Have a pouncer or stencil brush on hand.

Let’s get started!

Materials needed

  • Paper in covering the work surface
  • Paint markers and/or china paint
  • Plain mugs (white ones are recommended)
  • Jar containing water
  • Paint brushes
  • Stencil, stencil tape, stencil brushes/foam pouncers
  • Prepare an oven on the side (after 24 hours, depending on the type of paint you use, read manufacturer’s directions).  Pebeo Porcelaine 150 china paints at baked at 150 degrees for 35 minutes.

Directions:

1. Using a paper, start covering the work area or surface then set the mugs out. Make sure that the mugs are clean and dry and free from dirt or any other substance on it.

2. Think of a design or an image that you want to put then start painting the mug. Let the first color dry first before proceeding to the next one. If you make a mistake, do not panic. Wipe it immediately but carefully off with water on a paper towel.

3. If it’s a child who is doing the artwork, be of assistance by doing small sections at a time in order to avoid smudges.

4. When you are happy with what you have painted on the mug, let it dry for 24 hours.  You may need to bake it in an oven, depending on the paint brand used.  Follow the manufacturer’s directions.

6. Remove the mug carefully until it cools. Enjoy your newly designed mug!

Let the child wrap their special gift and top with a bow.

This would also be a fun project to do every year around the holidays for a child, highlighting life events that occurred that year.  It would show also a progression of skill and maturity with each passing year.

 

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Frosted Orange Sweet Rolls Recipe

Frosted Orange Sweet Rolls

Here’s a scrumptious recipe for Frosted Orange Sweet Rolls with rich cream cheese icing, that would be perfect for a weekend brunch or simply as a special treat for any occasion or alone.

This one will be cooked in a 10 inch cast iron skillet, which is amazing cookware and goes far beyond just frying bacon and eggs. Check out these tips on how to properly care for your cast iron cookware.

 

Frosted Orange Sweet Rolls Recipe

Frosting

  • 4 T. softened butter
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Rolls

  • 1 cup warm water – close to 120 degrees
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 package yeast (1/4 oz)
  • 6 T. melted butter
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 T. orange zest
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • vegetable oil small amount

In a bowl mix the warm water, melted butter, flour, yeast, salt, sugar, powdered milk, yeast, and orange zest.  With a mixer, beat at a low speed until it is dough.  Put this dough in another large bowl, lightly brush the top of the dough with vegetable oil and cover with a clean cloth.  Allow this to sit for the yeast to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour.  It should double in size.

Take the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead dough about 6 minutes.  Roll with a rolling pin into a 12X20 inch rectangle.

In a small bowl combine the orange marmalade and ginger.  Spread this evenly, all the way to the edges of the rolled dough.  On the long side, roll tightly into a log shape, then place it seam down on a safe-to-cut surface.  Cut into 2 inch rolls.

Spray a 10 inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray or olive oil and place rolls in the pan.  Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rest another hour in a warm, draft-free place.   About 45 minutes in, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put the skillet in the oven and bake about 35 minutes until lightly brown.

Remove from heat and allow to cool until just warm.  In a bowl with your mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  On low speed add the powdered sugar, then beat on high until fluffy.  Spread over warm rolls and serve.  Yummy!

 

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Delicious Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken and tortilla soup with lime and chips

Tonight I made this amazing tasting soup I thought I’d share the recipe for you. Super healthy and simple too. Great for these chilly autumn evenings we’re getting.

It could be made either in a cast iron Dutch oven, or simply load a crockpot in the morning and let it cook all day (which is what I did). I LOVE coming home to the smell of a beautiful soup that’s been cooking all day.

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  4 oz can diced green chilies
  • 1 seeded & chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1  14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1  15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 lb chicken cooked, white boneless cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • crushed tortilla chips (or strips)
  • shredded cheddar cheese

If using a crockpot or slowcooker, simply load all ingredients except cilantro, lime juice, tortilla strips & cheese into the crock.  The chicken can be raw.  Cook on low 8-10 hours.  Before serving add lime juice & cilantro, then top with tortilla strips & cheddar cheese.

