Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Earth Day Activity for Kids

Recycled Art
Earth Day is coming up next week and we’ve got a great activity to do with the kids to get them thinking about our waste and how it takes all of us to reduce, reuse and recycle. Before your next garbage day, gather the kids to go through the garbage with you, looking for the following things:

  • How many items are in the regular garbage that should be in the recycling bin?
  • Is there anything that could have been used again before being tossed?
  • Are there items that could have been donated to charity instead of thrown away?
  • Discuss ways you as a family can remember to sort garbage more effectively.
  • Look at the bottom of the packaging for recycling symbols and talk about what they mean.
  • Are there items that could be reused again? Think creatively about new purposes for items you are tossing.

Finally, give the kids a challenge: allow  them to reclaim five items from the garbage or recycling and turn it into an art project or a repurposed useful item. Encourage them to think outside the box and use the materials to create something entirely new. Above are some beautiful examples of recycled art to get the ideas flowing, everything from an office organizer to a colorful lampshade and bouquet of cardboard flowers. More than just a busy exercise, this activity will get everybody in the family thinking about the products we buy, the amount of waste we create, and how we can work together to reduce our impact on the planet one family at a time.

How to Create a Living Easter Basket

Say goodbye to stringy cellophane grass for your Easter baskets this year and plant some live grass for stunning results. Get the kids to help you put it together—at least 10 days in advance—and spend the days leading up to Easter watching it come to life. (Plus, if you plant wheat grass, you can juice it too!)

Living Easter Basket Directions

  • Choose a potting container that fits inside your basket, or line your basket with a planting tray or waxed paper.
  • Add fresh potting soil, leaving about a half-inch from the top of the container, and reserving some to top the seeds.
  • Sprinkle grass seeds over the top of the soil (wheat grass or any quick grow variety).
  • Sprinkle just enough potting soil to barely cover the seeds.
  • Water the soil, just enough to keep it moist to the touch on top.
  • Continue watering daily and place basket in a sunny spot near a window.
  • Seeds should begin sprouting within 3-4 days and by 10-12 days, you should have a lush bed of grass.

{Image via iheartsaltlake}

Homemade Spring Potpourri

Mrs. Fields Secrets Springtime Potpourri
Store shelves are lined with scented candles, diffusers and air fresheners, but everything you need to have a fabulous smelling home is right in your kitchen. Making your own potpourri is quick, easy, inexpensive and a great way to use up produce and spices before they go bad. You can store them in the fridge for 1-2 weeks and even give them as gifts. Here’s what you’ll need:

Lemon Rosemary Vanilla Potpourri

1 mason jar
1 lemon
2-3 sprigs rosemary
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Fill mason jar half way with water. Slice lemon and place in jar. Tuck in sprigs of rosemary, then add water to fill the rest of the jar. Add the teaspoon of vanilla on top, then top the jar with a lid and place in the fridge until use. To use, pour ingredients of the jar into a small saucepan and add another jarful of water. Simmer on low heat, adding water as needed. Potpourri will last for 24-48 hours of simmering. (Note: Do not leave potpourri simmering unattended or overnight.) You can also simmer mixture in a small crockpot.

Variations
1 orange, 1 cinnamon stick, and 1 inch of fresh ginger
1 lemon, 1 lime, 3 sprigs of thyme
1 orange, star anise, clove

Fun Science Experiments in the Kitchen

Whether you’ve got a science fair coming up or you just want to have some fun in the kitchen, we’ve gathered some ridiculously cool experiments to try at home.

The “Naked Egg” Experiment: Place a raw egg in a glass and cover with white vinegar. Leave for 24 hours, then gently pour egg out into your hand and gently rub off any excess shell. The egg will actually gently bounce on a hard surface. Check out this video for more information.

Colorful Celery Stalks Experiment: Add a few inches of water in a glass and add several drops of food coloring into it. Place cut celery stalks (the leafy ends work best) into the colored water and allow to sit for 8-24 hours. The colored water will travel up the stalks, carrying the color with it. This works beautifully with white carnations too.

Tornado in a Jar Experiment: Take a clear child’s vitamin bottle and fill it with water and a few squirts of dish soap. Secure the lid and then shake the bottle vigorously and watch a tornado appear. Consider adding glitter for some sparkle.

The Salt Garden Experiment: Use cleaned egg shells to create colorful salt gardens that look otherworldly. Add two tablespoons of water, sea salt, and Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Agent to the shells, along with a drop or two of food coloring. After 24 hours, add another two tablespoons of salt. Then, every few days, add more water, salt and bluing agent to the container. Garden will continue to grow as long as it is maintained.

