Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We Tested It: Black Tea Glass Cleaner

This is awesome! Click to

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We Tested It: Black Tea Glass Cleaner

What can tea NOT do? Sayward tested it as a DIY glass cleaner and got great results. How do YOU use tea around the house?

This is the BEFORE shot. Scroll down to see my window AFTER I cleaned it with black tea. --Sayward

Do-it-yourself cleaning and cosmetics have kind of become my obsession my hobby. I think about how I used to slap down my cold hard cash for all those creepy chemicals, those toxins just sitting under my sink, with their smells that seemed to permeate my every pore. I remember the artificial aqua, the glowing neon green, such unnaturally bright colors. And I’ll never forget that cloying, eye-watering suffocation that came from cleaning a too-tiny bathroom with too many kinds of soaps and powders and pastes and bleaches. Oof.

I think back to those days and I can’t help but smile. Because now, I’m spending mere pennies and my cleansers and cosmetics are good enough to eat – literally! And my house is just as clean as ever and my body is just as beautiful, and gosh, but everything is so much more pleasant.

So it’s kind of become a game for me, to find and test new ways of turning healthy wholesome food-based items into awesome and powerful multipurpose players in my cleaning and grooming adventures. Vinegar is an old favorite, an actor in everything from my countertop cleanser to my laundry detergent to my hair conditioner. And baking soda is invaluable. It makes appearances in my deodorant, my toothpaste, and it’s all I use these days for shampoo.

But that’s nothing revolutionary. Any kitchen chemist worth their salt has seen these ingredients in action. What about life beyond vinegar and baking soda? What about that?

What about . . . tea? Super cheap and slightly acidic, tannin-rich tea just might be the next big untapped oil well in the game of cleaning my Portland home. It’s all natural. It’s available everywhere. And best of all, it’s effective!

Black tea is awesome in about a million and one ways, not the least of which is that it tastes great and keeps me going strong, but it also boasts an impressive list of DIY prowess. For this particular project, I’ve put it to the test as a glass and mirror cleaner.

I steeped an extra-strong glass of simple black tea (I used earl grey, my favorite) - 3 bags in an 8-oz glass. I let it steep and cool for an hour to really draw out all those tannins. Then I transferred the brew to a spray bottle (ex-chemical cleaner bottles, well washed of course, work well for this), and put it to work on the dirtiest window in my house.

Dog noses and kiddie fingers have pressed at this window for months. Perhaps that says something about my cleaning skills, but let’s just say it was for science. On the right hand pane I used plain water and scrubbed with newspaper (newspaper leaves less streaking than rags, and can still be recycled when you’re through). On the left I used tea.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let There Be Light! 23 Lamps We Love

Find your lighting here!

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Let There Be Light! 23 Lamps We Love

Bright Lights

These glossy pendants in playful primary hues keep it feeling bright inside even when it’s dreary outdoors.

Get it now: FL/Y Pendant by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell, $293 at

Brassy Beauty

Made of intricately-etched brass, this design gives off a warm, honey-colored light while casting interesting shadows.

Get it now: Etch Pendant by Tom Dixon, $375 at

Make Lemons

The lemony yellow hue of this blown-glass table lamp will brighten even the gloomiest apartment.

Get it now: Perch glass lamp, $69 at

Mare Flair

Both dignified and quirky, this cast aluminum piece comes topped with a gold-lined shade that gives off a gilded glow.

Get it now: Cast metal horse head lamp, $149 at

Roped in

This rustic table topper, with a lasso of rope wrapping its stem, is ideal for outfitting a country getaway.

Get it now: Raita lamp ensemble, $168 at

Antiqued Teal

It comes in a burnished gold and a sunflower yellow, but we’ve fallen for the turquoise version, perfect for lighting up a living area.

Get it now: Vintage floor lamp, $119 at

Survey the Scene

Based on turn-of-the-century surveyors’ tripods, these floor lamps come in raw pine with a nickel trim, and look like they should be used to illuminate your treasure map.

Get it now: Roost floor lamp, $294 at

Paul Pendant

We love him for his melamine plates and witty textiles, and Thomas Paul further earns our affection with his pendants in a variety of shapes and sweet prints.

Get it now: Thomas Paul ‘Bridgett’ pendant lamp, $210 at

Candy Colors

Ideal for dressing up a dreary desk, these candy-colored confections cast a subtle glow through their beveled shades.

