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Enjoy Clean Dishes and Soft Hands at the same time

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I like to make my chores interesting, even something as boring as washing dishes. I do that by reminiscing about the time when my great grandparents’ cows would come home. My great grandmother Cookie was a dairy farmer’s wife. 

She was famous for keeping her hands soft even as she cleaned so many dishes and raised four kids. What made it even more interesting was that she fed the farmhands in her kitchen. According to my mum, Cookie’s secret lay in scrubbing with butter and sugar. Going by the softness of her hands, she must have been swimming in these ingredients. 

As much as my hands do half the labor Cookie was exposed to, they are definitely more chapped. If it isn’t because of the hot water I shower with, it’s the bike rides. The harsh sanitizers and the constant hand washing make matters worse. This means my hands will need a little more TLC this season. Fortunately, I have discovered a process that makes washing dishes feel like a much-needed spa day. 

  1. A homemade hand scrub

Just like Grandma Cookie I create a hand scrub from items that are available in the home. This could include; coconut oil, last bits of butter, or olive oil for moisturizing; a substantial amount of salt, cornmeal, sugar, or breadcrumbs to act as an exfoliant. Before I wear gloves and begin washing dishes, I rinse and apply moisturizer. The heat from my hands and the water allows my skin to take in the moisture as I wash the dishes.

  • A Paraffin bath 

Whenever I have loads of work waiting to for me, I ensure the paraffin bath is plugged in. It is an impulse purchase that I still use luckily. I feel pampered when I put my hands in warm melted wax before wearing gloves. 

  • Essential oils

When I want to take things a step further, I use a drop of eucalyptus or peppermint oil in my hot dishwater.  It vaporizes the sinus-clearing scents that turn dishwashing into a spa treatment. I turn up the music and I don’t tolerate interruptions until everything is clean, dry, and put away.  

Before I discovered the magic of supple, softened skin, and the cool air that came after removing them after steaming, I hated dish gloves. I hate how they get sticky on the inside because of moisture or wax. But once turned to the other side, rinsed and dried, they become as good as new. As much as the chores are repetitive, I have no worries since I will have hands like that of Cookie even as we get into winter. 

Tips & Advice

Navigating Tomato Season: Smart Choices for a Bountiful Harvest

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As spring heralds the time for planting, garden enthusiasts and culinary experts alike turn their attention to one of the most beloved garden staples: the tomato. The rush to cultivate the perfect batch of juicy, ruby-red tomatoes can, however, be fraught with common pitfalls that novice and experienced gardeners might face. Drawing insights from an expert guide on purchasing tomato plants, this article aims to navigate these challenges, ensuring a successful and bountiful tomato harvest.

Choosing the Right Time to Plant

The ideal time to plant tomatoes hinges crucially on local climate conditions, specifically the last frost date of the season. Gardeners should determine their area’s frost-free date by consulting reliable sources or local agricultural extensions. This crucial step helps in planning when to safely transplant tomato seedlings outdoors without the risk of frost damage.

Selecting the Perfect Plant

When selecting tomato plants at a nursery or garden center, it’s important to opt for those that are healthy and robust rather than those already bearing flowers or fruit. Plants should focus their energy on developing a strong root system rather than on producing fruit in their initial growth stages. Removing any early blooms can encourage this energy redirection.

Understanding Plant Varieties

Tomato plants come in mainly two types: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes, such as ‘Celebrity’ or ‘Patio’, are more compact and tend to ripen all their fruit at roughly the same time. These varieties are ideal for container planting or small garden spaces. On the other hand, indeterminate varieties like ‘Better Boy’ and ‘Beefmaster’ continue growing and producing fruit throughout the season and require adequate support structures such as cages or trellises.

Inspecting for Quality and Health

Visual inspection plays a critical role in selecting the best plants. Avoid plants that show signs of stress or disease such as wilting, yellowing leaves, or the presence of pests like whiteflies. Such issues can significantly hinder the plant’s growth and fruit production. A healthy tomato plant should have a vibrant green color, sturdy stems, and no signs of insects or disease.

