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Julie, Author at Really Useful Girl
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Julie

easy ways to go green
LifeStyle

Going For Green, Step By Step!

Prompted by recent acquisition of a Brita water filter jug and watching the latest War On Waste TV programme, I am inspired to look for other small easy steps that I can take to becoming more environmentally conscious in my daily life.  I also recently saw the photograph below of a river estuary in The Philippines.

It was that photograph that sewed the seed of thinking more carefully about the world we live in. Plastic is a huge global problem.  If everyone made just one or two little changes to their daily lives all those little changes add up to a huge change. Not just with plastics but with all the other resources we take for granted every day.

Seeing this photograph prompted me to stop and think, we cannot go on like this, we have to change

Seeing this photograph prompted me to stop and think, we cannot go on like this, we have to change

In the UK a 5p charge is now levied on all plastic carrier bags.  This has resulted in an 85% reduction in the number of plastic bags in less than a year.  That’s an excellent start! I am not going to list lots of other facts and figures here as we are all aware of the problems we are creating for ourselves and our future generations. We can all do little things that can make a huge difference and not just with plastics.

easy ways to go green

This is how we would all like to see our oceans. Clean and clear!

Here is a list of 20 small and very easy steps that we can all challenge ourselves to do! Why not challenge yourself to do all or start to implement all of them over one month.

  1. Buy a water filter jug instead of bottled water – well that had to be number one of course as I just did that!
  2. Get a reusable BPA chemical free water bottle to use whilst you are out and about. You can find these My little Amazon Shop this week!
  3. Invest in a reusable coffee cup for your takeaway hot and cold drinks
  4. Don’t take a wooden stirrer at the coffee shop, ask for a spoon, even for your takeaway, then just give it back – I do!
  5. Take only 1 or 2 napkins at the coffee shop instead of a handful
  6. When you to need to replace your plastic food storage boxes switch to glass ones that have recyclable polypropylene lids
  7. Use a reusable lunch box instead of single use sandwich bags
  8. Turn off the tap whilst cleaning your teeth
  9. Try using a cold wash for clothes that are not very dirty.  I have started to do this and find it works just as well as a 30c wash
  10. Turn down the shower temperature by just a little, set a time goal and install an aerating shower head as they use a lot less water. Cooler water is better for your skin and hair too
  11. Use biodegradable clean up bags for your pet – A shameless plug here but my new online pet store launching in 2 weeks will be stocking 2 different brands of these!
  12. Use a lavender bag or a cloth sprinkled with your favourite essential oil in your dryer instead of tumble dryer sheets. Dryer sheets are packed full of  harsh chemicals and most are not biodegradable
  13. There are a number of brands that now make nail polish without the harmful chemicals dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde. Butter London, Zoya & Essie are all free of these three chemicals.
  14. Take up the paperless option wherever possible for banking, tickets, bills and invoices.  If the only option is paper why not photograph it and store it via a secure online cloud such as Shoebox App. This app gives you unlimited cloud storage.  Then, recycle the paper! This also cuts down on clutter in your home
  15. Read newspapers and magazines online instead of taking the paper option
  16. Take paper out of your kitchen.  Use fabric napkins and cleaning cloths. Here is my second shameless plug, I can make you a set of 5 dishcloths from organic cotton and a special knitting stitch that you can use in the kitchen or bathroom. They will last more than 2 years even with constant washing! My current ones are currently 26 months old and still going strong!
  17. Keep a fold up shopping bag in the car or in your bag.  Even if the shop offers you a paper bag you can use your shopping bag instead
  18. Try taking 1 or 2 meat free days per week.  Meat production takes massively more water per kg than wheat production and then we have the methane production from cattle
  19. Look to buy organic cotton when shopping for clothes
  20. Microbeads are the things you find in exfoliating soaps, face and body washes.  Millions of tonnes of these are ending up in the oceans and into marine life.  Try using coffee and sugar instead
Plastic is a huge global problem. If everyone made just one or two little changes to their daily lives all… Click To Tweet

One Of The Easy Steps!!

This is the recipe for Homemade Body Scrub that my Offspring has been using for a few years and she loves it!

2/5 any filter coffee

2/5 sugar

1/5 coconut oil (you could use a natural baby oil instead)

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an sealed jar, it keeps forever!

easy steps to go green

Homemade organic cotton kitchen cloths that we use instead of paper towels. I can make these in many many… Click To Tweet

easy ways to go green If you would like to see even more small and easy steps you can make plus more recipes for homemade body scrubs you can check my Really Useful Pinterest Board.

If it’s all or just one change that we all make every single one makes a difference. Every journey starts with the first step.  Which will you take first, I would love to know. Do you have any little and easy steps that you can share with us?

Don’t forget to check out this weeks Dreaming Of page for an insight into a very interesting glass water bottle system!

Random Things

All Sorts of Everything, LifeStyle

5 Random Finds This Week?

Firstly, one of these random finds is not Pokemon Go, although, I think the phenomenon is pretty random.  I do spend a lot of time surfing the web, this sometimes results in the occasional week where I come across things that are sometimes useful, sometimes not, sometimes practical, sometimes not, sometimes just lovely and sometimes just not! This week turned up a few things that I thought I would share with you! From the useful, the intriguing to the downright beautiful.

