Making Herbal Teas at Home from Your Garden

It is common knowledge that most teas have a variety of health benefits. Green teas can decrease cholesterol, and black teas can raise low blood pressure. Have a sore throat or a bad day? Pour yourself a hot cup of tea.

Herbal teas have been used for centuries as home remedies to cure anything from indigestion to insomnia. Many of the plants and herbs used in these teas can be grown in your own backyard. Make sure you have a spot in your yard that gets plenty of sunlight, as these all of these herbs and plants require good drainage and lots of light.

Harvesting these herbs at the right time is important. Make sure to cut them before they flower and before it gets cold enough for a frost. Some of these plants grow quickly and can be cut many times. Many believe cutting them in the morning in cool weather is better for the taste. Do not cut too much at once, especially during the hotter months, as the plant could go into shock and die.

Once these herbs have grown to maturity, you can make tea from fresh herbs, or you can dry them. Drying them means you can store them for a longer period of time. Once you’ve cut them, wash and dry them, and then hang them upside down using string or twine for at least 24 hours, or until they are stiff. You want to make sure they are dry, otherwise, they will mold and you cannot use them for anything. Store them in an airtight container.

Using a tea ball or tightly wrapped cheesecloth, place the herbs into a cup of boiling water. Times will vary depending on the herb, and personal preference, but be sure to strain the liquid before drinking. If using dried herbs, two tablespoons should be enough for one cup of tea. If using dried herbs, double the amount.

Lemon Verbena Tea

Brew two tablespoons of these dried leaves for at least 10 minutes. This tea can boost the immune system, relieve stomach pain, and reduce joint pain.

Chamomile

This herb is ready when daisy-like flowers bloom. Use the head of the flower, not the leaves, to make the tea. It needs a lot of sun and a lot of water. This tea is commonly used to aid with sleep and anxiety.

Peppermint Tea

Peppermint does best when grown in a container, with full sun and water. Peppermint tea helps with inflammation, eases stomach pain, and it can also stimulate the appetite. The aroma of peppermint tea is said to increase alertness and memory functions.

Lavender Tea

Lavender plants thrive best when they have plenty of sun and good drainage. Use the flower buds to make this tea. It can reduce tension and alleviate headaches. It can also be used to decrease stress and is often paired with chamomile as a calming brew.

Ginger Tea

What makes this tea unique is that it is made using the root and leaves from the plant. It grows best in filtered light and makes an excellent indoor plant as long as it is kept moist. This tea can be used to treat cold and flu symptoms, digestion issues, and nausea. It is also packed full of antioxidants, which makes it the perfect tea to drink daily.

Sage Tea

Sage can have a very strong astringent flavor, so steep time for this tea varies based on preference. Sage tea can help with skin inflammation, mouth sores, and hot flashes.

Rosemary Tea

Make sure to use only the leaves of the rosemary plant when making tea. This herb is grown in many gardens and is a staple in most kitchens. The tea can be used to protect the body against heart disease, as well as improving digestion. Drinking it also helps with boosting immune health.


Due to these teas being herbal, they all contain little to no caffeine. Any of these herbs can be combined for different flavored teas. Ginger and mint are commonly infused together to soothe upset stomachs. Lavender and chamomile are a good combination to aid in restful sleep.

It is also perfectly okay to add other flavors to the teas. Adding lemon (juice and dried rind), honey, or agave will not take away from the health benefits. The taste of these teas should be enjoyable.

Cheers to your health!

Composting in the Kitchen: Containers, Bags, and Everything You’ll Need.

The simple definition of “composting,” according to Wikipedia, is “organic matter that has been decomposed.” Over the years, this process has become more and more popular in homes across the country. Several cities have rolled out programs that provide compost bins to homes, and collect it separately from trash and recyclables.

Not only does compost reduce the amount of waste you toss out every week, but it is extremely beneficial to the environment. Collecting old food scraps, soiled materials, and yard waste are easier than you think. If you do not live in a city that has a compost program, here is everything you’ll need to start this process at home.

