Time To Get Rid of Your Wallpaper?

March 5th, 2015

After living in our house for 19 years I decided that it was time for a change and undertook the removal of the wallpaper that we had in our kitchen.  I was lucky.  My dad was our wallpaper installer and he used sizing so it came off easily.

That wasn’t what happened in our first house that we purchased when we got married.  There were many layers of wallpaper and it was a much bigger task!

If you have wallpaper and are ready for a change here are the steps to remove it from your walls.

  • Remove all of the electrical face plates, light switches and any nails used to hang pictures. Cover anything electrical with masking or duct tape to protect them from water. It is a good idea to cut the power to the room to avoid water and electricity problems.
  • Place a drop cloth on the floor that is water resistant to keep water off of the carpet, hardwood or tile floor.
  • Test a corner of the wallpaper to see if it easily comes off without taking off the drywall. If it doesn’t come off easily you can use a solvent to help with the removal or you may need to rent a steamer.
  • A solvent can be made at home by mixing hot water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar or hot water and fabric softener in a spray bottle. The important thing to remember is that hot water is needed to work with the vinegar or fabric softener to dissolve the glue. Spray on the wallpaper in a section that you can strip in a 15 minute period.
  • The paper will begin to sag or pull away from the wall if this method is working. If it doesn’t you may need to rent a commercial wallpaper steamer. This tool has a pad where steam is released. The steamer is held in place to allow the steam to penetrate the paper and soften the glue. Use a scraper to remove the wallpaper once it has loosened. If it is not coming off you might need to use the steamer for a longer period of time but also make sure that you are not damaging the wall by using too much steam. Make sure you wear gloves since the wallpaper and glue will be hot. If your wallpaper is very old or you have many layers to take off, this method will save you the most time.
  • Once the wallpaper is removed the last remaining glue should be washed off using a sponge and very hot water with a small amount of soap. When the remaining adhesive is removed, rinse the wall with clean water and use a towel to dry it. If the wall was damaged use spackling to repair it.

Removing wallpaper will give your house a whole new look.  It is a labor of love that gives you a sense of accomplishment when the project is finished!

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Tips for produce storage

March 2nd, 2015

potatoes with eyes4This is the time of year we begin to get calls from folks that worked hard all summer raising vegetables. After harvest and a few months of storage, some crops begin to deteriorate. Potatoes grow eyes, onions sprout, and acorn squash turn orange.

If these problems are happening in your home, we have great information from Richard Jauron at the Hortline.

Sprouting potatoes can be caused by storing at temperatures above 50°F. Potatoes prefer storage in cooler temperatures; but not in the refrigerator. Storage in the refrigerator can begin to turn the potato starch into sugar. Also, storing potatoes near fruit can cause sprouting as potatoes are affected by the ethylene gas produced by ripe fruit.

Sprouting or rotting onions can also be caused by storage at temperatures above 50°F. If the bulbs are kept in a damp area or stored with poor air circulation they are prone to rotting. The main determining factor in storage life of onions is the variety or cultivar of onion that you plant. For best storage life, choose varieties such as Dopra, Stuttgarter, and Red Zeppelin. If these onions are harvested when the tops begin to fall over and are cured in a warm, dry well ventilated location they should keep well.

Yellowing of acorn squash is also due to improper storage conditions. They should be stored between 50°F and 55°F. Storage above these temperatures can also cause the flesh to become stringy.

Next year when you are harvesting your garden produce, you may want to refer to


Food Preservation, Horticulture

Ways to Add More Fiber to your Diet

February 26th, 2015

Last time we talked about what fiber is and the health benefits of boosting fiber intake.  Now let’s see how you can increase it in your daily diet.

Here are some great tips for boosting your dietary fiber intake if you aren’t getting enough:

Include more:

  • Whole grain products
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans, peas and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Breakfast of champions: For breakfast choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal – 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.  Read the label or opt for cereals with “whole grain,” “bran” or “fiber” in the name.  Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.  Choose 100% whole grain breads for toast or bagels.