Heirlooms versus Hybrids

While heirloom tomatoes are cherished for their unique flavors and varieties, they are often more susceptible to diseases compared to their hybrid counterparts. For those inclined towards heirloom varieties, it’s crucial to understand their specific care requirements and potential vulnerabilities. Hybrid varieties, though less diverse, typically offer more disease resistance and vigor, often resulting in a more reliable crop.

Post-Purchase Care

Once the right tomato plants are selected and brought home, proper care is essential to ensure their growth and productivity. This includes adequate watering, providing enough sunlight, and regular feeding. Additionally, gardeners should be prepared to manage pests and diseases through safe and sustainable methods to maintain healthy plants and ensure a productive harvest.

Engaging with the Gardening Community

Sharing experiences and tips through gardening forums or local clubs can provide additional support and insights, enhancing the gardening journey. Whether you are a novice gardener or a seasoned cultivator, connecting with a community can offer valuable advice and encouragement.

In conclusion, purchasing tomato plants requires more than just selecting the healthiest looking specimen at the garden center. By understanding the best practices for choosing and caring for tomato plants, gardeners can avoid common mistakes and set the stage for a successful and rewarding growing season. Embrace the process and enjoy the fruits of your labor in the form of delicious, home-grown tomatoes.

For further reading on avoiding common tomato-growing mistakes, visit Southern Living’s gardening guide, which offers a wealth of information to help you succeed in your gardening endeavors.

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Chefs

Redefining Holiday Sweets: Culinary Experts Suggest Delightful Alternatives to Traditional Christmas Pudding

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As the festive season approaches, the perennial debate over the traditional Christmas pudding arises. While some relish this classic dessert, others seek alternatives that are equally festive but more aligned with their tastes. Let’s explore some chef-recommended alternatives to the conventional Christmas pudding, offering a twist to your holiday feasts.

Yule Log: A Chocolate Lover’s Delight

The Yule log, or Bûche de Noël, is a popular alternative in many households. Michel Roux, renowned for his culinary expertise, suggests this as a French alternative to the traditional pudding. The Yule log is a light chocolate sponge, rolled with ganache and often spiked with Grand Marnier, adorned with caramelized hazelnuts. It’s a visually impressive dessert that chocolate enthusiasts will adore.

Pastry chef Graham Hornigold, founder of Longboys, echoes the sentiment for a Yule log variant, the Mont Blanc roulade. This dessert is versatile, allowing for various flavor combinations and even a vegan version by substituting dairy products with plant-based alternatives. Hornigold’s Christmas favorite includes a vanilla sponge with blackcurrant jam, chestnut cream, and candied chestnuts, served with blackcurrant ripple ice cream.

Sticky Toffee Pudding: A Pub Classic

Sticky toffee pudding, a pub classic, is another crowd-pleaser. Sabrina Ghayour, author of “Flavour,” shares that this dessert has been a long-standing tradition in her family. She adds a unique twist by infusing the toffee sauce with coffee and warming spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and cardamom, drawing inspiration from the coffees of the Arab Middle East.

Warming Baked Fruits: A Lighter Option

For those seeking a lighter option, Matt Tebbutt suggests warming baked fruits. Based on a Delia Smith recipe, this dish includes winter fruits baked in masala with cinnamon and nutmeg. Served with whipped mascarpone cream, it offers a light and delicious alternative to the dense Christmas pudding.

Spiced Ice Cream: A Chilled Alternative

Contrary to the winter chill, ice cream can be a delightful festive dessert. Rick Stein recommends semifreddo, a frozen dessert akin to ice cream but with a lighter, mousse-like texture. Flavored with Christmas spices, fruit macerated in Kirsch or Cognac, orange zest, and vanilla, it’s a creamy delight. Stein suggests setting it in a kougelhopf pan for a wreath-like appearance, decorated with cocoa powder and flaked almonds.