Containers

Keeping a bin in the kitchen to aid in the collecting of food scraps to take outside is a great idea. A stainless-steel bin will help keep odor to a minimum. If the odor is not an issue, or you don’t mind emptying it as often, a small plastic container will do the trick. You can also recycle a sizeable container that has been used before (coffee tin or ice cream pail). You will want to use something with a lid that can be easily emptied. This container can be kept on the counter, under the sink, or in a cabinet.

Outside containers take a bit more thought and neighborly consideration. If you have no outdoor space or a small patio area, consider a worm bin. For those who have a bigger space but still close to neighbors, consider a compost tumbler. You will want to “turn” your compost pile at least once every three days, or when it starts to smell. Keep your compost collection area in the shade. This will help with the odor.  

Bags

Keeping a bag in the bin in your kitchen will save a lot of time and energy that you would be wasting by constantly washing it. You cannot use a plastic bag, as those do not break down in the composting cycle. Find a disposable compost bag. Make sure the bags are BPI-certified. Paper bags can be used to collect larger composting materials, such as grass or yard clippings.

Make sure the bag says “compostable,” as opposed to “biodegradable.” There is a subtle but key difference. A biodegradable bag will break down, but it will take a longer time. These should be used to collect regular trash. A compostable bag breaks down quicker.

Moisture and heat cause compostable bags to break down quicker. Moisture and heat are also two things that can collect quickly in your countertop receptacle. Make sure to keep an eye on the bag and be cautious when taking it outside.

What Can (and Cannot) be Composted

Now that you’ve got your materials, it’s time to start composting. Here is a list of things that can and should be composted:

  • Yard waste (grass clippings or leaves)
  • Soiled paper (pizza boxes, used napkins, etc.)
  • Black and white newspaper
  • Vegetable and fruit food scraps (rinds, peels, skins)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Old leftover food

Things that should NOT be composted:

  • Meat (raw or cooked)
  • Pet waste
  • Fats and oils
  • Diseased yard waste (or anything that has been exposed to pesticides)

At Home Tips 

The number one tip for composting at home is to have a tight-fitting lid on the container you keep in your kitchen. This cannot be stressed enough. It will keep the odor to a minimum, and also keep out the fruit flies and other critters.

Cut down food into smaller pieces. The smaller the food scraps, the quicker they will break down. The quicker they break down, the sooner your compost will become soil that can be used in the garden.

If you are not someone who eats at home regularly but are still interested in composting, consider keeping your collection bin in the refrigerator. This will save counter space. It will also keep the odor to a minimum, the pests away, and will allow you to collect scraps for a longer period of time. You will still want to make sure it has a lid on it.

The key to successful composting begins with knowing what can and cannot be composted. Consider printing off a guide and place it somewhere in your kitchen that is easy to see, to act as a reminder to yourself and others.


Wishing you the best of luck in your composting efforts!

How to Fit More into Your Suitcase with Packing Cubes

Whether you’re trying to fit everything you own into a carry-on, or just trying to efficiently pack and plan a two-week trip to London, packing cubes are a must for any traveler. They come in many shapes and sizes and can help with staying organized. When it comes to efficient packing, everyone knows it’s not only about what you pack, but how you pack it.

Packing cubes stack neatly into a suitcase, backpack, or duffel bag to help the user stay organized while traveling. They are very durable and very useful. Depending on how you pack the clothing inside the cube, they can also reduce wrinkles. When using packing cubes, it is best to use the rolling method with your clothes.

Packing cubes will change the way you travel. They are multifunctional and can be used in different bags for different travel purposes. You will use them time and time again.

What You’ll Need

Start with 3 sizes of packing cubes: a small cube, medium cube, and a large cube or a garment folder/ envelope (the garment folder will probably not fit in a carry on). Use the small cube for socks and underwear. The medium cube can be used to tees, shorts, dresses, and skirts. The large cube (or garment folder) can be used for things like jeans, sweaters, long dresses, and lightweight jackets.

There are a lot of other packing cube accessories, depending on how much space you have in your suitcase of choice. There are packing cubes specifically for shoes, for toiletries, and for dirty laundry. You can also use an extra small cube for smaller accessories such as camera accessories and device cords.