The “Elephant’s Toothpaste” Experiment: This is extremely fun, but messy! You’ll need a clean 16 ounce soda bottle, 1/2 cup of 20-volume hydrogen peroxide (find it at a beauty supply), one packet of dry yeast, 3 tablespoons of warm water, liquid dish soap, food coloring, a small cup and, of course, safety goggles! (You’ll also want to do this on a plastic tablecloth or a rimmed baking sheet.) Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the bottle then add about 8 drops of food coloring followed by one tablespoon of dish soap and swirl the mixture around for a few seconds. Mix the warm water and yeast in the cup and stir for about 30 seconds. Affix your safety goggles and pour the water/yeast mixture into the bottle and watching it foam and overflow!

How to Make Silky Scrambled Eggs

Are you ready for the cold, hard truth? You are probably cooking your eggs wrong. Don’t feel bad; most everybody is guilty. While there’s nothing wrong with a quick, two-minute scramble, you owe it to yourself to learn the correct way to make scrambled eggs. It’s like eating pure silk, a simply divine experience. All you need is the right technique and a little bit of extra time. Once you try these, you will never settle for another two-minute scramble again.

Silky Scrambled Eggs
from Mark Bittman

4 or 5 large eggs
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them until the yolks and whites are just combined. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the cream. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat for about one minute. Add the butter or oil and swirl it around the pan. After it melts, but before it foams, turn the heat to low. Add the eggs to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. After ten minutes or so, the eggs will begin to form curds. Keep stirring, breaking up the curds as they form, until the mixture is a mass of soft curds. After 30-45 minutes, when the texture is even and silky, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Spring Cleaning: How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

Today’s spring cleaning tip is a fairly simple task that will save you money and, in the right circumstances, save your property or your even lives. Last week we cleaned our washing machines and this week we are cleaning the vent on our clothes dryers. As with your washer, keeping this appliance clean will extend the life of the dryer, but also result in  clothes drying faster, using less energy and costing less money. But did you know that plugged dryer vents are a common cause of household fires? That makes this spring cleaning task a must do! Let’s break it down step-by-step:

  • Unplug your dryer from the electricity.
  • If your dryer uses gas power, shut off the gas while you perform the task and unplug the gas line from the dryer.
  • Pull the dryer out about 1-2 feet, keeping the accordion-type hose still attached at both ends.
  • Use a screwdriver to loosen the clamp on the end of the hose that attaches to the dryer. Once loose, pull the dryer completely out so that you can get to all areas.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, reach inside the back vent of the dryer and remove lint and debris.
  • Using a screwdriver to loosen the clamp, remove the other end of the accordion hose that leads to your exterior vent.
  • Examine the accordion hose for tears, then use your hand or the vacuum to clear out the interior of the hose. If there is major buildup or blockage, use a long wooden spoon or dowel to break it up and loosen the debris. Patch any tears or replace hose if it is damaged.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, clear out any lint and debris from the portal that leads to the exterior vent.
  • Re-connect both ends of the accordion hose to each port and secure the clamps.
  • Push the dryer back into place carefully, so as not to crimp or loosen the accordion hose. DO NOT reconnect gas or electricity yet.
  • Locate the exterior dryer vent on the outside of your house. Using a screwdriver, remove the external cover and clean it thoroughly.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, reach as far inside the vent as possible to clear out lint, debris, or any blockage.
  • Re-attach the vent cover.
  • To test the air flow, tie a light piece of ribbon or string to the vent cover.
  • Plug in electricity and gas.
  • Place a load of laundry in the dryer and start it.
  • Go back to the exterior vent and make sure the ribbon is blowing, indicating that the airflow is good.
  • Remove the ribbon and enjoy a well-working, well-vented dryer!

Helpful hints for dryer use:

  • Use only half of a dryer sheet for each load. This will cut down on the “waxy” buildup in your vents.
  • Don’t overload your dryer. This can overheat the machinery and also burn clothes.
  • Clean dryer vents every six months for best results.
  • For safety purposes, never start your dryer before leaving the house.

Spring Cleaning: How to Clean Your Washing Machine

This year for spring cleaning, we’re cleaning our cleaning machines. Last week, we cleaned our dishwashers, and this week we turn to our washing machines. Depending on your type of machine and your local climate, washing machines can become moldy and mildewed, which keeps your clothes from getting truly clean. Giving your washing machine a good cleanse will not only lengthen its life, it will result in cleaner clothes that also last longer and smell better. Win/win.

For Top-Loading Washing Machines

  • Select the hottest and longest wash cycle and start it with an empty drum.
  • As the water is filling in the drum, pour in 4 cups of distilled white vinegar.
  • Leave the lid open to stall the wash cycle and allow the water and vinegar to sit and soak for one hour.
  • While the water sits, wipe down the exterior of the machine, including knobs and buttons with an all-purpose cleanser.
  • Wipe or rinse out the bleach reservoir.
  • Close the lid and allow the cycle to complete, flushing the vinegar rinse through all the hoses.
  • Once the cycle is finished, use a dry towel to wipe down the interior drum of the washer and leave the lid open to dry for several hours.

