Quickly Get and Keep the Kitchen Chaos Free

Quickly Get and Keep the Kitchen Chaos Free

So often, the kitchen becomes a catch all for clutter, due to it’s being one of the most used rooms in the home.  Is it possible to rid it of clutter and chaos in as little as 15 minutes? Yes, if you have a plan, which is what we’d like to offer you here.

Take an overall look at your kitchen for a quick assessment.  Imagine breaking it up into 3 main sections in which you’ll be spending 5 minutes on each section.  If you need to use a timer, do so.  When you’re ready to start, begin at one end of one section and work your way around the room.  Stay focused on putting away the clutter you are handling at the moment, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted by other tasks nearby.

Usually counter space in the first thing to keep in mind.  Chances are it has mail, food items (like spices or cereal), appliances and other items.  Keep a rule that if you don’t use it daily, find a place out of sight for it, and keep it there.

Keep dirty dishes off the counter, its just as easy to put them in the dishwasher as to lay them in the sink or counter.

Paperwork tends to be a problem in the kitchen for many families.  School papers, mail, take out menus, you name it.  The problem with it, is no matter how organized it may be, visually it always looks like clutter.  Take a decorated box and put the paperwork in there, with the lid on.  Just make sure you frequently go through it and handle it as necessary, throwing out that which is no longer needed.  You don’t want the box to get out of hand either.

If there is still too many items laying out, a pantry or other kitchen related cupboards can be a good solution.  For things that don’t belong to the kitchen, but migrated there, have another box or basket to tuck the items away, so they can be put in the proper place in the other locations in the home.  Again, don’t let that build up too long to become it’s own chaos mess.

When everything is put away, give the counters and sink a quick wipe down.   Your appliances may also need a light wipe up for any fingerprints or grime.

Doing this once a day will go a long way at keeping kitchen chaos at bay.  It also makes it so much more pleasant to be in there, whether you’ll be entertaining friends, or cooking up some delicious food.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Reduce Bedroom Clutter in 15 Minutes for a More Peaceful Space

Reduce Bedroom Clutter in 15 Minutes for a More Peaceful Space

There’s just something special about it, – even though most people are only in their bedrooms a few hours a day, the peaceful sense of going to bed in a clutter free, clean bedroom area. It helps us unwind and letdown, and is just in fact, comforting.

It’s an area that tends to get neglected however, because most of the decluttering that needs to happen, such as putting away clothing and making the bed, are done in the morning, which can be a time we are really crunched for time.

However, another alternative to doing this in the morning is to give it a quick decluttering treatment, only 15 minutes or less after you get home from work, get the kids off to school, or running errands. Many people can find a couple of minutes to squeeze it in somewhere in the day, even if it isn’t first thing in the morning.

In your quick declutter time, make the bed first, and fluff up the pillows. This one task instantly transforms the look of a room and instantly makes it look neater.

On the task list next is clothing. Are they thrown everywhere? Put the dirty ones in the hamper and shut the lid, (of course unless you are ready to do a load of laundry now). Do you have piles of clean clothes? Fold and/or hang them up and put them away. For me, I don’t enjoy this process, so I want to make it as easy as possible, so I try my best not to make a mess in the first place. It’s just as easy to toss dirty clothes in a hamper as it is to drop them on the floor. And clean laundry is put away immediately after coming out of the dryer, otherwise it gets wrinkled beyond hope and many times simply gets recycled into the dirty hamper when really they are clean. If you work at not making a mess in the first place on this task, daily decluttering will be a quick breeze.

Do you have clothing that needs a little attention, yet are clean? Perhaps, missing a button or needs a hem? Designate an area in the closet or a drawer for these, until you get that completed. If you have clothing that needs to be dry cleaned, set aside an area for those dirty garments, so they can be taken in, or picked up by a laundry service at one time.

With these two biggest elements handled, straighten up or put away miscellaneous things. Try a daily rule of thumb – if it’s not used daily, it needs to be put away, then do that. Don’t get distracted when putting things away. For instance, when you go to put an object away, you see the drawer to place it in is messy, so then you may be tempted to clean that drawer. Restrain yourself. That’s for another day, when re-organizing that drawer is the focus. Just place the object inside and move on to the next, remember this is a quick tidy-up.

Sometimes that’s why we procrastinate tidying up in the first place, this tendency to get distracted and bogged down, and not completing what we were after in the first place, which was quick tidy up.  It’s ok to just tidy, and not clean.