Shopping for packing cubes has gotten much easier over the years. REI has a large selection of packing cubes online and in store. Target has a small selection available, depending on your store. Amazon really is the most convenient place to find them.

If it helps, you can also keep an “inventory list” on your phone. Use this to keep track of which items are in which cube. It may help save time in the morning when you can’t find your sweater. You can save this list to remind yourself of what goes where when packing for trips in the future.

Benefits

The easiest way to hype this method of packing is by explaining how easy it becomes to find things in your suitcase quickly. Think of these cubes as drawers in your dresser. Only take out that cube that holds exactly what you’re looking for, as opposed to pulling out everything in your suitcase.

The cubes also help with overpacking. Because of the limited space you are giving yourself, you have to take into consideration that you may not need to bring all the shoes or all the pants. Bring only what you need, and those items must fit into the cubes. This may or may not be helpful when shopping for souvenirs (sorry!).

Using these in any kind of travel case will help you maximize your space. Because you are zipping several items into a smaller space, you are condensing items, and therefore giving yourself that much more room in your pack. When putting them into your suitcase, think of it as a game of Tetris. Be sure to use every nook and cranny to get the most out of them.

Packing cubes can be helpful even when not traveling. There are items that come in handy only when traveling that can be stored in the cubes when not in use (travel wallet, neck pillow, etc.). When you start packing again, you’ll easily find all your other travel gear.

Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that travelers can make when using packing cubes. Do not overpack or under pack your cubes. Overfilling your cube will make it harder to repack it, and under packing can wrinkle the clothing and make it harder to stack. If you find that you are overpacking, considering putting the items into two smaller cubes. If under packing, put everything into a smaller cube.

When packing toiletries, be careful if you are repurposing a small cube. You may want to invest in something with a heavier lining, in case something spills. Typically, cubes are made of a thinner material, and something like a razor could rip the fabric. To get the most of your cubes, use them for their intended purpose only.


Safe travels!

How to Clean Out Your Closet

There are a lot of effective ways to clean out your closet. Whether your goal is to just get rid of what you do not wear anymore, or the hard to achieve “capsule closet,” the task can seem daunting. Cleaning out your closet is also a good way to relieve stress. Give yourself a few hours, put on some music, and follow these steps.

Step 1

The first step in cleaning out your closet is to take everything out of it. Everything that is hanging, everything that is folded, everything in drawers. Get every piece of your clothing out of every room in your home. Leave nothing behind. Begin clearing out items as you come across them. Have a designated space where you are putting the things you no longer want.

Now that you can see everything you own, pull out the pieces you wear regularly. You know your closet well enough to know which items are your go-to. Those can go back in your closet.

Making distinct piles is key:

  • Keep (can go directly back into the closet, if you are limited on space)
  • Maybe
  • Discard

This should include socks, underwear, pajamas, and shoes, but I will leave that decision up to you. These items do not necessarily need to be put into the three aforementioned categories. Socks with holes should immediately go into the discard pile, as should ripped or stained underwear, uncomfortable shoes, and pajamas that have holes.

Step 2

Here comes the hard part. Now is the time to weed through your “maybe” pile; the clothing you don’t wear often. These are the pieces weighing you down and filling the bulk of your closet. If any of these items are damaged in some way, whether it’s a missing button or a ripped seam, put it in the “donation pile.” If there are items that don’t fit right, whether they are too big or too small, move them into that same pile. Items that have outlived their “trendiness” should also go in this pile.

There are a few questions that you should ask yourself when going through the “maybe” pile that can alleviate some stress: Have you worn this item in the last 6 months? Does it fit the way you want it to? If you were shopping right now, would you buy this? If the answer is no, immediately place it in the “discard” pile, and do not look back.

I would also advise you to try everything on. Some items may surprise you, in good ways and bad. If something does not fit the way you like, get rid of it. Life is too short to wear clothing that does not make you feel your best.

Step 3

Once you have put only the items that you love back into your closet and donated everything else (or at least bagged it up and put it in your trunk), now is the time to do the hanger method. Hang everything with the hanger in reverse. When you wear an item and put it back in the closet, turn the hanger back around. Every year (or every six months, entirely up to you) see which items still have the reverse hanger. If you realize you no longer have the desire to keep that item, get rid of it.