Get it now: Kartell ‘Take’ table lamp, $119 at

Light Takes Flight

This twee topper can perch on a bookshelf, act as a reading lamp or serve as a nightlight to a budding birdwatcher.

Get it now: Thorsten Van Elten Pigeon Light, $140 at

Strung Up

Think of these as the grown up version of the Christmas lights you used to hang in your college dorm room. Let them soak your space in a cozy glow, then string them up outside when the weather warms.

Get it now: Disc string lights, $225 at

DIY Style

With their colorful plugs and creative use of Mason jars, these lanterns have a definite DIY aesthetic.

Get it now: Energy Preserved Light by Design Hell Yes, $35 at

Heads Above

This playful number, made of fired stoneware with a glossy glaze, will be right at home in your little one’s nursery.

Get it now: Giraffe lamp, $395 at

Glam Lamp

Cascades of crystals and a gleaming chrome base make for a sparkling addition to a glamorous abode.

Get it now: Falling Stars table lamp, $200,

Bedside Bright

This old-school pharmacy lamp, with its oil-rubbed bronze finish, can add distinction to your bedside table or personality to your cubicle.

Get it now: Linden Street adjustable pharmacy lamp, $47 at

What’s Old is New

Etsy’s MDesignTree shop combines antiques, found items and modern fabrics to create one-of-a-kind home d├ęcor, like this old-fashioned ceramic lamp with its of-the-moment ikat shade.

Get it now: Red ikat table lamp, $75 at

Feathered Furnishings

With its birdcage topper with decorative sparrows inside, if this whimsical floor lamp from Parisian atelier Mathieu Challieres doesn’t beat your winter blues, we don’t know what will.

Get it now: Voliere Floor Lamp, $671 at

Happy Light

With the sun now setting at 4:30, make sure you get your vitamin D with these natural light-therapy lamps from Verilux, which are said to lift spirits, improve concentration and improve sleep patterns.

Get it now: Verilux HappyLight Light Therapy Lamp for Winter Blues, $90 at

Well Rounded

This origami globe casts a soft glow -- and costs as much as lunch.

Get it now: Ikea ‘Fillsta’ table lamp, $15 at

Branch Out

The price tag is high, but this dreamy chandelier, with its ceramic antler branches and classic flame-shaped light bulbs, just might be worth it.

Get it now: Superordinate antler pendant, $5,900 at


This angular chandelier adds some interest to an entryway -- and twinkles like the real thing.

Get it now: Worlds Away star chandelier, $185 at

Pop of Color

When you want to light up a room but don’t want the lamp to steal the show, this table topper from CB2 blends chicly into the background…except for the unexpected chartreuse cord.

Get it now: CB2 ‘Green Line’ table lamp, $100 at

Take Wing

Turning on this shapely clay wall sconce casts butterfly-like patterns on the wall, and a touch dimmer allows you to adjust the brightness to your liking.

Get it now: Claylight sconce with touch dimmer, $180 at

Friday, February 24, 2012

The 25 Best Indoor Plants

Bring the outdoors in with 25 of the best plants for the indoors.

Image by iVillage
Experts agree that in raising plants indoors, the golden rule should be to replicate the plants’ natural habitat as much as possible. The environment is just part of the equation though. The characteristics of the plant should also be considered.

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African Violets
African violets need constant sunshine so place it next to a window that faces south. During winter, set the temperature at around 15.6 degrees Celsius to ensure that the violets continue to bloom. Be careful not to over-water the plant. Pour out water directly into the roots when the surface is dry.

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Aloe Vera
Caring for aloe vera means watering only when necessary. During summer, it can be placed outdoors without intervention. An indication of good health for the aloe vera is the presence of thick, spot-free leaves.

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Amazon Elephant Ear
As a tropical plant, the main consideration for the Amazon elephant's ear is the temperature. Keep it at around 18 to 21 degrees Celsius. It should be placed in a bright room with no direct sunlight.

Mist the leaves to recreate the humidity in the jungle and water if the soil is dry. If the leaves start turning brown, then it could be a sign that the plant is over-watered.

Image by iVillage
The avocado plant is more forgiving when it comes to temperatures. While it is still germinating, keep the temperature at around 18 degrees Celsius. Once the leaves start to appear, normal temperatures will suffice.

Trim the leaves that appear below the top leaves to ensure that the avocado plant grows upwards.