If using a saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the olive oil with onion & garlic until tender.  Add the green chilies, jalapeno pepper and cumin.  Add next the chicken broth & tomatoes and sauce then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer 15 minutes.

In a separate pan, brown the chicken cubes and cook.  Add to the soup, and allow to simmer another 10 minutes.  Add lime juice & cilantro.  Then serve and top with tortilla strips & cheddar cheese.

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An Amazing Clean Home – 6 Steps for Success

Beautiful White Modern Kitchen

A few years ago, I started the journey of living naturally which began with eating. I became conscious with how nutritious my food should be and what I put inside my body. But then I realized that it’s not just food that I should be cautious with. Lotions and cleaners have chemicals too, for our everyday use and guess what, they can absorb through our skin and affect our bodies.

From there, I did some helpful research and then I had to change my lifestyle in cleaning.

Why should one clean naturally? You’ll be able to clean your entire home, inside and out, with homemade products that are safe to use while your kids and pets are in the same room, and are inexpensive to boot! You’ll learn how to make everyday products like an all-purpose cleaner and laundry detergent, but you’ll also learn the best and safest way to clean things you don’t clean everyday, like your carpet and your garage floor. Even better, you can scent your products to your liking with a variety of all-natural essential oils.

Think that natural cleaners won’t do as good a job as the commercial versions? Wrong! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effective natural cleaners can be. Homemade cleaners are also easily customizable – you can adjust formulas to create the perfect cleaning products for your home and cleaning preferences. Every home is different, but this guide gives a variety of solutions for a mix of conditions, so you’re sure to find something that works for your home. Now there’s no need to stash and store dozens of bottles of different cleaning products “just in case” – you have the ultimate guide to making any product yourself when you need it!

Steps:

  1. Begin small.

First, if you have no idea where to start first, start small. Just pick one corner of your house or replace one of your cleaners.  Another strategy is when you run out of your cleaner, don’t buy it again but find one you can make to replace it.  Check for recipes from books or online sources and start making your own natural cleaners. Once you’re done, go to another helpful recipe.  Later on, you will realize how your house is doing a miraculous transformation.

  1.  Buy inexpensive cleaners.

Try looking around a health store at any local grocery store within your community and you may be surprised with the prices of the cleaners there. So switch and try doing your own less expensive yet conventional cleaners.

  1. Make use of “all-purpose” cleaners.

Marketers are very smart. They make sure that a specific cleaner is intended for a specific area of your home. You have to purchase a cleaner for your toilet bowl, your bath tub and a different too with your windows, tables, ovens, etc.

With a specific recipe, you can produce your very own “all-purpose” cleaner. You don’t have to purchase a lot of different cleaners or bottles of poison underneath your kitchen sink, which can mean some significant savings over a year’s time.

  1. Experimenting is good.

Do not just settle for one recipe or two, keep trying until you find the ones that are your favorites. Cleaners also vary from one’s need to another.

Another alternative to using cleaners, is to get a good hand held steamer that is designed specifically for cleaning.  You can clean virtually any surface in your home, including bathrooms.  No cleaners at all, does an incredible job, and it sanitizes at the same time.

  1. Time is essential.

If you are just a newbie when it comes to natural cleaners, it will take time before you can make some necessary adjustments, expect a learning curve to more natural solutions. Patience and kindness to yourself in the process should be given.

  1. Keep clutter at bay.

Take just 10 or 15 minutes per day to de-clutter some area of the home.  Then work to keep it cleared.  You’ll be shocked at how much this will help.

Even with organic cleaners, fitting cleaning into a busy schedule can be tough.  Life is busy.  Come up with a schedule that works for you, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Doing small tasks is better than nothing, and those small ones can really add up.

The first step to embracing a cleaning routine is to understand what a “clean house” really is. Spotless isn’t necessarily the goal, but clean is. People you love live in your home and you want them to fully enjoy life in that place. Clean bathrooms rank pretty high on my priority list, but toys strewn from one end of the living room to the next shows that kids are enjoying themselves.