Let’s start where this blog usually does,

The Really Useful

I am using this app right now.  I did find this via a tipoff by a tech savvy person (Mark, that means you!).  It’s an app that allows you to control the speed of the fans within your computer.  I work on a Macbook Pro and it gets very very hot, especially when it’s on your lap.  With this app you can not only control the fan the heat levels of all the components within the inner workings of your machine, particularly the processor.

Random Finds

You can find this clever thing here

A Really Useful idea to keep your computer and it's components super cool in this heat! www.crystalideas.com Click To Tweet

The Not So Useful

There is not a lot to say about these.  Number two on my list of random finds are these Ralph & Russo boots. They come under the category of downright beautiful.  Me and my love of all things pink just wish to have these boots. Not to wear you understand, but to place on a shelf and admire as works of art! Do not even look at the cost of these boots, they are the price of a work of art!

Random finds

“With ornamental filigree leaves spiralling naturally up the heel, this Pink Satin Print Eden Ankle Boot with Rose Gold leaves harks back to the beauty and perfection of a lost paradise. As if from an enchanted fairy-tale, entangled in the dense foliage of the forest and claimed by a wandering damsel, the Eden ankle boot is celestial, refined and romantic.”

The Really Intriguing

This random find I think is particularly intriguing.  I always knew you could buy and sell gold and that as a commodity the value would go up and down.  I had no idea you could just buy it, keep or trade it yourself.  You can buy your own gold bars.  How cool is that! “Well Julie, how many gold bars do you have??”  “Oh, you know, just the odd one or two I am saving for a rainy day”

There are a few ways to own gold.  You can just buy it as jewellery to wear or just keep.  Jewellery is usually sold at a premium over the actual cost of the gold and this cost is very rarely achieved should you wish to sell it.

If you are looking at gold as an investment the way forward is to buy coins or bars (you can buy REALLY little ones!) from a reputable source.  Like everything in the world gold can be faked and there are a lot of forgeries out there.  Buy from a recommended trustworthy source or from The Royal Mint in the UK.  The Royal Mint offers numerous options to buy gold from teeny weeny amounts right up to full sized gold bars. It will even store it for you if you wish!

Random Finds

Gold bars

The Royal Mint in the UK. The Royal Mint offers numerous options to buy gold from teeny weeny amounts right up… Click To Tweet

I really like the idea of buying a gold coin or little bar as a keepsake gift for a birth, christening, wedding or other special life event.  It is something to keep as an investment for the future.

Should you wish to use gold as an investment The Royal Mint is a great place plus an online site www.bullionvault.com.  This online site allows you to buy and sell gold or just keep it as an investment. You can also trade it in a number of currencies. However, Bullion Vault do not send you your gold, it is held in one of their depositories around the world.  It makes fascinating reading!

The Really Unusual

How many ways are there to keep ourselves fit and healthy.  It would seem endless! I used to be an aerobic, water aerobic and Step Reebok instructor in the early 90’s.  Lots of brightly coloured lycra leotards, slouchy socks and huge classes. Since I stopped in around 1993 I have not really taken much interest in gym classes, preferring to play tennis, run or do nothing!

Just recently I have been persuaded to take up going to classes once again at our local gym (pretty swanky place with views from the running machines to die for!).  One class that is not on our fairly comprehensive list, that is to me, mostly incomprehensible, is Hydro Spinning.  Spin class (i have a basic grasp of this concept!) but your bike is in the water! No, really, I have photographic evidence!

Random Finds

 

As you cycle in the water the massaging effect of the water helps drain the lymphatic system, taking toxins away from the large muscle groups of the legs (think, helping reduce cellulite!).  Then the resistance of the water increases the amount of calories you burn and if you are already at a high fitness level, this calorie burn can be significantly higher than the equivalent class on dry land.

One great advantage I can see is that if you fall off the landing is a lot easier in water than it is on dry land! I have yet to brave a dry land spinning class but maybe if I see one of these Hydro spin classes I may be tempted to try it!

This wonderful article from The Guardian just about sums up this one of my random finds.

Summer is in full flow in the Northern Hemisphere with a heat wave hitting a number of places so to help you keep cool, check the little Amazon Shop for cooling essentials!

Now I shall pack away my fan cooled computer and head out for a Zumba class, another new experience for The really Useful Girl.

 

Random Things


Memory
Healthiness

Where Are My Keys?? Part 2

Welcome to Where Are My Keys Part 2.  Following on from Part 1, this week you will find more Really Useful tips to help improve our memory or at least not forget so many things.  Testing out different techniques you will be able to see which ones work best for you.

Exercise To Improve Memory

Exercise seems to play such an important part in every aspect of our general health and well being including keeping our brain and memory is great shape. Our brains need a never ending supply of oxygen, glucose and nutrients and this supply is delivered by blood. The circulation of blood through the brain also removes, toxins, waste products.  Exercise increases our circulation bringing more of the needed elements and removing more of the unwanted ones.

Exercise increases the number of brain cells in the hippocampus (the memory area of our brain). However, this does not necessarily mean having to sweat it out in a gym 5 times a week. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for healthy brain.

How often have you heard people say “I’m going for a walk to clear my head” or words to that effect. Walking does clear the mind, it takes us away from distractions, allows the mind to slow down, sort through the jumble of daily life that is usually whirling around in it. Just two hours of walking per week can increase the size of your hippocampus by up to 2%.

“Walk the dog every day, even if you don’t have one!”

