Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Take a Break: Do something with glass jars and bottles

I’ve been posting a weekly “take a break” on Wednesday’s since August 2009 and I thought it might be nice to have a Pinterest site. Check it out and remember it’s still a work in progress.  

Most people have a variety of glass items in their pantry and/or re cycling bin. Depending on size and shape they can be used for drinking glasses, food storage containers, vases, pen holders, and any number of other projects. I collect glass bottles and jars and use them as containers for various gifts (Irish cream, salad dressing, hot cocoa mix etc.).

Below are a variety of projects you can try, but first things first:

Removing the label. At the moment, my approach is to clean the jar or bottle first. Sometimes that process takes the label off. Fill it with water, place in the microwave for a couple of minutes on high and let the water come to a boil. The label will just peel off. It’s going to be hot so be careful. If there is any glue residue, baking powder and steel wool or a scrubber takes it off. Since I primarily use my glass items for food and drink, I then put them in the dishwasher to sanitize them.

Some bottles, particularly ones that may be kept in a cooler for long stretches of time (e.g. beer) have a thin plastic layer for a label. I’ve had good success with hot tap water and just peeling them off. They can leave a sticky residue, which can be removed with dish washing detergent. There are lots of “goo” removers, so there is a bit of trial and error factor with this.

If you are using a jar/bottle that: wont fit in your microwave; you want to save the label (such as a wine label); or it did not contain food (e.g. candle jar) check out the following videos:

• How to Remove Wine Labels: This is when you want the bottle and don’t care about the label.  

Now that you have a clean jar or bottle, consider the following:

Painting jar lids: Use spray paint, which adheres to metal (e.g. enamel). Be sure to use light coatings to avoid streaking and clumps. Add floral or other types of decal for a different look. To protect your decal, use a clear gloss spray to finish.

Decorative jar lids: Gluing something to the lid, such as a small plastic toy animal, and then spray it all one color. With Easter not that far off, a jar of jellybeans with a bunny sitting on top would make a fun hostess gift.

Painting Glass

Decorate Drinking Glasses: There are a number of different ways to decorate jars and wine glasses making them suitable for parties and entertaining. Not only do guests know which drinking glass is theirs, you don’t need to have a “matching set” of glassware, it’s cheap, and it can be a nice gift to send home with your guests.

Several things to keep in mind: Avoid decorating where the lip area will be; once decorated you will need to hand wash them for future use, so no dishwasher.

Window clings are an easy way to decorate glass. You can purchase them from places like the Dollar Store and just peel and stick. Duct tape operates in much the same fashion. An easy way to cut out duct tape designs is by putting strips of duct tape on baking parchment paper. This allows you to draw designs on the parchment and then cut, peel and stick. Terrifically Tacky Tape (red liner double sided tape) is very strong and will hold anything-beads, glitter, foils, and micro beads. It’s available at your local craft store and comes in many different sizes. Know that once you put it down, it’s going to stick, so definitely measure first.

You can do amazing things with Sharpies. Check out the tutorial DIY Wine Glasses Using Sharpies 

• DIY Glitter Wine Glasses: This works for any type of glass and uses Modge Podge and glitter. You can make your own Modge Podge by mixing 1 part white glue with ½ part water. Store in one of your clean glass jars. 

Oil Lamps

• How to Turn a Wine Bottle into an Oil Lamp Using Found Objects: Really good tutorial. If you don’t want to make your own torch topper, you can purchase a ceramic one on-line.

Outdoor Lighting: Fill the bottom of a large glass jar with sand or rice. Insert candle and light.

Match Holder: Fill a jar with wooden matches. Use one of the following options for the “striker” part. Glue a piece of sandpaper to the bottom. If using a Mason jar, use sandpaper for the lid. Put a good size dollop of etching cream on the bottom of the jar, wait about 30 minutes (much longer than the instructed time for the cream to sit), rinse off the excess cream. This should create a sufficiently rough surface to act as a striking surface.

Create a Glass Indoor Herb Garden: Don’t limit yourself to just Mason jars. Some of the larger peanut butter jars will work very well for this project 

Wine Bottle Cutting 30 Seconds Perfect Edge Bottle Cutter: Re purposing wine and beer bottles as drinking glasses isn’t easy. However, if you want to try it, this is the best video I’ve found on cutting glass bottles. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Exercises you can do at Home

All you need is 30 minutes of exercise a day (e.g. a walk) to gain significant benefits. It not only helps to prevent heart disease and mild memory loss, it can also improve depression. For those with chronic conditions, it’s one of the best things you can do to increase well being and overall health.

The good news is that you don’t even need to do 30 minutes all at once-10 minutes here and there throughout the day adds up quickly. Even better, keep moving all day. Make “mindless exercise” part of your daily life.

Most of the year, I have no problem walking, gardening, going to the gym, or whatever else. In mid February, it’s a different story.

There are at least two feet of snow on the ground, more is falling and the temps are in the single digits. I came close to breaking a leg walking to the post office this morning. Normally a 5-10 minute walk, it took 15-20 minutes because the sidewalk hadn’t been shoveled. Since my kitchen scraps were long over due for the compost pile, it took another 20 minutes or so to shovel a path to take care of that chore. In short order, I had 40 minutes of fairly vigorous exercise without much thought. That noted, there are those days that the thought of going outside in sub zero temperatures is enough to keep me on the couch with a warm blanket and a good book. 