For items that do need to be kept out and used daily, keep them organized, neat and clean. Perhaps a basket or a container needs to be used, so it is contained and visually more appealing. Books and magazines look better in a basket or stacked neatly, rather than strewn around a chair, floor or nightstand.

If you have time and it needs it, give the mirror a quick wipe. Same goes for night stands or dresser drawers to keep it dust free.

You might need to schedule a time to do a more intensive organizing effort. If so, schedule it when you can, but remember; you don’t have to tackle the entire room in one setting. Perhaps its only a closet, or a couple of sections of a closet. It might be a dresser, the top of the dresser, or a couple of drawers done. Break it down so its manageable for you. Even getting 1 drawer done, will help motivate you to do more drawers, whether that’s in the same time frame, or another, do what works for you.

You might want to spritz a little room freshener in the air, perhaps add a little bouquet of flowers, or some other nice little personal touch to end with. As you do this daily, you might be surprised at how little time this actually takes. You’ll love the reward it offers you,when its time to turn in for the night.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Ideas For Successful Science Fair Projects

Ideas For Successful Science Fair Projects

Ideas For Successful Science Fair Projects

Science fair projects are investigations aimed at answering certain scientific questions. Science fairs involve a number of kids who showcase their findings at the end of their investigations and are mostly done in schools to help children know why certain things happen the way they do. The kids are allowed to discover things on their own. Although the projects target students, parents and guardians are allowed to help them where they need assistance.

The following are ideas to help parents assist their kids to learn.

• Talk about the Project Ideas with your Child.
Allow your child to talk about the project they would want to do. It will be detrimental for him or her if you choose it for them. Therefore, even if they appear to have problems coming up with one, it is not your responsibility to create one for them.

If they are totally unable to come up with something, you can give them ideas to provoke their thinking. One aspect may be helping them decide on what category of science they would like to focus on. Perhaps it’s biology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, biochemistry, health, environmental science, math or computer science, engineering, earth science, or others.

You can ask them why certain things happen the way they do. Allow them to think through the issue and give you a feedback. If they are enthusiastic about the project, you can rest assured that it will likely be a smooth ride all the way. Never push a project down your child’s throat; remember they are the ones doing it and not you. It is important for them to feel in control of the project and not dad or mom.

• Take your Child to Places where they can Access Research Materials

Your responsibility is to take your child to a library or any other place where they can research about their project. From there, leave them to do the rest. Of course if they do not how to do it, you can help them learn how to get the information. For instance, if they need to use a computer and they do not know how to get the information they need, you can show them how to do it and leave them to continue.

• Help them to Confirm their Hypothesis

Discuss with the child about their hypothesis and how relevant it is to her overall project. All you need to do is to allow them to think through and help them where they seem to falter; that is all. If you feel like they are taking the wrong direction, you can brainstorm the whole idea together and help them rewrite their hypothesis. You may need to leave them alone if they feel that they are right; they will learn that they were wrong at some point and correct their mistake. For that reason allow them to go through the whole process of learning, and do not learn for them.
• Supervise your Child as they do their Experiments

This is critical because some of the experiments that they will need to do may be dangerous. For that reason, you must be available to confirm with them the steps, and be there to supervise. To put it more clearly, in this project you are an assistant and not the one calling the shots; kindly bear that in mind. Once the experiments are through, get feedback from the child and help them to record their data. If they need to fill a graph allow them to do it on their own, and if they require your help offer it wisely. In other words, your child should be able to redo the whole project, and show another audience why they support their hypothesis without you. They should answer questions and defend their hypothesis in your absence. In fact that is the essence of science fair projects.

• Never Scold your Child during a Science Fair Project

Respecting your child is very important, and no matter what mistakes they may make, you should never make them feel inferior. Encourage them during the whole process, and be their number one fan. When a child feels supported unconditionally it encourages them to step out and risk even more. Some of the greatest scientists learned more from their failures than their successes.

Check out our post also on Super Fun Educational Opportunity Program for Kids and Teens in Science, Technology & Robotics

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Traditional Backyard Games For Kids

Traditional Backyard Games For Kids

It appears as though many traditional backyard childhood games, which were played outside with little or no gear, gadgets, and the like, are being forgotten. Kids may not be learning these kind of fun, wholesome activities; much less how you can participate in them.

Many of these timeless games provide exercise and fresh air (benefits that sports provide as well), cost nothing, and best of all make great childhood memories. They can be played for countless hours, providing stimulating fun and bonding times that are relational. Many can be played with adults, and various ages, giving a rich, child friendly community of activity. By teaching your children and some of their friends to play some of these games, it also fosters a more active lifestyle in general.