Walk the dog every day, even if you don't have one! Click To Tweet

Memory

Tai Chi is an ancient martial art that involves learning controlled breathing combined with slow, precise and graceful movements that flow together to form a graceful dance.   It is low impact and you can take part at any fitness level and at any age. It is considered to be “Meditation in Motion” helping to promote inner calmness, improved balance, muscle control and circulation.

A key factor is it’s brain boosting powers.  Practising Tai Chi can increase the size of the hippocampus (the memory area of our brain) as shown in numerous studies around the world including this one.

Tai Chi can help boost your brain function Click To Tweet

You can take part in Tai Chi anywhere, it’s such a versatile activity.  You can do it alone, in a group, in a class, outdoors and indoors and there is no equipment necessary. Wear comfortable cloths, flat shoes, take a deep breath and make a start.

This is an excellent video on the Ten beginner Tai Chi moves to get you started!

Memory

If you are looking for something more sweat inducing than walking or Tai Chi you could try HIIT (high intensity interval training).  The variety of challenges your brain faces participating in this form of exercise keeps your brain healthy. You can learn all about HIIT here. I wouldn’t throw yourself into this form of exercise without fully researching how it can work for you and your current fitness levels.

Techniques for Remembering

  • Chunking – An especially good technique for remembering numbers, groups of 3 or 4 works very well. For example if you need to remember a mobile phone number such as 17653395080. (I made that up! Don’t call it!) Break it up into 3 pieces – 1765 then 3395 then 080.
  • Say it out loud – Repeat a name, instruction, address, dates or task out loud but several times not just once.
  • Write it down – “the pen is mightier than the keyboard” there are studies to show that using a pen and paper is a better way to remember things
  • Mnemonics – I am sure, like me, you all used this technique at school.  I remember learning the Colours of the Rainbow (Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain) and the fate of the wives of Henry 8th (Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived).  Try making up and learning your own to assist with remembering with things such as a short shopping list.  The optimum number of words you can realistically use this technique for is around 7 – 9.

Memory

Mindfulness Training

We all have times during the day when our mind wanders from the task in hand, we lose concentration, forget where we are up to or forget what we should be doing even if that task is at another point in the day.  Mindfulness training has been proven to improve our memory capacity.

Mindfulness training teaches us how to stop, relax, clear our thoughts, concentrate on the now, become aware of what your current thoughts are and how you are feeling.  Breathing techniques and yoga can be included as part of the training. This is an interesting beginners guide to Mindfulness Training and it’s origins.  I am looking for an online course on this, I’ll keep you posted!

There are lots of books on Tai Chi in this weeks little shop.

So, now I am off out for a coffee, but, Where are my keys??

 

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memory
Healthiness

Where Are My Keys? Part 1

Where are my keys? Where is my phone? Where are my glasses? Every day, how many times do you ask yourself these questions or questions very similar? Memory, or lack of it, seems to be something we all suffer from on a daily basis.  I very often walk into a room and wonder why on earth I am there. I must have gone there for something but by the time I get there – no – it’s gone. Do you come back to the carpark and wonder where on earth you left the car? I do, constantly.  Two very recent events known as ‘where on earth is the car’  and ‘uh oh, left my phone in the recently returned rental car’, have just happened to me.  I had already driven 10 miles when I realised I had left my phone.  I ‘lost’ the car when it happened to be pouring with rain, I had no jacket and I was wandering around a huge carpark thinking, it must be here somewhere!  It didn’t help that it was a rental car and I couldn’t really remember what it looked like.

memory

This is sooooooo me!

There must be a solution.  There must be a way I can improve my memory skills. We have all heard of ‘brain training’ and similar programmes so I decided that improving my memory skills is now on my agenda for the next few months.

Within our brain the hippocampus is the very small place where memory function takes place. It is not a muscle. It is an organisational tool. A tool we must work at to keep in good working order. To improve our memory we must look at how we organise information and make changes and improvements. We have three stages of memory –

  1. Encoding – we learn something
  2. Consolidating – we fix it into our long term memory
  3. Retrieval – we call it up when required

There are many ways to improve your memory and this week will focus on key areas that you can very easily implement immediately into your daily life

Eat & Sleep Your Way To Improved Memory!

These are essentials to our overall health and play an important role in keeping our memory in good working order.

  • Vitamins C, B, & K all assist in brain function
  • Vitamin E, particularly from avocado, lowers the risk of brain degenerating disease such as Alzheimers.
  • The superfood Blueberries provide us with anthocyanin,  these are linked to improved memory
  • Rosemary has been associated with memory power since Shakespeare wrote “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” It is packed full of antioxidants that reduce the levels of free radicals that damage cells in our brains.
  • Tomatoes give us Lycopene to protect against brain cell degeneration
  • A glass of red wine provides us with Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant
  • Dehydration causes memory loss and keeping hydrated by drinking water is important for good memory function
  • Exercise that involves hand eye coordination is the best type for keeping your brain healthy
  • Good sleep is important as while you are asleep your brain repairs and improves ……. connections.  Here are two articles on tips on how to improve your sleep and create good sleep conditions

Memory

Organise The Chaos!

Our brains are not particularly meant to multi task.  Have you found that you cannot read and hold a conversation at the same time.  I cannot read and listen to music on earphones at the same time, my brain just will not do it.  The same applies to our daily routines.  If your life and home are chaotic you are not giving your memory the opportunity to perform at it’s best. Make a plan to organise any areas of daily life that are chaotic. Once your daily routines are planned and organised you will find that your memory improves dramatically.