Sarah Raven takes the ice cream idea further with her coffee meringue ice cream cake topped with pomegranate seeds, perfect as a festive centerpiece. The addition of burning brandy adds to the celebratory spirit.

Boxing Day Delight: A New Tradition

Finally, if none of these alternatives appeal, why not simply postpone the Christmas pudding to Boxing Day? Michel Roux and Matt Tebbutt suggest enjoying it cold or fried in butter the next day, offering a delightful twist and reducing food waste during the festive season.

In conclusion, the Christmas pudding, while traditional, isn’t the only option for a festive dessert. From the chocolatey Yule log to the light and fruity baked fruits, and the unconventional spiced ice cream, there are numerous ways to end your Christmas feast on a sweet note. These alternatives not only cater to different palates but also add a touch of creativity and personalization to your holiday celebrations.

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Tips & Advice

Decoding Nutrition Labels: A Guide to Making Healthier Food Choices

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In today’s fast-paced world, where convenience often trumps quality, understanding the nutritional value of what we eat has never been more critical. With a plethora of food options available, the ability to read and interpret nutrition labels is a vital skill for anyone looking to maintain a healthy diet. This article delves into the art of deciphering nutrition labels, empowering you to make informed choices that align with your dietary needs and goals.

The Importance of Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels are more than just a regulatory requirement; they are a window into the contents of our food. According to a study by the Food and Drug Administration, understanding these labels can lead to better food choices and, consequently, better health. The labels provide information on calories, nutrients, serving size, and other essential data, helping consumers identify the healthiest options.

Understanding Serving Sizes and Portions

One of the first things to note on a nutrition label is the serving size. This is crucial because all the nutritional information displayed pertains to this specific amount of food. As Harvard Health Publishing points out, serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods; however, they may not reflect the portion you usually consume. For instance, if a packet of chips lists the serving size as 10 chips, but you eat 20, you need to double the nutritional values to understand what you’re actually consuming.

Calories: The Energy Measure

Calories are a measure of energy, and understanding your caloric needs is fundamental to managing weight. The Mayo Clinic suggests that an average adult needs about 2,000 calories a day, but this varies based on age, sex, and physical activity level. Nutrition labels provide the number of calories per serving, helping you gauge how a particular food fits into your daily caloric intake.

Nutrients: The Good and the Not-So-Good

Nutrition labels also list the amount of various nutrients, including fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals. The American Heart Association recommends paying close attention to:

  • Saturated and Trans Fats: Linked to heart disease, these should be limited in your diet.
  • Sodium: High sodium intake can lead to hypertension. It’s advisable to choose foods with less sodium.
  • Dietary Fiber: Foods high in dietary fiber, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are beneficial for digestive health.
  • Sugars: Keep an eye on added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain and other health issues.

The % Daily Value: Your Nutritional Compass

The % Daily Value (%DV) on nutrition labels indicates how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. As explained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low, while 20% DV or more is high. This guide can help you quickly assess if a food is high or low in a particular nutrient, aiding in balancing your diet.

Ingredients List: The Tell-All

Beyond the numerical data, the ingredients list on food packaging is equally telling. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, as noted by Healthline. This means that the first few ingredients are the most predominant. Be wary of products where sugars, unhealthy fats, or unrecognizable ingredients appear at the top of the list.

The New Nutrition Label: What’s Changed?

Recent updates to nutrition labels have made them more user-friendly. Key changes, as outlined by the FDA, include larger font for calories, updated serving sizes to reflect what people actually eat, and the inclusion of added sugars. These modifications aim to make it easier for consumers to make informed food choices.

Making Healthier Choices

Armed with the knowledge of how to read nutrition labels, you can make healthier food choices. Opt for foods lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and higher in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Remember, the goal is not just to eat less but to eat right.

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding nutrition labels is a powerful tool in the quest for a healthier lifestyle. By becoming savvy about what’s in your food, you can take control of your diet, make smarter food choices, and ultimately, lead a healthier life. Remember, every small step towards understanding what you consume contributes significantly to your overall well-being.

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