It doesn’t matter if you are out of the house for 40 hours a week, or home all day, you can accomplish a successful cleaning routine that works for you and your schedule.  For some, that might mean hiring help.  The important thing is to start somewhere.

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Home-Made Oven Cleaner

Cleaning an Oven

I love a clean home, and generally most cleaning tasks are not that arduous to me.  But there’s one task I hate, and that is oven cleaning.

I did some interesting attempts on making my very own oven cleaner with the use of baking soda and white vinegar.  At first I had my doubts about how effective it would be, but surprisingly it did what I hoped it should do.

Homemade Oven Cleaner 

Ingredients:

Baking Soda

White Vinegar

Method:

  • After the oven has already cooled down, start removing all remaining food that has burned inside the oven.
  • Start removing the racks then start sprinkling the baking soda on the bottom part of the oven. Try sprinkling with an empty container of Parmesan cheese, as it makes it easier to apply. After which, pour (or spray with a spray bottle) a small amount of the white vinegar on the baking soda. Try the measurement ration of 1/8 cup of white vinegar with ¼ cup of baking soda.
  • Now put the rack back into the oven. Fill up the baking dish with some hot water and then put back again the rack. Close the door of the oven. Put it to about 250 degrees for about 5 minutes. After that, let it cool down for 15 minutes.
  • Get the pan of water inside as well as the rack. Start scrubbing your oven. Try with crumpled up aluminum foil as an effective scrubber, or any other heavy duty type scrubber will do. In scrubbing the oven walls, make a  paste from mixing 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1/8 cup of baking soda.
  • Continue scrubbing until clean, then rinse it all with warm water.  Use clean rags this time.

 

Depending on how you use your oven, cleaning its inside may be no more than a once-in-a-while chore. The best measure is a preventive one: Wipe up overflows and spills when they’re fresh to prevent the crusty, baked-on spills that will later season foods with the distinctive taste of burned toast. But if, alas, grease and grime build up gets the best of you, choosing a chemical-free, nontoxic oven cleaner is the healthy way to go.

While conventional oven cleaners provide elbow-grease-free action, they are loaded with toxic and caustic chemicals. The chemicals do the work so you don’t have to. Heavy-duty solvents are popular because they do work, but they are dangerous to touch or breathe.

Some oven-cleaning formulas include glycol ethers, which are severe irritants of the eyes, skin, and lungs, extremely dangerous to inhale, and prone to causing reproductive problems. There’s also 2-butoxyethanol, which is also a severe irritant of the eyes, skin, and lungs; dangerous to inhale, and easily absorbed through the skin, and it may cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lymph- and blood-forming organs and nervous system.

For caustic action strong enough to cut through tough oven gunk, many conventional cleaners contain severe corrosives like sodium hydroxide, which can be dangerous to inhale or touch; can burn the eyes, skin and lungs, and can cause chronic damage to tissues.

You can also find in them such nefarious propellants as propane, butane and isobutene, which are harmful to inhale. Considering the chemicals that are in these aerosols, it would be wise to wear a respirator when using them and heavy duty gloves, as well as having great ventilation going.

Perhaps you don’t realize how much money you spend on your oven cleaners now. We throw them into the shopping cart and you’re off to the register. If you added up the cost of all your cleaners, you might be surprised how only a handful of them can add up to $20 or $30 in just a single shopping trip. It’s particularly expensive if you indulge in the more toxic cleaning products like oven cleaners. Over many years, the use of safe and friendly cleaners may result in significant savings too.

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Get your Chrome Bathroom Fixtures Shining

Chrome Bathroom Fixture

Chrome is a strong material, yet it does take some upkeep to keep it clean and sparkly. Rust can form on chrome on little openings that are undetectable to the bare eye. This exposes the material underneath to oxygen, and surface rust may show up from the oxidation process. Different conditions that can keep chrome from looking its best may be cleanser buildup, dirt, grime, water stains on the fixtures.  Fortunately, much of the time chrome can be kept clean, restored to its past condition, and protected from further harm.