  • Use a planner
  • Make lists, lists and more lists
  • Prepare a daily chores list
  • Keep your desk/workarea tidy
  • Prepare and keep to a cleaning/tidying schedule to keep your home well organised
  • Delegate
Once your daily routines are planned and organised you will find that your memory improves dramatically. Click To Tweet
Memory

Keeping your life, work space and home environment will help keep your memory working well

Laughter Is The Best Medicine!

You can improve your memory by laughing! Laughter uses lots of different areas of your brain unlike other emotions which use only specific areas. Laughing at jokes and anticipating the punch lines works areas of the brain used for learning new skills.

You can improve your memory by laughing! Laughter uses lots of different areas of your brain unlike other… Click To Tweet

Making a conscious effort to bring laughter into your daily routine will help boost brain function and improve memory.  You can combine this with another important element, socialisation.  We are, by nature, social animals.  We are not meant to be alone or in isolation. Memory “In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.” Bring laughter into your daily routine –

  • Watch funny shows on TV or You Tube
  • Read funny books
  • Spend time with children and pets, they are always good for a laugh!
  • Roll down a grassy hill
  • Dance in front of a mirror, laughter guaranteed!
  • Reminisce over fun events
  • Keep jokes and funny pictures on your computer or phone as screen savers
  • Throw peanuts into your friends mouth
  • Force it! Just make yourself laugh
  • Take selfies with your friends (like my friend Annie & I did) guaranteed laughter! And you can look at them time and time again and laugh again and again!

people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline Click To Tweet Memory

Take a look here to find some funny little things to make you smile! Liz is an author and she creates lots of funny little images too!

“When we’re kids we do things just because they’re fun and they feed our creative spirit. The magic is in the doing not the results. Laugh heartily at your drawing that makes a man’s head look like a pumpkin. Crack up till you are totally and completely off-key. It’s still fun and it frees you.” ~ Suzanne Dosal Gray

Next time I will share with you more detailed tips and tricks that you can work on to help improve your memory.

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PS! Brain improving books feature here this week!

 

Fruit Infused Water
Healthiness

Refreshing Fruity Goodness!

In the continuing quest to reduce the amount of sugar I consume and whilst looking for something yummy to drink (apart from Prosecco!) I am now loving fruit infused water also known as Spa Water.  Plain water will suddenly become really boring once you start to make your own cocktails using fresh herbs and fruits.  We already know that it is so important to keep our bodies properly hydrated but keeping them hydrated without resorting to soda, caffeine or sugar laden juices is sometimes a challenge! Not any more.

Plain water will suddenly become really boring once you start to make your own cocktails using fresh herbs and… Click To Tweet

With summer approaching, bringing an array of lovely fruit, it’s an excellent time to experiment with your favourite flavour combinations. One of the reasons I love these fruit infused water recipes is that you can use sparkling water to make them even more tasty plus this means my water hating hubby is also a convert. Fruit Infused Water

Is It Healthy?

The recipe list is seemingly endless and there are combinations that have definite health benefits and these are the ones I am working my way through. You can use any combination that suits your tastes.

Metabolism Boosting & Fat Burning

Lemon, Tangerine, Green Tea, Cucumber, Mango, Mint & Ginger

Antioxidant

Raspberry, Lemon, Blackberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Apple, Cranberry  & Cinnamon sticks

Relaxing

Strawberry, Pineapple & Sage, lemon & Lavender

Aids Digestion

Kiwi, Lemon, Lime, Cucumber, Pear, Ginger, Mint &  Cloves

Detox

Grapefruit, Kiwi, Strawberry, Pomegranates  Tangerine, Green Tea & Mint

Fruit Infused Water, So Easy To Make!

You can use as much or as little fruit and herbs as you wish. It’s all down to your own preference. It’s that easy! Fruit, herbs and mineral water – done! Here are my top tips to create the perfect flavours.

  • The longer you leave citrus fruit to infuse the more bitter your water will be so experiment leaving it in for different time periods to achieve the balance of flavour you like best.
  • You can leave the fruit to infuse for between 4 – 8 hours.  Taste it after each hour to decide your preferred flavour level.
  • Fruit infused water will keep fresh in the fridge for 3 days.
  • Flavours are released faster at room temperature.  Infuse your fruit for an hour at room temperature before you refrigerate it.
  • Remove the rind of citrus fruits particularly if they are not organic. You don’t want chemicals and pesticides in your healthy water! Thoroughly wash and brush other fruits.
  • Use room temperature or cold water to infuse your fruit.  Hot or boiling water will destroy the valuable vitamins and enzymes that fruit contain.
  • Keep your fruit water in the fridge for 3 days and if it has been unrefrigerated for more than 4 hours do not use it.  Like any fresh food it will deteriorate if left unrefridgerated.
  • For an eco friendly drinking straw try these glass ones .
  • Use fizzy/sparkling water as an alternative to still/natural water.
  • Remove the fruits when the flavour reaches your preferred taste.  The longer you leave it in the stronger the flavour will become.
Fruit flavours are released faster at room temperature. Infuse your fruit for an hour at room temperature… Click To Tweet

My Current Favourites

We have two flavours that we are loving at the moment.  Strawberry, Kiwi & Mint with sparkling water and Watermelon, Pineapple & Lemon using still water.

