Monday, December 19, 2016

5 (Helpful) Holiday Houseguest Hacks + Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This post is brought to you by Merry Maids. As always, thank you so much for supporting CNC!

This time of year, many of us are expecting guests. Maybe they’re staying for a few nights or just guests at a party you’re hosting. No matter the occasion, it’s important that your home is warm and welcoming. But, of course, as crazy as the holiday season can be, it’s not always easy to go the extra mile and have things in tip-top shape. I know we’ve definitely scrambled to get our house in order when guests are about to arrive. Holy hectic! That said, here are five expert “hacks” from Merry Maids that will help you– quickly and easily– prepare for holiday visitors and houseguests!

Holiday Houseguest Hacks

Organize the Chaos

Oh my gosh, does anyone else’s kitchen counters look like this by the end of the day?


It’s a constant struggle for our family, and I’m always looking for ways to organize and contain the chaos. Mail, bags, toys, daycare reports, receipts (one of my biggest pet peeves with Mal), clothing, water bottles, and snack cups always seem to have a mind of their own and take over every inch of our counter space. Before hiding them in drawers or closets, I’ll grab a decorative bin or box and keep them together. It’s almost like I add to my décor by organizing the chaos and creating the illusion of having a clutter-free home. I’ve also started to place a bin at the bottom of our stairs to wrangle random items that ultimately belong upstairs. At the end of the day, I carry it upstairs with me, so the clutter is out of the living spaces.

Literally Disconnect Your Rooms

Between TVs, gaming systems (why do we need two?), and cell phone chargers, there are cords coming out of every wall in our house, which makes things look more like a technology store instead of a home. Plus, looking at all of those (sometimes tangled) cords is stressful! Here’s a simple trick: Just go through each room and unplug the wires that aren’t necessary, like extra cell phone chargers, laptop cords, hair dryers, and electric toothbrushes. Doing this keeps wires out of sight and makes for a much cozier space.

Give the Floors a Once-Over… Just Once

With a toddler and a dog, it’s a constant struggle to keep our floors and carpets clean. The two of them track so much stuff inside! But, of course, squeaky-clean floors and freshly-vacuumed carpets really make a difference in how your home shows to your guests, so we always make sure to clean them (just once) before they arrive. Our floors are definitely highly trafficked areas and the pug fur just never stops shedding. Cleaning them in advance doesn’t save time, so I wait until the very last minute.


Deodorize Without Overdoing It

Scent is a powerful sense and having a clean-smelling home goes a long way. Before guests come over, we always take out the trash prior to them arriving and typically light some scented candles. We always have a bigger one on the countertop in the kitchen, so guests immediately smell it as soon as they walk in. Recently, though, in the spirit of the holidays, we started to create a naturally-delicious smelling fragrance right on our stovetop. Listen to this simple trick: Just add cinnamon sticks and a little vanilla extract to a pot of boiling water and your home will smell like the holidays in no time!


Prepare the Bathrooms

Obviously, when you have houseguests, you want your bathrooms to be clean and welcoming, so I like to make them a priority in my preparations. In addition to a candle in the kitchen, I light smaller candles in the bathrooms to keep them smelling fresh. I also make sure that everything is well-stocked– from the towels and hand soap to the toilet paper and shower products– so our guests are never without what they need. And to speed up the cleaning process, you can recruit the help of household products to clean troublesome places, like the toilet, while you sleep, so that cleaning takes minutes, not hours. Here’s a favorite little trick: Pour one cup of vinegar and one fizzy denture tablet into the bowl. Overnight, it will loosen up hard water deposits and be easier to clean, saving you time and elbow grease.


If you think you might want more help preparing your home for guests, the cleaning services from Merry Maids are just what you need! And right now, they’re offering a free refrigerator cleaning when you sign up for weekly or biweekly service. More details here!

Giveaway time!

Here’s your chance to win a $100 Visa gift card that you can use at Merry Maids or anywhere else you’d like!

To enter: Answer the question below and leave a comment on this blog post. I will randomly pick a winner on Friday! Good luck!

What’s your favorite hack when preparing for houseguests?

Be sure to follow Merry Maids on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter

from Carrots 'N' Cake

How To Avoid The Holiday Death Aisle This Year And Beyond!

If you do one thing this holiday season – avoid what I call “The Holiday Death Aisle” at the supermarket and discount drug stores. That aisle is filled with brightly colored JUNK made with bleached and heavily processed flour, artificial colors derived … Continued

The post How To Avoid The Holiday Death Aisle This Year And Beyond! appeared first on Food Babe.

from Food Babe

Dear Mark: Right Leg Balance Issues, Plastic Wrap Flattened Meat, Vaporizing Cannabis

Inline_DearMarkLegBalanceFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering several rapid fire questions. I’ll be concise and clear. I’ll be quick. First, what can someone do if they can balance on the left leg but not the right? What might be responsible? Second, am I worried about Martha Stewart pounding on turkey breast laid between two pieces of Saran Wrap? Third, what’s different about vaporizing cannabis? Is it better than smoking it?