Granola as a gift resized

Switch to whole grains: Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains.  Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label.  Look for a brand with at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.  Try including brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur.

Bulk up your baked goods.  Substitute whole grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking.  Whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour.  In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer.  When using  When using baking powder, increase it by 1 teapoon for every 3 cups of whole-grain flour.  Try adding crushed bran cereal, unprocessed wheat bran or uncooked oatmeal to muffins, cakes and cookies.

Fiber Additions:  Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces.  For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.


Raw Kidney Beans final

Include Legumes:  Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of fiber.  Add black beans to canned soup or a green salad.  Or make nachos with refried beans.

Eat fruit at every meal:  Apples, berries, oranges, pears, bananas are good sources of fiber.

Make snacks count:  Fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices.  An occasional handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fiber snack.

High fiber foods are good for your health.  But adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks.  This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.

Here are the USDA dietary guidelines on daily fiber intake for adults:

  Age 50 or younger Age 51 or older
Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

Here is a list of the fiber content of specific foods from Mount Sinai Health System’s nutrition department.

Remember to drink plenty of water.  Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.

Low fiber foods include refined or processed foods – such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads, pastas, and rice, and non-whole grain cereals.  The grain refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content.  Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content.

Whole foods rather than fiber supplements are generally better.  Fiber supplements – such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon –don’t provide the variety of fibers, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that foods do.

However, some people may still need a fiber supplement if dietary changes aren’t sufficient or if they have certain medical conditions, such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome.  Always check with your doctor if you feel you need to take fiber supplements.

Fiber is also added to some foods.  However, it’s not yet clear if added fiber provides the same health benefits as naturally occurring sources.

It’s easy to include more fiber in your daily diet and reap the health benefits with great tasting meals and snacks.

jill sig

Food Preparation, Nutrition, Uncategorized

Fiber in the Healthy Diet

February 23rd, 2015

Fiber and Health Benefits

You may have heard that you should eat more fiber or “roughage”.  But why is fiber so good for your health?

Dietary fiber – found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fiber can provide other important health benefits as well.

Choosing tasty foods that provide fiber isn’t difficult.  Find out how much dietary fiber you need, the foods that contain it, and how to add them to meals and snacks.

imageDietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb.  Unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates – which your body breaks down and absorbs – fiber isn’t digested by your body.  Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon and out of your body.

Fiber is typically classified as soluble (it dissolves in water) or insoluble (it doesn’t dissolve):

Soluble fiber: This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material.  It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.  Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Most plant-based foods, such as oatmeal and beans, contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.  However, the amount of each type varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.


  • Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”, cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that fiber may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber – particularly soluble fiber- can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
  • Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may also help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.
  • Aids in achieving healthy weight. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
  • Possible prevention of colorectal cancer. More research needs to be done on this, but preliminary results are promising.

How much fiber do you need each day?  The Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, gives the following daily recommendations for adults:

  Age 50 or younger Age 51 or older
Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

Stay tuned next time we’ll discuss ways to boost your daily fiber intake!

Until then, healthy eating!

jill sig

Food Preparation, Nutrition, Uncategorized

Cutting Your Sodium Intake

February 19th, 2015

photoAccording to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 sodium is an essential nutrient and is needed by the body in relatively small quantities (provided that substantial sweating does not occur) for regulation of fluids and blood pressure.  For many people higher sodium intakes can cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to other health problems like cardiovascular disease, heart failure and kidney disease so watching the amount of sodium that you consume is important.

The recommendation is to reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams or about 1 teaspoon per day.  The amount is less for older people that have problems with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.  The estimated average consumption of sodium listed in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines is approximately 3,400 milligrams per day.   Much of the sodium that we consume comes from salt (sodium chloride) that has been added during processing or food preparation.  Salting foods at the table contributes only a small part of the sodium that Americans consume.