Red Light Green Light

One person takes on the position of the “stop light person” and the rest makes effort to touch that person. Whoever touches them first wins that game. To begin with, all the children form a line about 15 feet away from the stop light individual. That stop light person turns away from the line of kids, with his or her back towards them and calls out “green light”. At this time the children in line are allowed to move towards the stoplight, some run, a few walk, or creep, their choice. At any point, the stop light individual yells out “red light” and turns around to face the participants. If some of the kids are found moving after this has transpired, they are out. The stoplight person identifies who they see moving after saying red light. This carries on until the first player to touch the stop light person wins the game, thus earning the privilege to be “stop light” for the following game.

Red Rover

The people separate into two teams. They stand in lines looking at each other with a broad area between the lines. The players must hold hands or wrists, and then the players on one team call out: “Red Rover – red rover – let “Billie” come over. Then your youngster who had been called upon by name, must run toward the opposition line and try to break the handhold uniting the line of the opposite team.  If they fail, they join the team whose handhold they couldn’t break. If they do break the rank, they will get to take one of the participants’ hostage, returning to their initial team’s line. The team that gets the majority of players wins.

Kick The Can

This is a mixture of hide-and-go-seek, as well as tag.  Someone designated as “it” closes their eyes and counts to some high number, while at the same time everyone else hides from view. After that, the individual that counted and defending “the can (any can)” runs around the neighborhood, to seek out everyone. The challenging portion is that when a person is found, there is a mad race, where the one who recently was discovered, makes an attempt to run and kick the can over, before the “it” tags or touches them. There seems to continually be individuals who will hide in a obvious, close by place, with the intent of sprinting for the can as soon as they are caught, actually hoping to catch “it” off-guard and out race them.

Mother May I?

All the children line up side-by-side, except the person who is the caller. The caller stands far away from the lined up players. He calls on every player in turn to take a few actions toward him. The steps permitted are:  baby steps, giant steps, or scissor steps (walking each step criss crossing over the previous step.) The participant responses “Mother, may I?” The mother answers “Yes, you may.” The player will take the approved quantity of actions towards the caller. If the person forgets to ask permission after he gets his instructions, and takes steps toward the caller, he gets sent back to the beginning of the line to start over. The first person to reach the caller is the winner and new caller.


A relatively smooth, flat area is needed, usually in dirt. A little hole is formed in the middle of the playing location. Each player antes up a marble, and they’re randomly scattered surrounding the area. Every participant utilizes a large marble called a ‘shooter’ to knock the other marbles into the hole; similar to shooting pool.  People take turns shooting, and when a person knocks a marble in to the hole with his/her turn, they be able to keep the marble they bumped in, and shoot again. Naturally very simple marble exchanging is usually a popular activity too.

Duck Duck Goose

Children sit down in a circle facing each other. One person is “it” and strolls around the circle. As they stroll around, they touch individuals’ heads and pronounce whether they are a “duck” or a “goose”.  When someone is announced a  “goose” they jump up quickly and chase “the it person” around the circle. The aim is to tag that person before they’re able to sit down in the “goose’s” spot. If the goose is not able to make this happen, they become “it” for the following round, and play continues. Should they accomplish the tag the “it” person, the individual tagged has got to sit in the center of the group. Then the goose becomes “it” for the next round. The person in the middle cannot leave until another person is tagged and they are replaced.


Hopscotch is a wonderful hopping game which can be played on a sidewalk or pavement or on a floor indoors. You will find hundreds of versions of the diagram which are then drawn. Use your preferred pattern to get youngsters to play. Use chalk to draw a hopscotch pattern on the ground, or masking tape on a floor. Generate a diagram with eight portions and number all of them. Each player has a marker, say for example a rock, beanbag, bottlecap, shell, button, etc.

The first player stands at the rear of the starting line to pitch their marker in square 1. Jump over square 1 to square 2 and then proceed hopping to square 8, turn around, and hop back again. Pause in square 2 to pick up the marker square 1, and jump to the end. Then continue by slinging the rock into square 2. All jumping is conducted on one foot unless the hopscotch pattern is such that two squares are side-by-side.  Only then can two feet touch the ground, one in each square. A participant must always skip over any block where a maker has been placed (theirs or someone elses).

A person is out, if the marker ceases to land in the accurate square, the hopper steps on a line, the hopper looses stableness when bending over to pick up the marker or puts a second hand or foot down. The participant puts the marker within the block they will resume playing on the next turn, and the next player starts.