Fruit Infused Water

All the ingredients to get started

Fruit Infused Water

The fruit and mint chopped and ready to put in the jar

Fruit Infused Water

All the ingredients for the next batch

Fruit Infused Water

All chopped and read for the jug. Still water for this one.

Fruit Infused Water

Two Fruit Infused Waters steeping for 1 hour out of the fridge

If you enjoy making these fruit infused waters you can buy special jars and bottles turning you into a complete professional. These are great for taking your fruit infused water out and about with you.  Available in fun colours and many sizes, they are available here!

Have fun experimenting with different recipes and why not share your fruit infused water recipes with us in the comments box below.  Your water need never be boring again!

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White Vinegar
LifeStyle

Vinegar – Not Just For Chips!

As promised in my last blog, Easy Peasy Spring Cleaning, all things vinegar and cleaning related is next up.  I discovered so much can be done with natural things that you will already have in your cupboards and in particular white vinegar, lemons and baking soda.  With these 3 ingredients you can clean almost the whole house.  White vinegar is natural replacement for chemical products that performs better, is antibacterial and pet friendly and not just for chips or even salad!

What is White vinegar?

The Egyptians are probably the first to start using vinegar from around 3000BC primarily to kill bacteria. In Babylon around 5000BC it was used to preserve food, used in medicine and wine making.  Vinegar has been around and in constant use ever since.  White or distilled vinegar is achieved by the distillation of Malt. White Vinegar

A General All Rounder!

To create an all purpose cleaner from your white vinegar you will need to add just a few ingredients into your clean spray bottle

  • 8 oz / 225 mls of White Vinegar
  • 10 oz / 280 mls of Water
  • 4 oz / 110 mls of Lemon Juice (you can use fresh or bottled)
  •  2 oz / 55 mls of Washing Up Liquid
  • Your choice of essential oil.  I like to add a few teaspoons of lavender.  It reduces the smell of vinegar. You could also use the herb Sage or Orange or Vanilla essence. You can also add Tea Tree as an antibacterial element too.

white vinegar

You now have an all purpose cleaner that is effective, safe and free from chemicals. A few of it’s many talents include:

  • Removes sticky label residue (why do shops use those things!)
  • An effective spectacles cleaner
  • Removes crayon and pen marks off walls
  • A brilliant shower screen cleaner (soap scum – gone!)
  • Kitchen & bathroom surface cleaner
  • Keeps insects and ants away (they hate vinegar!)

White Vinegar

And There Is More!

Put two containers of white vinegar in your empty dishwasher, one on the top and one in the bottom.  Run the washer on the hottest and longest cycle.  The vinegar will clean all the internal parts, remove limescale and freshen your machine.  Next run a quick rinse cycle with nothing added to finish the job.

You can make an effective toilet or clogged drain cleaner by using 3/4 of a cup of baking soda and 1/2 a cup of white vinegar.  cover the drain as it will foam up. Leave this for at least 30 minutes then rinse with hot water.

If you have damp or musty smelling towels or bed linen you can freshen them in the washing machine.  Use 1/2 cup of baking soda instead of detergent and use white vinegar instead of fabric softener.  Voila, super fresh clean towels.

You can make an effective ink stain removing soak by mixing 2:1 parts milk and vinegar. This will also remove yellow staining too. If you heat white vinegar it will become an effective chewing gum remover.

A soak in warm water and white vinegar will remove cloudy stains from your glassware. This has been a particularly excellent use for me.

A soak in warm water and white vinegar will remove cloudy stains from your glassware. This has been a… Click To Tweet

White vinegar is a fantastic weed killer.  Mix 1/2 cup of salt to a gallon of vinegar and add a squeeze of washing up liquid (this helps it stick to the foliage).  Use a spray bottle and spray the weeds.  The next day your weeds will be dead.  Take care spraying though as it will also kill your grass!

A bowl of water with 1/2 cup of vinegar and lemon juice will makes an excellent microwave cleaner. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat for a few minutes. The steam released into the microwave dissolves all the dirt inside. When the few minutes are over, remove the bowl (carefully, it will be extremely hot!) and just wipe down the inside of the oven.  The lemon makes it smell fresh too.

If you add two tablespoons of white vinegar to the pan when you are boiling eggs it will prevent them cracking.

White Vinegar

So, as you can see, this inexpensive and natural product is a valuable asset to your cleaning cupboard as well as your grocery cupboard.  And anytime you want to mask the smell whilst using its cleaning powers just add a few drops of your favourite essential oil.

Try adding essential oils or tea tree oil to your homemade white vinegar cleaner to add a more refreshing… Click To Tweet

I have to do this as I really do not like the smell but it’s worth a little bit of stinkiness to use natural ingredients instead of chemicals.

There are even more Really Useful uses for white vinegar on my Really Useful Pinterest Board. There is even a spray to use on horses!

Now I am off to clean something with my homemade natural spray which has, of course, a pink top!

You can find lots of natural cleaning products in my Little Amazon Shop this week too! XOXO

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Spring Cleaning
LifeStyle

Easy Peasy Spring Cleaning!

Spring has sprung! Well, in the northern hemisphere it has. Although I think a few places are less than spring like at the moment.  Snow in April in the North West of England is not so spring like. Has spring sprung where you are yet? It has here!