So what do to? As with any exercise program, do what you can, keeping in mind that “pain is no gain.” There are a variety of options listed below. Do what feels right for you.   Check with your medical provider before starting an exercise regiment.

• Power Down: Make time in your day when cell phones, computers, TV and other electronic devices are turned off. Without the virtual distraction, you’re more likely to do something.

• Mindless exercise: If you stay active around the house, you are continually burning calories and thereby don’t need to force yourself to go to the gym or take a walk. With due respect to the mindfulness gurus, the "mindless" referred to here is movement that becomes such a part of your day, you don’t have to think about exercising. 

One hour of each burns the following calories: shoveling snow (576); mowing the lawn-using a manual or push mower (400); raking leaves (384); Painting (290); Gardening (250); Sweeping/mopping (240); or cooking a meal (150). Fit Day has a list of 30-minute chores- e.g. 30 minutes of car washing burns 143 calories. 

• Soup Can Exercises: You don’t need fancy weights to strength train. 

• Tai Chi/Qigong/Yoga: If you can’t afford to take a class, check out these links:
-       * Kripalu Yoga Break: Need a quick pick me up, take a five minute yoga break with the teachers from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. 

• Dancing: Put your favorite music on and dance around the house by yourself or with a partner. There are a lot of free videos for line dancing. If you are a beginner, try Basic Line Dance Steps for Beginners

• Zumba: The Latin/Dance exercise program will have you moving in no time. Try Latin Dance Fitness-Beginners 1 to see if you like it.

• Remember TaeBo? Check it out to see if it’s something that interests you-Advanced Exercise to Lose Weight 

• 5of the Best Exercises You Can Do from Harvard Health Publications 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Take a Break: Celebrate Copernicus

Today, Feb. 18, is the 581st birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus the famous astronomer who proposed that the sun was stationary at the center of the universe and the planets revolve around it. Below are ways to celebrate his birthday. 

Learn about Copernicus

Observe the stars: Check out AstronomyMagazine  for stars in the February sky. Planetarium allows you to navigate the sky from your computer.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What Works for Colds? Preventing and treating the common cold: Nothing to sneeze at

No one likes a cold but it’s generally viewed as something to endure. However, for those with a chronic condition, it can create serious problems.

In January, the Canadian Medical Association Journal  recently issued a review article on what works and what doesn’t as far as the “common” cold. Below is their press release on this article.

Since colds and flu season seem to go hand in hand, be sure to check out Don’t Have Time for the Flu. Take Time to Prevent it. 

Preventing and treating the common cold: Nothing to sneeze at

Hand washing, zinc may be best prevention
How do you prevent and treat the common cold? Hand washing and zinc may be best for prevention whereas acetaminophen, ibuprofen and perhaps antihistamine–decongestant combinations are the recommended treatments, according to a review in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The common cold is well, common, affecting adults approximately 2-3 times a year and children under age 2 approximately 6 times a year. Symptoms such as sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, cough and malaise are usually worse in days 1-3 and can last 7-10 days, sometimes as long as 3 weeks.

"Although self-limiting, the common cold is highly prevalent and may be debilitating. It causes declines in function and productivity at work and may affect other activities such as driving," write Drs. Michael Allan, Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, and Bruce Arroll, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Colds are also costly. It is estimated that direct medical costs in the United States, including physician visits, secondary infections and medications for colds, were an estimated $17 billion a year in 1997. Indirect costs from missed work for illness or to look after a sick child were an estimated $25 billion per year.

Most colds are caused by viruses, with only about 5% of clinically diagnosed colds having a bacterial infection, yet antibiotics are sometimes used inappropriately for viral infections.

The review, aimed at physicians and patients, looked at available evidence for both traditional and nontraditional approaches for preventing and alleviating colds.

What works?
    Clean hands: a review of 67 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicated that hand washing, a traditional public health approach, as well as alcohol disinfectants and gloves, is likely effective.
    Zinc may work for children (and possibly adults) — at least 2 RCTs indicated that children who took 10 or 15 mg of zinc sulfate daily had lower rates of colds and fewer absences from school due to colds. The authors suggest that zinc may also work for adults.
    Probiotics: there is some evidence that probiotics may help prevent colds, although the types and combinations of organisms varied in the studies as did the formulations (pills, liquids, etc.), making comparison difficult.

    Antihistamines combined with decongestants and/or pain medications appear to be somewhat or moderately effective in treating colds in older children — but not in children under age 5 — and adults.
    Pain relievers: ibuprofen and acetaminophen help with pain and fever. Ibuprofen appears better for fever in children.
    Nasal sprays: ipratropium, a drug used to treat allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, may alleviate runny nose when used in a nasal spray but has no effect on congestion.

Other approaches and treatments
According to the evidence, the benefits of frequently used remedies such as ginseng, (found in ColdFX), gargling, vapor rubs and homeopathy are unclear. Cough medicines show no benefit in children but may offer slight benefit in adults. Honey has a slight effect in relieving cough symptoms in children over age 1. Vitamin C and antibiotics show no benefit, and misused antibiotics can have associated harms.

The authors note that the evidence for preventing and treating colds is often of poor quality and has inconsistent results.

"Much more evidence now exists in this area, but many uncertainties remain regarding interventions to prevent and treat the common cold," write the authors. "We focused on RCTs and systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs for therapy, but few of the studies had a low risk of bias. However, many of the results were inconsistent and had small effects (e.g., vitamin C), which arouses suspicion that any noted benefit may represent bias rather than a true effect."