Sometimes a dome-shaped “rest area” is added on one end of the hopscotch design where the player can rest for a second or two prior to turning around to jump back towards “home”.

Swinging Statue

You only need two players for this activity, but any number can be involved. One player grasps the other by his wrist and gently swings him slowly before letting go. The released player must then stabilize themselves in a statue posture as they landed.  They have to then remain as still as a statue, till all the other players are swung.  This will not have winners or losers. It’s just fun to see the statues made.

Farmer In The Dell

This game needs about 12-15 people or more, to stand up around a circle. One individual is selected as the Farmer and stands inside the middle. Everyone sings, “The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell; Heigh ho, the Derry-oh the farmer in the dell” and walk around in the circle. The next verse is “The farmer takes a wife . . .,” which is sung as the first person chooses another person from the circle to come to the inside as the wife. The next verse is “The wife takes a child . . .,” when the second person inside the circle chooses a third person to be the child. This continues with “The child takes a dog . . .,” “The dog takes a cat . . .,” “The cat takes a rat . . .,” and “The rat takes the cheese . . ..” The final verse is” The cheese stands alone . . .,” when all people on the inside of the circle go back to the outer edge of the circle and sing as the last person chosen “stands alone” in the circle, the game is then finished.

Bobbing for Apples

Bobbing for Apples, although this is traditionally played in the fall and autumn season, it makes an excellent choice for a hot summer day.  Fill a huge tub with water, and toss some apples into the water.  Have players kneel on their knees around the tub with hands clasped behind their backs, and some yells start.  Players must keep hands clasped behind their backs at all times.  They attempt to pick up an apple with only their mouth; they may NOT use their hands in any way.  The first person, who gets an apple out, wins.  You can also do a variation of this game, blindfolded.

Stick Ball

The overall game is enjoyed with a baseball bat and ball, usually a tennis ball to prevent breaking windows. There are no teams, just one individual up to bat and everybody else in the outfield. The person with the bat tosses the ball upward and hits it. Then they set the bat on the ground in front of them. The person who gets the ball, rolls it to the bat from the place in which the ball was picked up somewhere in the outfield. When and if the ball hits the bat it pops up into the air. In the event the batter doesn’t catch the ball, the person who rolled it is then up to bat. If a person in the field catches a hit preceding it touches the ground, they are immediately up to bat.

Our course in modern times, there are also amazingly fun outdoor fun, games (including science and technology activities to help students learn) that can be played with reasonably priced equipment, gear and rules. Check out the resources on this page for ideas.

Try to remember some of your favorites and add to the list. Recreate the lost games of childhood and pass on to your children and grandchildren to enjoy. This can be such rich and amazing family times you’ll remember for years to come. Consider inviting others from the neighborhood to join in and get to know your neighbors better.

I remember playing so many of these games with family and neighborhood kids until it was pitch black, the darkness of night calling an end to our play times.

Hope you enjoy some of this classic outdoor games from times past.  Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

Many of you may not have heard of chocolate zucchini bread, and I admit, at first it sounds pretty terrible.  But, I ask you to keep an open mind and give this recipe a chance, because it is fabulous! Think instead of a cross between a brownie and cake, I’m not sure why exactly it’s called bread, but it is.  It can also be a way to sneak some vegetables in for kids who hate veggies.

It’s also a great addition to make for those gardeners with zucchini ripening fast & furious and you don’t know what else to do with it.

So here it is!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda

Stir these ingredients into a bowl and set aside.

Next, using an electric mixer, blend the following until smooth:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

When these wet ingredients are smooth, add the dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Then fold in:

  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 package chocolate chips

Pour this into a greased bread loaf pan, and bake at 350° F. about 65 minutes, or until a knife inserted in, comes out clean.

A couple of things I did a bit differently.  I used a bundt cake pan, and it took 55 minutes of baking and turned out perfectly.  You could also dust a little powdered sugar on top if you wanted.