Here are some suggestions on ways to reduce sodium consumptions:

  • Consume fresh foods rather than processed foods that are higher in sodium.
  • Prepare foods at home and control the amount of additional salt you add.
  • Cook with seasonings to flavor foods rather than adding salt.
  • Always taste the food before adding additional salt.
  • When eating out at restaurants ask for lower sodium options or ask if the salt can be left off of your food.
  • Reduce your calorie intake since the more food you consume the more sodium you consume.
  • Read the nutrition labels on food to see what their sodium content is. Purchase foods that are low in sodium.

If you are trying to reduce your salt intake spice combinations will add flavor to your foods without adding sodium.  Here are some that you might want to try:


1/2 tsp. sweet leaf basil

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. ground marjoram

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

In bowl, crush basil until fine.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  Spoon into shaker.  Use to season meat, chicken, fish, casseroles, vegetables and salads.


2 Tablespoons leaf oregano

2 Tablespoons parley flakes

4 teaspoons sweet leaf basil

4 teaspoons leaf tarragon

1 teaspoon leaf sage

4 Tablespoons onion powder

4 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons ground marjoram

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme

In bowl, combine oregano, parsley flakes, basil, tarragon and sage. Crush with fingers until fine. Stir in onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, pepper and thyme until blended. Spoon into shaker. Use to  season meat, chicken, fish, casseroles, vegetables and salads.

REF: Tone’s Spices 1986

SPICY BLEND     Sodium: 0.59 mg. per teaspoon

2 Tbsp. dried savory, crushed

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

2 1/2 tsp. onion powder

1 3/4 tsp. curry powder

1 1/4 tsp. fresh ground white pepper

1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin

12 tsp. garlic powder

Mix thoroughly and place in shaker.  Store in cool, dry place. Use in main dishes.

HERB ‘N’ LEMON SEASONING      Sodium: 1 mg per teaspoon

Grated peel of 1/2 lemon

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or basil leaves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate in covered container. Sprinkles desired over meat, poultry or fish before broiling or baking.

REF: Altering Recipes Pm 1064 Jan. 1993

By eating healthy and cutting down on your sodium, it will help with many potential health problems.  Clemson University has a publication called Halt! Salt that gives additional suggestions.

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Food Preparation, Nutrition, recipes

Cleaning Your Humidifier

February 16th, 2015

imageIn the winter our houses tend to dry out causing static electricity, dry nose, throat and skin problems.  One way to add moisture to our homes is to use a humidifying device.  These machines can be cool mist, steam or evaporative (a fan blows air through a moistened absorbent material like a belt or filter).  These will add moisture back into the home if it is dry but care must be taken to avoid excessive moisture which can lead to bacterial growth if the machines are not maintained and cleaned regularly.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are using a humidifier in your home:

  • Use distilled or demineralized water in your machines to reduce hard water deposits. Tap water often contains more minerals which can be released in the mist. If the particles are fine enough they can be breathed in which could cause health problems depending on what the type and amount of minerals are.
  • Try to change the water in your humidifier daily. By emptying the tank and wiping it dry it will keep any film and scum from developing in your machine and will reduce the growth of microorganisms. If the tank is not removable use the manufacturer’s instruction to keep the machine clean.
  • If you are using a steam vaporizer keep it out of the reach of children. The steam can cause burns if anyone comes in direct contact with it.
  • Make sure that the humidity in your house doesn’t go beyond 50 percent. If so moisture can build up on windows and walls and can cause mold growth. A tool called a hygrometer can measure the humidity level in your house. They are usually found at your local hardware store.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions on what cleaning products to use. If bleach or other products are used, the tanks will need to be rinsed well before using so that those strong chemicals smells are not released into the air in your house.
  • At the end of the season make sure that all of the parts are cleaned and dry before putting it away. Also clean it thoroughly before bringing it out to use again the next winter.