Get into a habit of cleaning and keeping up chrome surfaces. Use a glass cleaner and rub the chrome with a soft cloth frequently. Just a quick wipe down like this will far in keeping your fixtures looking great.  Another tip is to wipe them down with previously used dryer sheets, works wonderfully.

Try wiping the fixtures with vinegar and allowing it to set an hour or two, then go back and polish with a soft, clean cloth.

You can also try a commercial cleanser for removing hard water stains and such, specifically designed for use on chrome.  Lime Away is a good product to try for this purpose.

Blend salt and lemon in equivalent amounts of to clean chrome and remove light rust stains.  Rub the lemon and salt on the fixture, allow to set a few minutes, rub gently with a soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly.   You can also try plain rubbing alcohol on your facets as well.

Do not use anything coarse that could scratch your fixtures like steel wool or the like.

A good way once you’ve got them cleaned and dry to help them stay nice longer in between, is spray a bit of WD40 on a clean cloth and wipe gently.  It will help repel hard water stains and such.

If you are battling rust, getting a good rust cleaner may be just what is needed.   If they are beyond getting help, consider replacing them.  New fixtures aren’t terribly expensive and they really help to improve the appearance of the whole sink and shower areas.

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Super Fun Educational Opportunity Program for Kids and Teens in Science, Technology & Robotics

Teen Robotics Competition

Science, technology & robotics can be fun for children and teens to learn.

This is about an educational opportunity program called FIRST, that teaches children (as young as 6 or 7 years old) up to 18 years old, about robotics, technology and science. These educational programs are available in many parts of the United States, and if one doesn’t exist in your area, has beginning tips on how to form one. At the younger end of the spectrum are Lego leagues, that prepare children for the more advanced robotics for middle and high school ages.

Learning can be a very fun process, children and teens learn better in an environment that is safe, fun and energetic with practical application. We describe the robot battle competition events, the games, and contains video links. Great for parents to help guide children to this amazing program that shows the benefits for children and teens yet is little known about.

The FIRST Educational Opportunity Program

The FIRST program’s acronym means, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. It was founded in 1992 in New Hampshire originally, and is a non-profit organization. It is supported by over 3,500 corporations and businesses and more than 90,000 volunteers.

Their vision statement reads, “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

The mission statement is, “Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”

They have many educational programs available which we’ll outline later (including a robotics event competition), but a child as young as 6 years old, up to high school graduation can participate. FIRST is available in much of the United States and Canada, but in areas that they don’t exist, new chapters can be started up.

Different Options Offered by FIRST Education Program

Lego Leagues for Younger Children
· FIRST Junior Lego league are for kids ages 6-9 to design and build homemade robots out of Lego parts. They begin to develop math and science problem solving and life skills, and participate in robot events and other team activities.

· FIRST Lego League for ages 9-14 in the United States and Canada. At this program level students design, build, strategize and test a robot using Lego MINDSTORMS technology. They continue to build upon the knowledge they learned in the junior Lego league and expand more with time management skills, cooperation, working as a team member, math and science concepts. At this level, they may choose to participate in robotic tournaments and some may qualify for an invitation to the world festival.

· FIRST Tech Challenge is for High School aged students. Teams of up to 10 students compete using a build your own robot sports model. As a team, they design, build and program a homemade robot to compete with an alliance of two other teams against another alliance of 3 teams. Teens learn advanced skills in real-world type situations, and have the chance to win awards, scholarships and a place in the world robotics championship competition.

· FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is also for high school students. This program is commonly nicknamed a “varsity sport for the mind.” With a set of strict criteria, students work in teams of 25 or more to raise funds, develop a ‘brand’, build and design a robot to compete against other robots on a field game. This level is known to be as close to real life engineering that the educational program offers. Professional mentors and other volunteers help students. The high school students learn advanced and sophisticated hardware and software skills in technology, science, robotics, and other critical skills for future careers. Students of this educational opportunity program can also earn scholarships and a place in the world robotics championship.

logomotion_game

Logomotion Game

The robot competition game is called Logomotion. It’s played on an indoor 27X54 foot indoor field. 3 teams of students form an alliance, and one alliance plays against another alliance. There are 4 scoring pegs inside the middle of the field.
Inflated tubes called ‘uber tubes’ come in triangle, square and circle shapes in red, white and blue. Each alliance enters 3 robots on to the field, and the students control the robots through remote control, to get the uber tubes onto scoring racks to create the FIRST logo.

Smaller bots are used on the field as well to release mini-bots which climbs to the top of a scoring peg inside the field. The first team to get their mini-bot to the top gets 30 bonus points. The second team gets 20 bonus points, 3rd team gets 15, and the 4th team gets 10 points.

 How Can I Start A FIRST Program in My Area?

Some areas do not have a FIRST program going. Go to the national FIRST website to see if you can find an existing educational program in your area. Some 4-H clubs are incorporating with FIRST programs as well. If none exist, and you either want to get your child involved, or want to be a volunteer to help teens and kids in this capacity, you may need to start a chapter in your area.

Do a search in your state for the FRC website. Contact them and let them know you would like to start a chapter. Let them serve as a guide to get you connected with others in your state, and walk you through the start up process.
There are scholarships available as

well to help FIRST students. See the national website for details.
Brandeis University recently did a study of the impact that the FIRST program had on students’ lives that participated in the robot event competition levels. It compared to students who did not participate in this educational program, yet had similar academic experiences and backgrounds. These were the results:

· More than 3 times as likely to major in engineering as a career.
· About 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
· Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
· More than twice as likely to pursue a career in science or technology fields.
· More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.

Watch this video clip of younger elementary aged students participating in a Lego league. Contact your local chapter if you would like to volunteer or get your kids involved. What a fun, and inspiring way to learn about science, technology and robotics!

Lego League in Action

This is a lego league in action, part of the younger program on FIRST.

As you can see, there is alot to offer student in the realm of teaching in a fun, engaging way, science, technology and robotics.

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Coping with Rosacea and It’s Devastating Effects

rosacea skin

What are the symptoms of rosacea?  If you experience any of the following signs, you should consult a dermatologist right away. 

1)         Red or inflamed areas on the cheeks, forehead, nose, or chin

2)         Visible blood vessels in the facial area or “spider veins”

3)         Acne or bumpy areas on the face (that are not really acne)

4)         Severe flushing that doesn’t return to normal like it should

5)         Watery eyes or irritated eyes sometimes

6)         Facial burning sensation, sometimes very intense

7)         Swelling of facial areas

8)         Over time, the nose may appear extremely red and bulbous, especially in older men, also known as rhinophyma

9)         Sometimes rosacea appears on the chest, scalp, ears, or neck

Rosacea is a skin disorder that is often mistaken for severe acne or a sign of alcoholism.  For those who suffer from this disorder, it is very difficult.  It is a chronic medical condition with no cure.   Many times there’s a tendency for others to believe it’s a cosmetic only issue and discount how truly physically painful it can be.  However, the symptoms of rosacea can be managed and controlled. 

Rosacea can be a debilitating skin disorder.  Sometimes women can be vulnerable to isolating themselves due to their appearance.  However, if it is managed properly, it doesn’t have to rob you of a fulfilled and wonderful life. 

Many times the acne like appearance is not true acne in the classic sense, but actually are immune cells (look like red bumps and sometimes called papules and pustules) that have rushed to the face thinking there was an infection to be fought because of the flushing fever that came. 

Not all rosacea sufferers have the acne, papules and pustules but it’s a common misconception that all do.  The red, flushed facial mask is the true mark of rosacea, and it’s a blood vessel issue.