I hate shredding zucchinis, ok I’m a bit lazy.  I don’t have a food processor, but I do own a Vitamix I use all the time (best investment I’ve made in my kitchen!).  Here’s how you can shred zucchini using a vitamix.  Put several cups of water into the blender portion, in fact fill up the blender about 1/4 of the way.  Then add large chunks of washed zucchini, then pulse on low until all the big chunks have processed through.  Pour this into a strainer in the sink then press out the excess water.  There you have it, now just scoop the grated zucchini into your measuring cups.  Fast and easy.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Gourmet Edible Lavender Recipes To Try

Gourmet Edible Lavender Recipes To Try

Gourmet Edible Lavender Recipes To Try

Lavender is a preferred botanical herb known most commonly for its calming and soothing properties. Many people through the ages have also used it as effective treatment for minor burns. It is utilized as an essential oil, and numerous skin and hair care applications. However, lavender can also be eaten as a food source to add an unusual flavor. It’s an interesting ingredient to make use of cooking spectacular gourmet recipes, adding a new and unique twist on classic favorite foods.

These lavender foods can easily be made into components within a special homemade gift basket for someone.

Lavender Recipes

You will find in this hub quite a few recipes from poultry, sweets, baked salmon and flavor filled mustard fares to experience.

Vanilla Lavender Cake with Almonds

  • 1 tablespoon lavender, chopped
  • 2/3 cup toasted almonds, coarsely crushed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Mix baking powder, salt and flour together, add almonds and lavender and set aside.

In another bowl mix eggs, sugar and vanilla well. Add olive oil slowly, then milk. Add slowly the flour mixed until completely mixed.

Bake in a 350 degree oven in a lightly greased cake pan for 45 minutes.

Homemade Delightful Lavender Hyssop Honey Ice Cream

  • 3/4 cup of light honey
  • 1 tablespoon of dried lavender flowers
  • 2 tablespoons of dried hyssop
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of cream
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks

Put the cream, salt and milk in a saucepan and slowly simmer. Remove  from heat and stir in the lavender and hyssop. Cover and allow to set for half an hour.

Whisk egg yolks and honey together. Slowly reheat the cream mixture again until just warm, but not simmering. Pour into the cream mixture through a strainer, ensuring none of the lavender or hyssop is left in the liquid. Mix everything together, and pour back into the saucepan.

Slowly simmer, stirring frequently to prevent curdling or burning at the bottom of the pan. When the mixture starts to feel somewhat thicker. Remove from heat, and chill for several hours, then process according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Gourmet Lavender Mustard

  • 1/4 cup Dijon prepared mustard
  • 1/4 cup grain mustard, fresh preferably
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh lavender flowers
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Combine and mix all ingredients in a ample sized bowl, stirring until thoroughly mixed. After that place into pretty jar containers. Keep refrigerated until use and after opening until product is finished. This makes an incredible gourmet mustard, perfect for those who have distinctive taste.

The lavender mustard can be used on ham, chicken and other meats as a glaze or dipping sauce. It can also be used on specialty crackers and any other dishes in which mustard is served.

Raspberry and Orange Fruit Salad with Yogurt Lavender Honey

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 4 cups low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms
  • 4 cups orange sections (about 6 large oranges)

Mix lavender and honey in a saucepan and cook over low heat about 15 minutes. Remove and cool, pour these to strain and discard the flowers.

Put in a fruit bowl the orange sections and raspberries, and orange rind. Toss with 1/2 cup of the cooled lavender honey. Chill then right before serving, spoon over frozen yogurt and drizzle with remaining lavender honey.

Lavender and Honey Baked Salmon

  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
  • Dash salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Olive oil for pan
  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

Mix together all the spices, lavender, oil and honey together. Marinade the salmon fillets overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pan sear the salmon fillets in a skillet with some oil for a couple of minutes, then transfer to an oven and bake 10-15 minutes, until flakes with a fork.

Bacon Wrapped with Lavender Chicken

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 12 sprigs fresh lavender flowers
  • 8 slices bacon

Bake for ten minutes in a 400 degree oven. Turn the chicken breast side down and bake another 10 minutes. Turn again a 3rd time, so the lavender is on top, and sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese. Continue baking ten more minutes until cheese has melted completely.

Place three sprigs of lavender flowers upon the top of each chicken breast half. Wrap two pieces of bacon completely around each piece of chicken maintaining the lavender inside. Put chicken into a greased shallow baking pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Lavender Blueberry Scones

  • 3/4 cup butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 3/4 cup +1 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp dried lavender, chopped (or 2 tsp fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Put dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut butter into dry ingredients with a mixer on low. Stir together 3/4 cup milk, honey, and vanilla and blend. Mix just until dough comes together and stir in dried blueberries. Be careful not to “overwork” the batter.

Turn dough out to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough twice to a 1-in thickness, each time folding in half.