Remember breathing dirty air can cause problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to infections.  If you suffer from allergies or asthma the problem can be even worse.  By keeping your humidifiers clean and using them correctly you can make your house comfortable and safe.

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Cleaning, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Housing

Valentine’s Day Treat Storage

February 12th, 2015

You may be surprised to learn that Valentine’s Day started with the Romans. There are two theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day. The first is that the day derives from Lupercalia, a raucous Roman festival on February 15 where men stripped naked and spanked young maidens in hopes of upping their fertility. The second theory is that while the Roman Emperor Claudius II was trying to bolster his army, he forbade young men to marry (apparently single men make better soldiers). In the spirit of love, St. Valentine defied the ban and performed secret marriages. For his disobedience, Valentine was executed on February 14.

Either way, Americans love to celebrate the holiday as a symbol of love and romance, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you might be wondering how to store some of the goodies that come with the holiday.

Here are a few guidelines on cookie and chocolate storage from StillTasty.com, a website for food storage guidelines using research-based information.

Store boxed chocolates at a moderate room temperature. Stored at these temperatures, most types of boxed chocolates will retain their quality for at least 6 to 9 months, even after they’ve been opened. (The exception to this is premium gourmet, handmade chocolates. They will usually remain at peak quality for only about 2-3 weeks at room temperature.)

  • Ideal temperature for storing chocolates is generally between 60⁰ and 70⁰ Fahrenheit – much warmer than that, and the chocolates’ texture and appearance can begin to suffer.
  • In hot, humid conditions – or for longer-term storage refrigerate or freeze chocolates.
  • Refrigeration can extend the shelf life of your chocolates by at least 25%, while freezing can prolong it by 50% or more. Place the original box in a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag, seal and refrigerate for up to one year, or freeze for up to 18 months for best quality. Thaw frozen chocolates in the refrigerator.
  • If the climate in your home is routinely above 70⁰ Fahrenheit and humid – or if you can’t polish off your entire box of chocolates within a few months – your next best option is to refrigerate or freeze your boxed chocolates.
  • Chocolate absorbs nearby odors like a sponge. So it’s important to keep your boxed chocolates well-covered, no matter where you’re storing them. For maximum taste and freshness, place opened boxes in a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag and seal it tightly.

Bakery or homemade cookies can be stored at room temperature 2 – 3 weeks or 2 months in the refrigerator.  Cookies retain their quality when stored in the freezer for 8 to 12 months.

The best way to store cookies is in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag with the air pressed out.

Baked cookies are best stored separately according to their type, crispy or chewy. For long- term cookie storage, freeze them.  Thaw at room temperature in their wrappers.

Moist bars, such as cheesecake and lemon bars, can be refrigerated for 7 days.  For best quality, store bars in the freezer for up to 2 to 3 months.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

jill sig

Food Preservation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas, Uncategorized

Reducing Food Waste

February 9th, 2015

photo (2)With our last child leaving to attend college we have become empty nesters.  This has brought about a huge change in my grocery shopping and meal plans!  It has caused me to reevaluate how much I purchase and how many leftovers we are able to consume.

According to the National Resources Defense Council 40 percent of food in the US goes to waste.  A lot of the household waste is due to over purchasing, food spoilage, and plate waste.   About 2/3 of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other 1/3 is caused by people cooking or serving too much.    With this in mind here are some suggestions to reduce your food waste and save money.