And what does spring bring, besides baby lambs and daffodils? Spring cleaning!! It’s that time of year again.  But what if I can help you make the spring cleaning a bit easier this year? Oh yay! I hear you cry.  So lets get on with it. Here are a few ways to make this years spring cleaning easy peasy.

First things first! Cleaning is always easier when you have some music to sing and dance to while you work! Here is a little playlist to help you along!

Spring Cleaning is always easier when you have some great music to sing along with! Click To Tweet

Don’t Forget

It’s easy to overlook certain cleaning tasks that are not right under your nose.  It’s easy to remember to clean the rugs and carpets or to have the curtains cleaned but don’t forget about the things that are not so obvious –

  • Clean the air filters on bathroom extractor fans
  • Clean the washing machine & dryer filters
  • Replace the filter or clean the inside of the cooker hood
  • Refresh and clean your mattresses (how to do this follows!)
  • Replace old winter room fragrances for spring ones
  • Throw away expired medicines, groceries, herbs and spices
  • Put soft toys into the freezer overnight to sanitise them (it kills off dust mites!)
  • Take winter coats to the cleaners, shoes & boots to be repaired before they are put away until next season
  • Change the batteries in smoke detectors, carbon monoxide monitors & security system panels
  • Check the garden furniture is all in working order and cleaned before you need to use it
Spring Cleaning

Replace winter fragrances with fresh uplifting summery scents of White Neroli, Mimonsa, Lemon & Fresh Grass

Easy Peasy Spring Cleaning Tips

White vinegar has so many uses when it comes to cleaning.  Rather than buy many different cleaning products packed full of chemicals, white vinegar with a few other natural ingredients will do almost all the cleaning you need.

This is an easy way to clean your shower head or taps

  1. Get a ziplock or sealable plastic bag
  2. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar
  3. 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  4. 4 or 5 drops of washing up liquid
  5. Put the shower or tap head in the bag and tie around with an elastic band
  6. Leave it for an hour (the mixture will foam up)
  7. Rinse off the mixture and use a small brush to brush away anything left of the shower head or tap (it will just come off really easily).
  8. Job done!

 

Spring Cleaning

 

White wine vinegar is such a versatile product it warrants a whole blog post of it’s own! Coming Next Time!!!

 

Spring Cleaning

An easy way to keep your fridge clean is to keep things in crates – just take the crates out to clean plus if there is a leak it stays confined to a small area!

  • To quickly clean lampshades use a lint roller
  • An antacid tablet added to water in vases will remove stubborn stains from the bottom which are not usually reachable
  • If you paint the rim of metal cans or aerosols with a coat of nail polish it will prevent them from rusting and leaving rings in your bathroom or kitchen
  • Clean the skirting boards using a dryer sheet, the residue it leaves keeps the boards cleaner for longer
  • Use half a grapefruit dipped in course sea salt to scrub baths, sinks and toilets.  The acid in the grapefruit breaks down grime quickly and the salt rubs it away
  • Put your bathroom soap dishes and toothbrush/toothpaste holders through the dishwasher
  • Get a Magic Eraser.  They are just brilliant!
Spring Cleaning

You can find these clever things via my little Amazon Shopping Page!

Easy Mattress Spring Cleaning!

This is an all natural way to clean and refresh your mattresses.  It’s really easy and can be done any time when you are changing your bed linen.  You can do this not just in spring but as many times during a year as you like! No chemicals involved here either.

Fill a jar wth baking soda and add around 15 drops of your favourite essential oil but Lavender is great for this particular job.  Shake the jar and so the baking soda and essential oil are mixed.  Then using a sieve sprinkle the mixture over mattresses.  Leave it for at least an hour.  The longer you can leave it the better.  Then using your vacuum hose just remove it. Your mattress will be refreshed and smell good too.  The baking soda draws out moisture and dirt and the essential oil repels dust mites.

Baking Soda & Lavender sprinkled over your mattress will naturally clean and refresh it! Click To Tweet

Spring Cleaning

If you have any spring cleaning tips to make life a little easier we would love to hear them! For now, I shall be off to find more storage crates to organise my fridge!

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PS. Don’t forget that you can find magic erasers in my little shop this week!

fruit and vegetables
Healthiness, LifeStyle

Fruit And Vegetables! Are You In or Out??

How am I going to make this even remotely interesting! Fruit and vegetables are not exactly amusing especially when, like me, you are not their biggest fan.  Fruit, yes, I love fruit, but veggies I can take or leave and mostly would like to leave! The reason behind taking an interest in the health and well being of my fruit and vegetables stems from a big concern of mine – food waste! I hate food waste.  I hate waste full stop but food waste drives me crazy.  My mission is to throw away the absolute minimum amount of food. I have just returned from a two week trip to visit The Offspring in Thailand.  On my return my bowl of kiwi fruit and lemons were an overripe liquid mess as The Hubby hadn’t touched them. In my quest to learn from this, a re-think on fruit and veggie storage at Really Useful HQ is in order.

  • In the UK the food waste amounts to around 7 million tonnes per year and the bulk of this is fresh produce
  • One third of all the world food production is wasted each year – around 1 trillion tonnes (just how many 0’s is that?)
  • In the USA food waste is around 35% of the total supply.
  • This is a really interesting article of food waste by National Geographic 

 

fruit and vegetables

 

Fruits Produce Gas! No, Really? Yep!