Let’s go:

Great work! Thanks for sharing with us. from last year, i am facing issues with balancing with my right leg. Can you give some suggestion regarding it?

Balance often comes down to one major thing: strength of the lower limbs. In seniors, strength is one of the best predictors of balance and future fall risk, and resistance training is generally better at improving balance than cardio because it both strengthens and balances.

I strongly suspect one leg is stronger than the other.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Don’t think of balance as emanating from your head. It’s “in” there, too, but it’s also all about the muscles working together to keep you standing. Feel the muscles that fail just before you lose balance. Which was it? Where are you going wrong? Do those same muscles on the other leg falter, too?

Everything’s involved. Think about “grasping” the floor with your bare foot, even if you’re wearing shoes. Give your knee a slight bend and stand tall and erect. 

You have to get that leg stronger. It has to catch up. Do some single leg training in addition to two leg training. Reverse lunges (way better than normal walking lunges), single leg deadlifts. Work mobility of the ankles and hips. Build strength in the calves, feet (go barefoot!), quads, hamstrings, “stabilizers.” 

Kcup bone broth sounds like more of a sales gimmick than anything else. I agree about the hot liquid passing through plastic not being a great idea. Speaking of plastic, last night on a PBS channel I watched Martha Stewart vigorously pounding out a turkey breast between two sheets of plastic wrap. It undoubtedly keeps the work surface cleaner, but I couldn’t help wondering if microscopic pieces of the plastic wrap were becoming embedded in the meat.

There isn’t any published research I could find on the specific situation, but I’m in the same boat as you. Some of that plastic is likely ending up in the meat, or it’s at least donating an estrogenic compound or two. Despite all that, I’m not going to freak out. I accept plastic as a necessary and unavoidable presence in the world. I won’t seek it out, and I’ll actively choose glass or metal over plastic when possible, but I know it’s out there. We can limit and mitigate it, not avoid it altogether.

Would I use plastic wrap to pound meat? No. I find good wax or butcher paper works just as well without the looming prospect of dietary plastic. But if Martha Stewart is making me flattened turkey, I’m not turning her down just because her turkey has a little plastic residue.

Nothing to worry about for a meal or two. Just don’t make flattened meat a staple (and use wax paper if you can).

What do you think about vaping vs. smoking?

There seem to be real benefits for vapers.

Vaping is certainly easier on the lungs. Smoking produces a lot of carbon monoxide and tar. Vaping produces very little. Accordingly, cannabis vapers have fewer respiratory issues than cannabis smokers.

You have more control over what you’re consuming when you vape. The various constituents of cannabis vaporize at different temperatures. Modern vaporizers often have temperature controls, giving you control over which constituents are vaporized and released, and which are not.

Vaping is more efficient. Vaping cannabis at both 200 and 230°C extracts more cannabinoids and fewer “byproducts” than does smoking it. You get more cannabinoids from the product. 

Which appears to be wholly positive but may not be. Some people claim that those “byproducts” are psychoactive—whether by exerting positive physiological effects, reducing negative symptoms, or improving or enhancing the high itself. The two methods certainly produce different subjective effects, so we know something is going on. 

I think vaping is probably safer and more cost-effective overall.

That’s it for this week, folks. Take care and let me know what you think down below!

Do you notice a difference in between-leg balance? Are you worried about pounding meat surrounded by plastic wrap? If you partake, do you prefer vaporizing or smoking?


The post Dear Mark: Right Leg Balance Issues, Plastic Wrap Flattened Meat, Vaporizing Cannabis appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.

from Mark's Daily Apple

24 Days of Togetherness: Days 8-18

Hi, friends! Happy Monday!

Just popping in real quick to share Days 8-18 of our 24 Days of Togetherness. I can’t believe how quickly the month is flying by and that Christmas is less than a week away!

DAY 8: Have a holiday happy hour

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DAY 9: Make a Christmas drawing

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Day 10: Make a gingerbread house

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Day 11: Do an anonymous good deed

Day 12: See Christmas lights


Day 13: Watch a Christmas movie (we watched Saving Santa)

Day 14: Buy Quinn a Christmas tree ornament 


Day 15: Drink hot chocolate 

Day 16: Give each other 10-minute massages 

Day 17: Watch Elf

Mal and I love Elf, but we watched Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas instead because we thought Qman would like it more… and he did! He watched more than half before he decided that jumping on Mama and Dada was a lot more fun!


Day 18: Make Christmas pancakes


from Carrots 'N' Cake

Which Sparkling Wines Are Worth Your Holiday Jingle?

If you think bubbly means big bucks, think again. When adding some sparkle to the holidays, it’s not necessary to spend all your Christmas cash. Sparkling wines can be found in a range of prices, with many festive varieties priced at $20 or less. How they are priced has a lot to do with how they are made. And that leads us to ask: How do they get those bubbles into a bottle?