Roll the dough to a 3/4-in thickness and cut desired shapes, most commonly a triangle. Place on a greased cooking sheet and brush with remaining milk. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, at 375 degrees until tops are nicely browned. Dust lightly with powdered sugar immediately after baking.

Lavender Kissed Cookies

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon lavender tea (Steep 4 teaspoons of fresh lavender flowers in ¼ cup boiling water for 5 minutes)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers
  • 1 cup butter (chilled)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Use a food processor in order to blend refrigerated butter, as well as lavender blossoms, powdered sugar & cornstarch. Add half the flour quantity and lavender tea. Beat lightly until cut in to a crumbly consistency. Blend in remainder of flour until it balls into a dough. Roll inside wax paper to form a log shape. Chill at the very least 30 minutes, however it can also be frozen to cook at a in the future time.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Cut into 1/2 inch rounds, bake upon an un-greased cookie sheet until just golden on the bottom, about 20 minutes.

Try some of these delicious edible lavender recipes this week!

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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My Tooth Decay Prevention Plan – Goal to Stay Out of the Dental Chair

My Goal to Stay Out of the Dental Chair

I hate going to the dentist.  I mean really, HATE it. Yes, I know its necessary, but I want to spend as least amount of time and money in there as possible.  Truth be told, I’m probably nearly phobic about going.  And I know I’m not alone in that.

I am diligent about going for cleanings and checkups every 6 months, with the goal being to actually stay out of the dental chair, not needing procedures.  I do want healthy teeth and gums, especially as I age, and of course I don’t want bad breath.

I’ve recently been researching and implementing some natural methods to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, in order to keep myself out that chair, at least as much as possible.  I would like to share a few things I’ve been learning along the way, in hopes that it may help you and your family as well.

My first step was reading a book about curing tooth decay (link at the bottom of this post).  I cannot recommend this book highly enough for literally everyone to read, but especially those who are prone to cavities and parents of children.   For me, this is a life changing one!  Much of it has to do with nutrition.

Homademade Toothpaste to Help Re-Mineralize Teeth

1/3 cup of Bentonite Clay
1/4 cup of boiling water
1 Tablespoon of coconut Oil
1/4 teaspoon of Real Salt
1/2 teaspoon of stevia
15 Drops of Thieves blend Essential oil
10 Drops of Peppermint Essential oil

Each ingredient provides a very real benefit to your teeth and gums (except the stevia, which is to help with the taste).  Simply mix all the ingredients in a glass bowl and stir with a wooden or plastic spoon.  You don’t want to use metal on any of this toothpaste.  Then place in small glass jar.   This will be good to use for several months.

The clay helps pull toxins out of the body, coconut oil has wonderful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties for oral health.  The Real Salt provides natural minerals.  The Thieves essential oil contains antibiotic qualities and is good for germ killing.  The peppermint oil helps to freshen breath.

When I use this I use a small wooden stick to scoop out a bit and place on my toothbrush, instead of putting my toothbrush directly into the whole batch.  This avoids introducing germs to the batch.

When I first found the recipe, I couldn’t imagine brushing my teeth with it, it sounded horrible.  But actually, it really doesn’t taste bad, it is very chalky in texture however.  I’m amazed how clean my teeth feel after brushing with it!

After brushing and flossing my teeth, I use Life Extension Advanced Oral Hygiene, which is an oral probiotic that aids beneficial bacteria and helps resist harmful bacteria when it first develops in the mouth.  Not only does it help with oral health, it also fights bad breath.

Lastly, I’m taking a supplement called Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil / Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend, recommended by the author of the book below.

I’ll post an update to this blog post after my next dentist visit to see what they have to say about the changes I’ve made, and how I progress in my goal to stay out of the dental chair.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

**Update – I promised to update you on my progress after my next cleaning and exam.  My dentist said my teeth looked better than they ever had!


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Exploring Graphic Design as A Career From Home

Exploring Graphic Design as A Career From Home

Choosing graphic design as a career can be one of the best options a person can have in their career life, especially for those with a strong artistic interest. There are many career options, but very few are as lucrative as graphic design can be. It provides wide options to students and equips them to work anywhere in the world, and in many environments, including from home in some cases.

A person could choose to launch their own business in desktop publishing. Self employment gives you the freedom to select your own projects (including getting free-lance work), set your own hours, and work on your own timetable. Some choose to have their office within their home, which can provide many excellent tax breaks.

A person could choose to launch their own business, pick up free- lance design work, and sometimes telecommute for a business as a designer.  The point is, there are options in this type of field.