Some fruits emit ethylene gas. Well who knew!!  Ethylene is a natural plant hormone that assists with ripening.  Storing fruits that emit ethylene next to non ethylene producing fruit and vegetables will cause them to deteriorate fast.

Fruits that produce Ethylene are –

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Figs
  • Pears
  • Honeydew and Canteloupe Melon
  • Unripe bananas
  • Tomatos
  • Plums
A wounded fruit will ripen faster as the wound triggers Ethylene production. Check your fruit for damage… Click To Tweet

To Refrigerate or Not To Refrigerate?

I have been in the habit of throwing all the fruit and vegetables into the chiller drawer at the bottom on the fridge.  This is not the way! Oops, I have been doing it all wrong all this time! There is a bit of science involved and with just a few simple changes your fruit and vegetables will keep fresher for longer reducing your food waste.  By storing your fresh food the right way not only will it stay fresher longer but you’ll preserve their great flavours too. Think; fridge cold, tasteless tomatoes, yuk!

Out of the fridge, unwashed & in a bag (moisture from washing encourages bacteria. Wash when ready to use) –

  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Lettuces
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Potatoes
  • Onions

fruit and vegetables

Out of the Fridge –

  • Aubergine
  • Watermelon
  • Basil
  • Peppers
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Limes
  • Tomatoes

fruit and vegetables

In the Fridge –

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Green Beans
  • Sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Grapes
  • Courgettes
  • Cherries
  • Herbs (except Basil)
  • Apples
  • Strawberries

fruit and vegetables

Fruit And Vegetables Tips And Tricks

  • Keep Kiwi out of the fridge until they are ripe, then refrigerate them
  • To keep bananas fresh for longer, break up the bunch and wrap cling film around the stem of each one and once they are at your preferred ripeness keep them in the fridge to stop the ripening process
  • Some fruit and vegetables produce odour and others absorb it. Keeping an open box of baking soda in your fridge will absorb moisture and odours. Replace this every few months
  • Keep mushrooms in a paper bag to prolong their freshness
  • Have your fridge temperature set at the optimum temperature, -4 c or 40 f
Removing the tops off beets, carrots and radishes increases their shelf life Click To Tweet
fruit and vegetables

A fold away banana hook – what a great idea!

If you have any tips and tricks on how you store your fruit and veggies to keep them fresh and tasty for longer why not share them with us all.  In case you are need something to do with all your fruit that you are now storing and keeping fresh for longer why not try one of the fruit infuser water bottles from my Shopping Time page.  Watch this space for a blog all about these coming very soon!

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Afternoon Tea
LifeStyle

Tea Part 2 – The Perfect Afternoon

Remember in Tea part 1 I mentioned where the sport of Afternoon Tea originated? Yes, of course you do! This week I am going to expand on all things afternoon tea related*.  Afternoon tea is one of my favourite sports.  The mere fact that cake is involved is enough to hook me in.  Add into the mix delicious tea and maybe a glass of something fizzy and I’m in! A lovely way to spend an afternoon with friends and family to celebrate a special day or just to simply enjoy the experience.

Afternoon Tea

An amazing designer Afternoon Tea at The Berkeley London

Afternoon tea, in many places, is now a complete experience rather than just a cuppa and a sandwich. It is currently such a fashionable pastime that many places who create specialist afternoon tea must be booked months and months in advance to secure a table.

Where Did All This Scrumptiousness Come From??

In the early 1800’s the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, friend of Queen Victoria, felt a little hungry in the late afternoon.  Not starving hungry so as to need a full meal, just a little peckish.  A pot of tea and a sandwich around 4 o clock was the solution to satisfy Anna till dinner time around 8pm.

During the summer months Anna invited friends to join her for Tea, Sandwiches and a stroll around the grounds of Woburn Abbey where she lived.  Very soon, this became such a popular event that many of the other important society ladies copied her and so the sport of  taking afternoon tea and afternoon tea parties was born.

To go with this new fashion for Afternoon tea, fashion took a new turn in the late 1800’s early 1900’s.  Dressing for tea became a very important part of the afternoon tea performance. Ladies would wear sumptuous gowns, long gloves, carry elaborate parasols to stroll around gardens and generally dress to impress. The men of the time had noticed these ladies gatherings, all dressed most attractively and so afternoon tea became an acceptable event for meeting.

Mariano Fortuny, a Spanish born designer, was working from Venice with his wife a dressmaker. He created a dress that became the classic tea dress. Inspired by the classic Greek column dress, Mariano created a dress of finely pleated silk weighed down with many beads so the dress held it’s shape and flowed with the body.

Afternoon Tea

A classic Mariano Fortuny gown. Just stunning! I would love to wear this!

What To Serve At Afternoon Tea??

Traditionally afternoon tea was just sandwiches. Then came the addition of scones followed by small cakes. As the fashion grew and grew, it became an event to serve more and more elaborate pastries and sweets. I think the reason I am such a fan of afternoon tea is that cake is always involved!

Afternoon tea

Now I know this is all a bit upside down compared to my rules below but its so stunning I just had to share it.

Get out your best 3 tier cake stand. The bottom layer is for the Sandwiches. Crustless, finger cut light bread with light fillings such as cucumber, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise are perfect. One of each choice per person is fine.