For Front-Loading Washing Machines

  • Select the hottest wash cycle with an extra rinse cycle.
  • Add distilled white vinegar (about a cup, or to the fill line) in the bleach dispenser.
  • Run the full cycle with an empty drum.
  • Once the cycle finishes, use a damp rag with vinegar on it to wipe down the rubber seals around the door opening.
  • Rinse and wipe down the soap and bleach reservoirs.
  • Wipe down the exterior, including knobs and buttons, with an all-purpose cleanser.
  • Wipe down the inside drum of the washer and leave the door open to allow the washer to fully dry for several hours.

HINT: If you live in a warm, humid area, it’s best to clean your washing machine monthly and leave the door open when not in use to allow more air to circulate.

HINT: Using too much soap will not get your clothes cleaner and will likely shorten the life of your machine by producing residue in tubes and hoses. Less is more when it comes to laundry soap.

Spring Cleaning: How to Clean Your Dishwasher

It’s spring cleaning season once again, but this year we’re going to help you clean your cleaners! (That’s right, it’s getting very meta around here.) Did you that you can extend the life of your cleaning appliances by cleaning them regularly? It’s true. This week, we’re starting with the dishwasher.  Our cleaning tips are like giving your dishwasher a spa day. It will be completely rejuvenated after!

  • Remove all drawers, racks and containers from your dishwasher and hand wash them in the sink with warm soapy water, or a mixture of warm water and 2 cups distilled white vinegar. Remove any stuck on debris or gunk, rinse and allow to dry.
  • Remove all parts in the bottom of the dishwasher than can be easily disassembled by hand. This should include the grate and filter that rests on the floor of the dishwasher. Wash them in the sink and wipe down the areas where they rest. (You’re likely to find a fair amount of debris here, so be prepared!)
  • Check the blades that spin, make sure they move easily, and check the little holes that spray the water. If they have debris or calcium buildup, give them a scrub with an old toothbrush dipped in vinegar.
  • Wipe down the door and rubber seal (a prime spot for mold, mildew, and grime).
  • Your garbage disposal is connected to the dishwasher, so give it a thorough cleaning as well.
  • Put all of the parts back in the dishwasher.
  • Now place a dishwasher-safe bowl in the top rack and fill it with white vinegar. Run the dishwasher through a cycle using the highest temperature settings. The vinegar will cut through any remaining grease and sanitize the inside.
  • After the cycle, sprinkle a full cup of baking soda all over the bottom floor of the dishwasher and run another cycle. This will deodorize the dishwasher.
  • Finally, wipe down the outside of the dishwasher, buttons, and handles.

You’re done! Your dishwasher will look brand new and will run better and last longer! Depending on your usage, cleaning it once or twice per year will significantly extend the life of the appliance.

Color Your Hair with Household Items

It’s always amazing to discover new uses for your household products, but these ideas really stand out…for your hair. You can switch things up with some bold color, go dramatically dark, or add soft highlights with simple items you probably already have in the pantry and under the counter. Follow the links for helpful instructions. It’s time to raid the cupboards and play beauty parlor!

Dye your hair brown with coffee: This natural way to color hair is totally safe (and smells good too). It even works to cover gray! The instructions recommend using decaf, but you might enjoy an energy jolt with regular beans!

Lighten your hair with honey: Blonde highlights are not just for summer months any more. Mixing honey and peroxide give you lighter locks with natural conditioning. (If you have very dark hair, this method will likely produce orange hues. Test a strand of underside hair first!)

Add a burgundy tint with beets: Dark hair can take on a rich, burgundy hue. (Not recommended for blonde hair.)

Take your hair a shade darker with black tea: A couple of cups of strongly brewed tea will take your natural color one to two shades darker and last for a couple of weeks. Just enough to feel new.

Add bold streaks of color with Koolaid: You’ll look great for your next home game or rock concert with this simple trick. Careful, though, depending on the natural color and health of your hair, this could be permanent!

Have you ever tried these methods? What did you think?

{Image via fineladyshop.com}

Great Oscar Party Ideas

Mrs. Fields Secrets Oscar Party
The hottest party in Hollywood is happening Sunday, but your house can be just as glamorous and fun with these clever Oscar party ideas. Invite some friends, don some fake eyelashes and get your acceptance speech ready because you’re about to to win best party host!

1. A range of flavored popcorns are perfect party fare. Have savory and sweet varieties.
2. These Tuxedo Cake Pops look so dapper. They might win best dressed.
3. You can recreate the Hollywood sign in a number of creative ways, but cupcakes would be dreamy.
4. Add a wedge of star fruit to give your bubbly drink the star treatment.
5. Make your napkins look like nominee envelopes for the ultimate touch.
6. Add your own labels to drinks so that everyone can enjoy an “Oscar Buzz.”

And don’t forget to download your free Oscar Dress Rating Card to keep track of your favorite (and least favorite) fashion looks.

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