To be able to train as a graphic designer, one needs to meet certain educational requirements. Most of these requirements are same, but at some point may partially vary, depending on the college of study and educational system. Some college admission require that a student have completed at least art and design courses, or that they submit their sketches and various art works for consideration.

Most colleges and universities offer graphic design courses at bachelors’ levels. At this point, students are equipped with skills necessary to enable them to work as entry level technicians, or some even in higher positions within the graphic design industry. The courses take four years to complete, and can be studied at any of the schools approved by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The course work in the curriculum include drawing, book design, typography, computer assisted design, photography, digital media and advanced graphic design.

Common Graphic Design Software Programs

Graphic design involves working on various software to enhance learning and improve quality of the work done by students. The software is very important and they must be included in the study syllabus to ensure students get the best education and experience for actual work. Some of the software programs include:

Adobe creative suite CS6 and above (otherwise known as Photoshop)
Corel Draw Graphic Suites
Xara designer pro X10
Serif PagePlus

Salary Projects for Graphic Designers

Being a graphic designer can come with some excellent salary packages, since the career is in high demand in so many business fields. Most people pay high prices to get their work done by these designers. The salary ranges are projections that could be found in some areas:

Creative directors $200,000
Production manager $80,000
Graphical user and Interface Designer $72,000
Web designer $60,000
Design director $135,000
Most of these job titles and salaries are determined by job title, level of education, parameter of job scope, where you work, and years of experience. The jobs associated with graphic design are many and in demand in the labor market.

Many graduates in these careers gain direct job placements through their schools, and receive good earnings from them. The jobs may include publishing and entertainment jobs; these include working in companies that print electronic media, magazines, books and newspapers among others. The main duties of graphic designers in this case include photo manipulation, advertising creation, typesetting and layout work.

Graduates can also work in advertising agencies; here they are always provided with brand strategy design on which they work and achieve some required target projects. If one gets a job from a large agency, they can some of the best salaries and work experience many times.

Design studios are also a good place to put skills to use. They vary in size and their employment opportunities. Their work involves creating logos, brochures and doing packaging among others business design projects. They provide clients with creative and artistic solutions for web and print media.

Corporate marketing departments can also provide fantastic job opportunities for this career. They market items such print work, brochures, training materials, promotional displays, advertising campaigns, create corporate annual reports and increase the corporate branding awareness in general.

With the above advantages, pursuing graphic design as a career choice can provide you with many opportunities to a earn living in a creative environment.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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The Health Benefits of Quinoa & How to Make It

 The Health Benefits of Quinoa & How to Make It

 Quinoa (Chenopdium quinoa, or goosefoot) is rapidly becoming a favorite food among health conscious individuals, many vegans and vegetarians incorporating it regularly into their diets. It is becoming known as a superfood, or a supergrain. It is known to be an ancient grain originating in South America. It is pronounced “keen-wa”.

It is an annual plant with pretty red or burgundy spiked blooms before turning to seed. It can be grown quite easily in gardens in more northern regions where summers do not get too hot. Quinoa many times is used as a grain, or a grain substitute.

Іt is considered complete protein, which can be difficult to find in a plant source. This makes quinoa an amazing component to vegans and vegetarians diets, who can sometimes find it a challenge to get adequate protein intake.

It can be used in casseroles, salads, soups and stir fried meals. It’s also great as a hot breakfast cereal, and doesn’t usually leave someone feeling heavy and bloated.

The Whole Grains Counsel dedicates the month of March to Quinoa being the grain of the month.

Varieties of Quinoa

There may be literally hundreds of varieties of quinoa, but they usually fall into 3 broad range categories.

Black – The black varieties are usually harder to find due to its difficult growing conditions. therefore being less available than the other varieties. It has a slightly sweeter taste than the other varieties, and can add wonderful color, and visual interest to any dish.

Red – Red quinoa sometimes carry a tangier flavor and a bit crunchier texture. It carriers a slightly higher calorie and protein count as the gold variety. Again, with its color, adds beauty and a touch of creativity to any dish.

Gold – Gold or cream colored quinoa is the most common type you’ll find. It’s equally good in hot or cold dishes, as a breakfast cereal, or even used in baked goods. For many recipes using couscous, gold quinoa can easily be substituted.

Vitamin and Mineral Content

Quinoa has the highest source of protein of any grain, packing an average of 16%. In addition to its rich source of protein, it also has Zinc, Phosphorus, Magnesium B1 (Thiamine), B6 and B2.