The cause of rosacea is not known, but many doctors feel the root is a vascular or inflammation problem.  It seems to show up in both women and men sometime between 20 and 40 years of age.  Sometimes menopause in women seem to be a trigger for it’s onset, due to “hot flashes” associated with menopause.  

How can you cope with rosacea?  First and foremost, see a dermatologist who has helped others with this skin disorder.  If he prescribes a medication, give it a try and see if your symptoms improve.  Rosacea can go into remission if you are careful to adhere to the plan recommended by your doctor. 

Along with medication, there are several lifestyle changes that can be made to ensure that the breakouts of rosacea won’t occur as often.  Limit your exposure to sun and wind, be vigilant about using a good quality sunscreen.  Try to keep stress levels at a minimum by adopting a healthy lifestyle and spending quiet time each day.  Alcohol should be avoided as it tends to trigger a flush.  If you enjoy a bath, use warm water instead of really hot water.  Exercise is not off limits, but try low-impact forms of exercise in place of high impact ones, or swimming would be great.  Try to exercise in cooler weather.  Hot weather will worsen rosacea symptoms. Some people who suffer from rosacea react to hot beverages or spicy food. 

There are home treatments that seem to have helped some rosacea sufferers.  Creams containing green tea, Chrysanthellum Indicum, Niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3), or Azelaic Acid have been reported to help reduce the appearance of blood vessels and red capillaries when applied topically. 

Typically anti aging creams tend to worsen symptoms.  Try to use very gentle products that are not abrasive, and not scented.

For cosmetics I like natural mineral makeup such as Bare Escentuals bareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation.  There are many good brands out there.  Try to get a green color corrector type product as a base under foundation, green counteracts the red of the skin and helps camouflage it so it looks more natural.

Men should use an electric razor rather than a blade to shave each morning.  Follow up with a fragrance-free moisturizer. 

This book Vascular, Ocular & Acne Forms  I found to be very helpful and information.  Written by a doctor who also suffers from severe rosacea he gives a well balanced approach to coping with rosacea as well as a an in-depth look at the various medical treatments available now, various laser and light therapies and much more.  I highly recommend it.

By Valerie Garner

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Accessorize Your Gifts in a Jar

several_jar_gifts

Presentation is everything!  Making gifts in a jar are a wonderful, personal yet inexpensive way to show someone you care.  There really is no end to the ideas a person can come up with, let your creativity flow and think also about who the gift is for to really make it especially for them.  Jar gifts are a wonderful, creative yet inexpensive ways to give gifts to family, friends and teachers and other loved ones.

Are you helping a child to make the gift?  If the gift is from a child for a grandparent, parent or teacher, decoupage the child’s photo on the outside of the jar, then trim the edges of the photo with lace or some other finishing type of ribbon.  The child could even paint a little something on the opposite side of the jar or his or her little handprint with paint.

One common way to decorate a jar is take some fabric and cut a circle, square or heart shape out of the fabric that is 6 – 8 inches across.  You can use pinking shears or other decorative type scissors to edge the fabric.  Lace can also be sewn as a trim to the fabric.  Place the inner round section of the jar’s lid on the jars and center the fabric on that. Screw the other section of the lid in place to hold the fabric. Fluff out the fabric where it comes out from under the lid.

You can use already decorated type jars, or standard canning jars.  The most common sizes are the pint and quart sized jars, but baby jars are also great for smaller portion drink or spice type mix gifts.

Hang tags can be made either by hand, computer graphics or a label glued to the jar itself, but these can be customized to a central theme if desired.  However you choose to do this, they will need the recipe’s final instructions.  Try your hand at calligraphy!

 There are many wonderful recipes that can be made specifically designed for jars.  These include soup mixes, spice mixes, cookie and other baked goods recipes, coffee and creamer recipes and so many more.  These can be quite easy to make ahead of time, so you always have a gift you can grab whenever you need one, especially great for those last minute gift needs, or for the person who seems to have everything and is difficult to buy for.