Layer number two is for your scones, jam, butter and clotted cream. The debate rages on; jam on first or butter? For me, if I was having butter (which I don’t usually, I like jam and cream on their own) I would put the butter on first. You?? Just one scone per person is necessary.

Layer number three (the best bit!) is for the cakes. Here, anything goes as long as the cakes are individual and delicious. Two cakes per person is perfect.

Lest we forget! The tea!  Traditionally Darjeeling was the tea of choice.  An ideal brewing time for the tea is 3 – 6 minutes.  If left any longer the delicate flavours of the tea can be damaged.

Milk in first or not?? There is no difinitive set procedure. If you pour the tea in first or your tea is poured for you this makes it easier to add the correct amount of milk to your own taste.

Afternoon Tea

A delightful Location for Afternoon Tea

Just to help you along if you are thinking of creating your own afternoon tea party, here are a few recipes that are a mix of traditional and contemporary.

 

Afternoon Tea

 

 

Find the recipe for these delicious Lemony, Crab & Cucumber Sandwiches HERE

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoon TeaFind the recipe for classic Scones HERE

 

Afternoon Tea

Find the recipe for these contemporary cake lollipops HERE

On my Really Useful Pinterest Board you will find lots of reviews of afternoon teas around the world including London, Paris & Hong Kong.

Turn your special occasion into a special day with an afternoon tea party. However you decide to have your afternoon tea, traditional or contemporary it will always be a memorable event. Enjoy!

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Tea
Healthiness, LifeStyle

Tea Part 1 – 10 Terrific Teas

From my last blog, Chamomile got me thinking more about tea. How much do we know about the health benefits of drinking tea. Can we include our typical builders tea here not just herbal type? Yes, we can! It turns out that Teas are some kind of wonder drink that we should all be drinking every day, numerous times each day in fact.

I like tea, all kinds of tea. I do struggle with a builders brew unless the tea bag has been just waved over the hot water so it is weak. Mint, Earl Grey & Chamomile are my favourites.  I can drink it without sugar, a major achievement for me, something I have not quite yet managed to conquer with coffee.

Tea

I think I must find the pattern and knit some of these!

First, A Potted Tea History

(Hahaha! See what i did there!)

In England we became tea drinkers thanks to a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza.  Catherine married Charles II in the seventeenth century. As a child in Portugal, Catherine had always drunk tea. She preferred it to the Ale the English drank at that time.  Tea was very expensive. Once the fashion had become established it became the preserve of the wealthiest in society.

The East India trading company was the first major importers to England. Teas was imported via the trading port of what was Bombay, now Mumbai. In the eighteenth century the government removed tea-taxes. More was smuggled into the country than was legally imported. Removing the taxes made tea become less expensive. As such the trend for tea drinking spread to the middle and working classes.

Cafes and coffee shops became established during the nineteenth century. These places served non-alcoholic drinks making them places suitable for ladies to attend alone. It is from these cafes and coffee shops that the fashion for afternoon tea evolved.

Tea

This is such a pretty tea pot!

Ten Top Teas

The list of herbal teas and their relevant properties is long, too long to list them all one by one.  The ten here are some of the most popular and all packed full of goodness.  I have condensed some into groups that have the same or similar properties otherwise we will be here all week!

Black, Green & Oolong

  • Lower the risk of high blood pressure
  • 2 -3 cups per day can lower the risk of a stroke
  • All three contain caffeine which increases metabolism
  • Long term regular drinking of these can lower fasting blood sugar levels thus lowering the risk of diabetes

Lemon Balm, Mint & Ginger

  • All three will aid the digestive system
  • Calming and aids sleep.
  • Powerful anti-inflammatory properties can ease aches and pains quickly
  • They calm stomach acid production and help ease motion sickness or queasiness
  • Soothe sore throats and ease coughs
  • Promote healthy blood vessels so improving circulation
Lemon Balm, Mint & Ginger Tea are perfect for a healthy happy digestive system! Click To Tweet
Tea

Fresh Ginger

Cinnamon

  • Cinnamon helps to lower cholesterol
  • It has anti bacterial and anti fungal properties
  • Contains powerful antioxidants
  • Improves circulation
  • It is an anti-inflammatory

Rooibos

  • This is a red tea from South Africa that is low in tannins and totally caffeine free
  • It is an antioxidant
  • Can improve liver function significantly
  • It can relieve insomnia with it’s calming properties
  • Lower stress levels
  • Packed with minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium, iron and calcium helping to keep bones and teeth healthy
tea

Red Rooibos from South Africa

Dandelion

  • Caffeine free
  • Keeps digestive system healthy and stimulates the liver
  • A natural diuretic it will help to reduce water retention
  • Dandelion is packed full of vitamins and minerals
  • An Anti inflammatory
  • Anti-rheumatic properties
Dandelion tea is caffeine free, packed full of vitamins and minerals and will keep your liver in great working… Click To Tweet
Tea

Dandelions

Fennel

  • A powerful aid to digestion
  • Fennel contains creosol and alpha-pinene that eases coughs and bronchial irritations
  • It is very calming and promotes mental clarity
  • It can help balance hormone levels during menopause
Tea

Here is my little collection! Fresh mint is not easy to find here so bags it is. Tregothnan is from a Plantation of in Cornwall.

Now I think it must be time to put on the kettle, maybe there will be a biscuit involved too!

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Part 2 of this series will be my next blog and be all things Afternoon Tea related!