Image by iVillage
Boston Fern 
To properly raise a Boston fern, place it in a location that has access to indirect sunlight. Give it plenty of water, enough so that the soil is always moist. Mist the leaves frequently.

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Expect these plants to flower annually, if the circumstances are right. Fortunately, bromeliads are fond of artificial light so access to sunlight is not a problem.

As for water, it is important for bromeliads to have good drainage. A good trick to remember to keep from over-watering the plant is to think of it as rainfall. Water about twice in a month.

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Clivia Miniata
The Clivia miniata is a cool-temperature plant, which thrives on temperatures of about 4.5 to 10 degrees Celsius. Water the plant moderately. It should receive less water during the winter period.

An important thing to consider about the Clivia miniata is that its root system should be kept tight so repot only when the pot cracks.

Image by iVillage
Crown of Thorns
Crown of thorns is a plant that should be placed in bright, indirect sunlight. The roots should be well-watered, but the soil should be allowed to dry out before introducing further watering. Should enough water and sunlight be available, small red flowers should be in bloom throughout the year.
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This plant likes a good chill, often thriving in unseated parts of the house. Also, keep it away from direct sunlight and make sure that the soil is always moist.

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Ice Cascade
The ice cascade, or the cymbidium Sarah Jean, is a type of orchid that prefers extreme environments: give it a lot of sunlight, up to 15 hours a day. In the evening, place it in a cold location.

When winter hits, mist the leaves occasionally to provide the plant with sufficient moisture.

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Keep cacti near a sunny window, mist it on occasion and it should thrive. A cactus plant should only be watered when the soil is bone dry.

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Indoor Boxwood
Give the boxwood direct exposure to sunlight, such as near a full glass window. Aside from giving the plant enough sunshine, keep the soil moist longer by adding mulch to the top of the soil. Water the boxwood about once a week.
Keep it from looking overgrown by trimming the branches whenever necessary.
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Money Plant
Ensure the longevity of the plant by watering it when the soil is completely dry. Soak through the soil when giving the money plant water. To propagate a new money plant, cut a stem right below the node and repot it in moist soil.

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To encourage blooms to appear, give it indirect sunlight and place it in a freezing room – ideally -5 degrees Celsius - at night. Refrain from giving the moth orchid too much water. Once every couple of weeks is fine. However, the leaves should be misted about once a week.

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Ming Aralia
Taking care of the ming aralia means that it is kept moist and warm. Give it bright, indirect sunlight and water it often. The water should reach a few inches below the soil to ensure that it gets to the root system. In addition, mist the leaves to increase humidity.

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Mother-in-Law's Tongue
Wondering why the sharp, cutting leaves earned this plant its name? You should meet my mother-in-law. Water the plant once every two months. The mother-in-law’s tongue can even thrive in the shade.

Image by iVillage
Peace Lily
The maintenance of this good luck plant involves misting the leaves and keeping the roots moist. It prefers warmer temperatures, but make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight. In the spring, give your peace lily a new home by repotting it.
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Water your philodendrons generously and give it a dose of fertilizer fairly regularly. Just like how your face needs a good moisturiser in the winter, give the philodendron more water during winter to keep it from going dry.

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Polka Dot Plant
Sunlight enhances the patterns on the leaves of the polka dot plant, so give it a lot of direct sunlight. Water regularly to keep the soil moist and mist the leaves. This plant loves humidity.

The polka dot plant needs to be given a new pot every spring.

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Rosemary, Sage, Thyme
My three favourite herbs are also three of the easiest plants to keep indoors. Water them regularly and place them on a sunny part of the room and watch them thrive. Your kitchen will never lack flavour for dishes again.

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Spider Plant
Spider plants are like rabbits – they reproduce fairly quickly. It is one of those plants that are just begging to be propagated. One of the major issues that spider plants encounter is the browning of the tips of its leaves. Avoid this by using distilled water when watering the plant.

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I once had a succulent that I forgot about. As a testament to its hardiness, it was still alive when I encountered it weeks later. As long as the succulent gets enough sunlight and is watered every two months or so, the succulent should be fine.

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Zebra Cactus
Keep the plant in a part of the room that receives bright, indirect sunlight. It should only be watered when the soil is dried out completely.

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Zebra Plant
The zebra plant should be well-watered and misted regularly. It also hates the cold so make sure that the temperature does not drop below 15 degrees Celsius.