The short answer: secondary fermentation. Sparkling wines begin much in the same way as white wines, but at the point at which white wine is bottled and sold, sparkling wine undergoes secondary fermentation with the addition of yeast and sugar. For higher-priced sparklers such as Champagne and cava, the subsequent secondary fermentation and aging occur in wine bottles in accordance with the méthode Champenoise. Instead of using bottles, vintners of prosecco and other more value-priced wines use stainless steel tanks to contain the buildup of carbon dioxide during secondary fermentation.

The cool thing is you can actually taste and see the difference in the final bottle of bubbly. Bottle-aged sparklers generally taste more nutty and yeasty and have tinier bubbles. Tank-aged wines are usually fruitier and can have large, bursting bubbles (although careful crafting in tanks can also produce tiny bubbles). All bubbles are a result of the carbon dioxide produced during secondary fermentation.

Value-priced sparklers can be found around the globe. Quality quaffs are available from cold climates like Germany, Austria and New York state, as well as from warm locales such as Australia and New Mexico. Three of our current favorites are:

Italian Prosecco
With floral aromas of peach and vanilla, the variety of proseccos available will please almost everyone. For bubbly cocktails, inexpensive proseccos are perfect. An Italian sparkler with a slightly higher price is the ideal glass to sip with a holiday dinner. In fact, all sparklers are food friendly, as the bubbles help cleanse the palate between bites.

For sipping: Mionetto Prosecco Brut ($13)

Small splurge: La Marca DOC Prosecco ($16)


Spanish Cava
Amazing values can also be found among these Spanish sparklers. Brian Kuchta, co-owner of Bin51 Wines in Edwardsville, Illinois, says that for the money, cava can give you Champagne-like quality. This is especially true for aged cavas, like reserva and gran reserva, which have bready and hazelnutty characteristics.

For sipping: Poema Cava Brut ($12)

Small splurge: Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserva NV ($15)


Oregon Sparklers
It could be the climate, the terroir or just the fact that several Oregon wine houses are at the top of their game. But there are a lot of exceptional domestic sparklers being produced in Oregon, using both the méthode Champenoise and precise-tank production.

For sipping: Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling ($20)

Small splurge: 2013 Argyle Vintage Brut ($28)

And one more tip: Consider rosé sparklers. Bubbly rosés are not usually thought of as holiday wines, but they should be top of mind. Almost any rosé is a good match for food, and because rosé matches the color of the season, it’s, well, exceedingly festive.


Serena Ball, MS, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

from Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy...

Twas The Weekend Before Christmas


And all through the house, the M&M bowl was empty. Could it be a mouse?


^^The best/worst thing I did this holiday season was fill a little bowl with Christmas M&Ms. I guess it’s a good thing that I am still on the first and only bag!

Our weekend started with Mazen’s last day of school before break. The kiddos sang us some carols at pick-up time, and Rudolph was my favorite!


I took the Sayas to Sarah’s house, and she had this delicious pesto salmon salad ready for me.


Friday evening we went to a friend’s house and had this amazing Steak Chinoise, the same recipe from C&O Restaurant. It was fantastic! The sauce!!


We had cheese from Albemarle Baking for dessert : )

Saturday morning we played around in our jammies for a while. Mazen pretended these beads were spaghetti!


Breakfast sammie with bacon, egg and melted cheese!


We went to the gym where I did a workout on the elliptical, and then sat in the sauna for a bit.

Late lunch – a big salad preparing for a holiday party. (Following my own advice!) The salad had some deli ham, spinach and a homemade dressing.


I went for a walk date downtown for tea in the afternoon.


And then picked Mazen up from Matt’s where he’d been for the afternoon. He LOVED meeting this Star Wars Christmas crew!


Saturday night we went to a rockin’ Christmas party at our friends’ house! Best gals!



Had a blast!






Mazen requested pancakes for breakfast yesterday, so I mixed together flour, egg, baking powder, a little applesauce and maple syrup until I had a battery consistency, and they actually turned out quite well with some chocolate chips sprinkled throughout!


I went to the gym again on Sunday (I miss soccer season!) and did a combo of the stairmaster, walking, and the hot tub! Ironic since it was 60 degrees here yesterday. No hot tub really necessary.

Sunday was otherwise relaxing. My Fantasy team made it to the semifinals and then lost horribly yesterday. Like embarrassingly bad. Such a bummer to end the season under 100 points, but I can’t wait to play again next year!

Hope you guys had a good weekend!

The post Twas The Weekend Before Christmas appeared first on Kath Eats Real Food.

from Kath Eats Real Food

Clean Eating Macaroni & Cheese Dry Mix Recipe (Dairy Free)

Clean Eating Macaroni & Cheese Dry Mix Recipe

I know. A dry mix that falls under the clean eating category may seem a little unbelievable, much less without dairy.

But yes, it exists! It just happens to be vegan, but it’s delicious for… Read more →

from The Gracious Pantry