Step 4

Donating your clothing is a better option than throwing them out. Take them to a women’s shelter, or the Salvation Army. When feeling remorse for getting rid of clothing, it is always better to know that someone is getting use out of them. If you have the time and energy, organize a garage sale.

Keep a donation bag in your closet. This may seem ruthless, but sometimes you just realize that you do not love an item anymore. Simply put it in the bag.  If you realize there’s a hole in your shirt, put it in the bag. Once the bag is full, donate it.

Step 5

Cleaning out your closet should leave you feeling lighter. To prevent yourself from being overwhelmed again, try shopping smarter. Instead of buying the new trend, stick to the classics. Put conscious thought into what you are buying for yourself. If it’s something you can see yourself wearing often, and for years, buy it.

Hopefully cleaning out your closet was enjoyable, and not fraught with stress. Perhaps this will even become a method you can do every few months to keep the clutter at bay. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Easy Acts of Self-Care

The act of “self-care” is anything one does deliberately for themselves that aids in relieving stress or anxiety. It is taking action to not only relieve the body physically of stress but also mentally. There is no one way of doing this, and not everyone’s method is the same.

It is something that is overlooked and not seen as important as taking care of physical ailments. It should also be planned so that it is something that becomes part of the weekly routine, or as often as needed per individual. Self-care is the key to a well-balanced life, according to many studies. If you are taking care of yourself, you are in better shape to take care of others.

Here is a brief list of things that can be considered acts of self-care. This not definitive, and again, taking time to do something that brings peace and alleviates stress varies based on the individual.

Sleep

According to studies, the average adult should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Getting a good night’s sleep has so many health benefits, I’m not even sure where to begin. Not only is it a major stress reliever, but it aids in digestion and brain function, but it can also reduce depression. Naps have also been shown to have the same effects.

Exercise

Obviously, exercise is good for the body, but it also clears the mind. It increases the serotonin levels in the body, which makes improves your mood! For self-care purposes, it is important to find a form of exercise that is enjoyable to the individual.

If you are someone new to exercise, try going for a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood or a local park. Yoga can also be a gentle form of exercise, which you can do via YouTube in your home if there is not a studio close to you. You can rent a bicycle. Go for a hike on a scenic trail. See if there is a rock-climbing gym in your city. There are a lot of apps that can assist you in meditation.

Read a book

A study from the University of Sussex states that reading a book is the most effective way to relieve stress. Immersing oneself into a world beyond our own taps into the imagination, thereby impacting creativity. Reading a book for at least 30 minutes a day is shown to have lasting effects on the brain, and can decrease chances of Alzheimer’s later in life. It has also been shown that readers are more empathetic people.

Take Yourself to a Museum

In case you haven’t noticed yet, the Arts play a big part in the idea of self-care. Take yourself to a museum based on your interests. Going alone allows you to set your own pace, and your own itinerary. Immerse yourself in learning about something new, or lose yourself in something that you have loved for a long time.

Gardening

If you know you do not have a green thumb, or you do not like to get your hands dirty, skip gardening.  For those of you still following along, gardening has proven to have astounding benefits for mental health. Whether it is a shared community plot, your own yard, or a houseplant on a windowsill, planting something with your own two hands into the dirt and watching it grow can be incredibly beneficial for your well-being.

Journaling

Writing down your moods and thoughts can help in examining habits and mind frames that can feel like “ruts.” Be honest with yourself when journaling. Write a “gratitude list;” a list of things that you are thankful for. This is your journal, and you can write whatever you like however you like. If you are more of a free spirit, try writing stream of consciousness style and write what you think as you’re thinking it.


It cannot be stated enough when on the topic of self-care, but whatever the preferred method is, self-care is not the time to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It is a time when you do what makes you happy, and you are able to mentally check in with yourself and regroup. Take time to be comfortable and content.

One of the key components of self-care that has been shown to be the most effective is unplugging. When trying some of these methods, if you are able, try leaving your phone in another room or turning it off.