It is a great alternative for those needing to abide by a gluten free diet. It tends to help a person feel full longer, and can be beneficial to diabetics as well.

Taste and Texture of Quinoa

Quinoa has an outer coating of saponins which must be removed before eating. Most store bought quinoa has already been rinsed, removing the saponins (which can be quite bitter tasting), although a person can learn how to manually do this as well.

It is cooked much as you would rice, using double the amount of water to the amount of grain. Boil for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Set aside to absorb any left over liquid will give you a soft, fluffy texture (be sure to fluff with a fork). If it’s desired for a firmer texture, when removing from heat, pour into a strainer and rinse to cold water to stop further cooking.  It can also be cooked in a rice cooker appliance.

Delicious Veggie Quinoa Recipe

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1/2 ripe red bell pepper
  • 1/2 vegetable stock cube or 1/2 T. of powdered version
  • 1 T. Coconut oil
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • Optional – dried cranberries or walnuts

Cook the quinoa in boiling water with the vegetable stock. While this is cooking, put coconut oil in a pan and simmer the onions and sweet bell peppers until tender. When both are finished cooking and the liquid is absorbed into the quinoa, pour into the sauteed vegetables, and add the salt, pepper and curry powder and allow to simmer about 5 minutes.

This recipe can easily be customized to include any vegetable, and many different spices and herbs. Other quinoa products are now available too, like quinoa flour, chips, and pasta to name a few. There are also some amazing cookbooks out there dedicated entirely to quinoa.  It might just become a staple in your family’s food.

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Care and Cleaning of Your Makeup Brushes


Care and Cleaning of Your Makeup Brushes

Time to clean the makeup brushes. It’s recommended to do so once a week or so, but even if you can’t do that frequency, do what you can. Using a daily brush cleaning spray will help.

It will take your brushes several hours to dry, so do this either morning or evening after they’ve been used, to give ample drying time.

So, why do we need to clean makeup brushes?
1. Clean brushes helps keep your cosmetics from getting contaminated with dirt, bacteria, skin oils and cells.
2. Protects the investment you made in your brushes.
3.  Helps to protect your face from breakouts and clogged pores associated with skin oil and cells, debris and bacteria.

All of these reasons are good ones to step up to  regular cleaning routine, that will save you money, time and your complexion. While you are at it, be sure to clean your beauty sponges as well.

To clean your beauty sponges, rinse with warm running water, add a drop of Dawn dish soap, squeeze and work into the sponge, then rinse with running warm water until the water runs clear.  Place on a clean towel to dry.

Supplies needed

  • Dawn dishwashing soap
  • Hair conditioner (optional)
  • Brand new kitchen sponge
  • Olive oil
  • Paper towels
  • Clean towel
  • Clear nail polish (optional)
  • Rubbing alcohol

Lay out a clean dry towel on the counter. Wet a new, clean kitchen sponge and squeeze the excess water out. Add a couple drops of Dawn dish soap to the sponge.

Take the brush you want to wash and gently wet it with warm water, taking care not to get the metal part of the brush wet. If it gets wet, it may shorten the life of your brush, as water could rust the inside of the brush and loosen the glue holding the bristles.

Gently squeeze out the excess water and start rubbing the brush on the sponge with Dawn. Brush and swirl, then rinse under running warm (not hot) top water, again taking care not to get the metal portion wet. Rinse until the water runs clear. You may need to swirl it around your hand some to help spread out the bristle to get thoroughly rinsed. If you want to, add a drop or two of hair conditioner and massage into the bristles, then rinse thoroughly again. Gently squeeze out excess water and lay flat to dry. Do not set them upright to dry, as this draws water into the metal holder of the brush.

For any brushes that have thick, sticky makeup on them, like one used for gel eyeliners, lipsticks or foundation types, pour a little olive oil onto a paper towel. Swirl these brushes in the olive oil first and rub on the paper towel to break up the product. Now wash using the same method above.

Take a paper towel and put some rubbing alcohol on it, and wipe down your brush handles. Often times, these get overlooked.

Here’s an optional care item for your makeup brushes too. After they are completely dry, take clear nail polish and paint on the brush’s manufacturer info and brush number to preserve that data from wearing off. It will help you if you ever need to find another identical brush.

This is also a good time to throw out old, falling apart brushes and brushes you simply don’t like,  and replace them.  I also got this cute makeup brush organizer to hold my nice and clean brushes in.

There you have it, and it feels so great to have those nice, clean makeup brushes staring back at you, next time you need to put on your cosmetics.

By Valerie Garner

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