  • Be careful of buying in bulk.  Foods have limited shelf life and even thought the price may be much cheaper in a larger quantity, if you end up throwing the excess away the overall cost will be higher.
  • Plan your meals before you go to the grocery store using the grocery ad.  Then you will know what is on sale and not end up with impulse purchases and you will have the foods you need for the meals you have planned.
  • Store foods properly.  If your produce was purchased in the refrigerator section of the grocery store it should be refrigerated when you bring it home.
  • In the refrigerator store fruits that emit ethylene gas (apples, apricots, cantaloupe, figs, kiwis, melons and plums) away from other fruit and vegetables in a refrigerator drawer. Ethylene gas can contribute to overly quick ripening of other produce when stored together.
  • Remember to freeze foods that will not be consumed within a few days. Freeze leftovers in single serving sizes in freezer containers.  Then you will have small meals or lunches available to reheat when you want them and you don’t have to eat the same meal for days at a time.
  • Use fruits and vegetables in various ways. Besides eating them as side dishes or snacks put extra fruits in smoothies or mash for ice cream syrups or pancake toppings and cut fruit up to make fruit salsa. Roast extra vegetable and add them to stir fry dishes, put in a tortilla or use as pizza toppings.  Remember fruits and vegetables can also be frozen.  Be sure to blanch vegetables for best quality freezing.

Help reduce your food waste and decrease what you are spending on foods by being a smart consumer.

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Consumer Management, Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Tips for disposing of old and outdated medications

February 5th, 2015

medicine1Now that we are nearly done with January, it is time to continue working on my resolution to reduce clutter at my house. Somehow, we seem to find more outdated or unfinished medicine bottles in the medicine cabinet every year.

Our community does not have a drug disposal day scheduled for anytime soon, so if I want to finish cleaning the medicine cabinet, I’ll have to dispose of them some other way.

According to the FDA, here are some tips for disposing of medicine, either over the counter or prescription:

    • Follow directions for disposal listed on the label
      • Do NOT flush
    • Put the drugs in the trash
      • Mix the medication with used coffee grounds or kitty litter
      • This step prevents the temptation for others to try these drugs
      • Place in a container that will not allow leakage
      • Put container into garbage
    • Remove any identifying information on the label—name or address
    • DON’T share the drugs with friends
    • If you have further questions, consult your pharmacist.

We want to be careful disposing of drugs because we want to be sure that others will not be sickened by trying these medications. The side effects of unknown drugs can be dangerous for uninformed consumers or children. Flushing drugs down the toilet—which had been advised in the past—is not considered safe as the drug residue can make its way into ground water and streams or lakes.

Following the steps outlined above will help keep our family, neighbors and neighborhoods safe. Happy cleaning.





Cleaning, Consumer Management, Home Environment

Tips for candy making

February 2nd, 2015


making candy2It is a great time of the year to be making candy.  The temperatures and humidity before Christmas did not allow me to make my traditional peanut brittle.  However, I did promise that I would make it after Christmas so I it is time to tackle candy making. I’ve listed some tips that should make candy making easier for you.

My first tip would be to test the candy thermometer for accuracy.  Even though a thermometer is new or you tested it last year, it is still a good idea to test the thermometer every time you use it. Remember that humidity has a big effect on candy making—don’t plan to make candy when the humidity is high.  Optimum humidity for candy making is 25% or lower.  That happens on those very cold, clear days in winter.

The second tip is: remember to be careful when making candy.  The hot syrup will burn your hand or arm very quickly.  When the syrup temperature is over 200 degrees and sticky, burns with blistering happen pretty quickly.  Run the burned area under cool water as soon as possible to limit the effects of the burning syrup.  Use a wooden spoon for stirring.  Metal spoons will transmit the heat of the candy into your hand—–yet another burn risk.  Wearing hot mitts can prevent steam burns while you are stirring the candy or adding ingredients late in the process.

Tip number three is: use a heavy pan to cook candy; this lets the syrup heat evenly and can prevent scorching.  Making candy in a pan that is too small can allow the syrup to bubble up over the top of the pan creating a huge mess that is difficult to clean.

Lastly, remember never to alter candy recipes.  These formulas for making candy may not turn out right if you decrease or increase the amount of ingredients.  In the long run, it is quicker to make two batches of candy than to double the recipe and hope for the best.

I hope these simple ideas help you to make candy easily and safely this winter.