You can paint the jar before filling it.  Buy paint that is specially designed for glass and follow the specific directions.  Can’t paint?  Try finding a card or picture or something you’d like to put on the jar, and get it on paper.  Place the paper inside the jar, and then simply let your painting basically be tracing the design and adding your own personal touches to it.  Again, this can really be used for a theme and the jar itself will remain a keepsake long after the recipe has been used.

Layer the ingredients for a beautiful effect.  Put at the bottom layers the finest ingredients, like flour but be sure to mix in the baking sodas, salt, etc that’s called for in the recipes.  You can use a funnel to help keep things orderly.  If the flour dusts the rest of the jar, let it settle a while then gently wipe the jar with a paper towel before adding the rest of the layers.  Brown sugar can be packed down to save a bit of space.

You can accessorize your jar gifts by either gluing dried flowers, pinecones, beads, shells or whatever to the top of the jars as well.  Or tie small items with ribbon or raffia to the jars.  Common items that work well are measuring spoons, tiny whisks, cookie cutters, ornaments, cinnamon bark, vanilla beans or any other small whimsical item you may find.   

There are many beautiful ribbons out there and different styles and sizes of bows can be made and simply glued on to the lid.  Lace can also be hot glued around the rim of the jar.

For a holiday themed jar try a luscious hot cocoa mix or other goodie recipe, gluing some wrapping paper decor around various sides of the jar, or you can use some glitter paint for a snow type theme.   For a wild west theme, try perhaps a bean soup recipe, wrap your jar in a bandana, or use the bandana itself as tied around the lid.  Perhaps you can find a cowboy boot or hat graphic to decoupage on the jar itself, or paint one on.

Get creative in how you want to present your jar gift.  This might mean a gift basket filled with several jar gifts, or simply one with other components making up the whole gift basket

What about the tea lover you know?  Try some small baby jars filled with different flavored teas, cocoas and coffee mixes and put in a basket with a coffee mug and muffin or scone.  Paint the jar lids coordinating colors to match the mug.  Perhaps adding some gourmet tea bags and cinnamon sticks would be a nice touch as well.  Let your creativity guide your senses.

By Valerie Garner

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Care and Maintenance of Washer and Dryer Appliances

washer dryer

The washer and dryer are the household appliances that play a significant role in the running of a household, and also one of largest household appliance investments. As these are the among most used appliances at home, they should be well maintained. While buying a washer and dryer, we should consider several factors like energy ratings,  space availability, efficient, moisture senses, expresses dry, steam refreshes, load handled and convenience features. All these factors will help in the future maintenance of the appliance.  Cleaning washers and dryers to keep them in good condition will help prolong their life and protect your investment.

In order to increase the durability of the washer and dryer, we have to follow certain routine steps. WITH a few maintenance guidelines, we can keep you machines safe and making them run better, saving time and money. The following steps may help in increasing the life of these appliances.

Washer

  • The washer should be placed level so that they do not vibrate when they are working which may damage the appliance.
  • Check the hoses for cracks and brittleness which will reduce the disaster of flooding. All the hoses should be replaced every five years in the long run, of a washer and dryer.
  • Always dry the washer drum to avoid odor caused by bacteria.
  • Do not overload the washer and dryer as this will cause them to work inefficiently.
  • Do a routine maintenance wash with the help of some detergent and vinegar.
  • Wipe down the drum with a clean cloth.
  • Don’t allow washed, wet cloths to sit for hours in the washer.
  • The quality of the detergent powder used also affects the durability of the washer and dryer. Always use proper amount and detergent powder.

Dryer

  • Clean the lint filter often. Removing all the lint is a safety measure to avoid fire from the intense heat of the dryer. Keeping the lint under control is essential for cleanliness as well as the safety of the house.
  • Wash and clean the lint filter to remove chemical residue from time to time.
  • Check for blockages and bends in the exhaust ducts every three months.
  • Always use aluminum exhaust ducts as it minimizes fire hazards.

By following these basic instructions for the well being of washer and dryer, we can reduce the energy consumed, save money and most importantly prolong the life of the appliances.

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