The new year is a good time to reset, refresh and renew

As we jump back into a fresh new year and decade, one way to ease our stress is to ensure that our home is our haven.

We should feel a sense of welcome and satisfaction when we approach our home. If not, now is the time to “reset, refresh and renew.”

I was inspired to update my home after the decorations were all packed away and the spaces were left rather dull.  

Here are some inexpensive ways to reset.

Clutter affects us in so many ways. Piles of things rob us of our feeling of peace and harmony. In fact, studies show that working in unorganized chaos decreases attention span, which in turn decreases motivation to get things done.

Start by clearing one area at a time because small projects seem more manageable. For example, work on one area of the kitchen counter today and the upper cabinets tomorrow. This activity really does have therapeutic qualities as you set your messy spots free.

The good news of this cleaning scenario is that most often you will find an item that you have been looking for in the back of the drawer or cupboard. Or maybe, you will realize that some of your supplies are not needed or do not function anymore. It may be time for things to be moved along to recycle or put into a place that is more accessible.

Once clutter is removed, take some time to refresh.

This involves cleaning our homes from top to bottom, including going through the many cleaning products that live in our cabinets. I realized that I only used about a quarter of the products that I was storing, so I gave some away, discarded some and then placed the ones we use back in an organized fashion. Try to use environmentally friendly products and always remember to recycle containers and discard products safely. Here are some helpful hints and product recommendations:

Remove soap buildup and odours from the dishwasher by running an empty machine with one cup (250 mL) of vinegar. This works for the washing machine as well.
Freshen the inside of your microwave by bringing a bowl of equal parts vinegar and water solution to a rolling boil in the microwave. This will take at least three to five minutes. For a fresh scent, add in some fresh cut orange or lemon peel to the water-vinegar mix. The citrus smell will be exhilarating and the microwave will be clean with a simple wipe — no elbow grease.

Clean the inside of your glass vase by filling the vase half full of water with a touch of vinegar and then drop in two alka seltzer tablets. Let the mixture fizz away and when the bubbling stops, rinse the clear glass. This also works for cleaning Thermoses and carafes that need freshening. This method even works on toilet bowls and sink basins.
As we try to refresh our space, we may want to buy ready-to-use cleaners rather than make them. Choosing environmental options are always the best, but which ones do we buy? Here are some that have been tested and voted effective:
Lemon Aide All Natural All Surface Cleanser
Method Glass and Surface Cleaner
Method Antibes Disinfecting Cleanser
All of the above are available at most grocery stores, hardware stores, drug stores or online.

A bit of a speciality product is the hand dish soap called Dish Wish by Saje, only available at Saje shops or online at www.saje.com. This product is more costly than regular dish soap, but it is environmentally friendly, easy on the hands and an effective cleaner. It even cleans the sink as it sits in hot water.

Try Ecologik Lemon Dishwasher Detergent (99.9 % natural), available at some grocery and health food stores or by contacting the company directly at www.ecologikshop.ca or calling 306-955-7627.

Norwex Descaler is good for difficult cleaning such as water stains and rust. For more information, visit www.norwex.biz.

Get Clean Scour Off–Heavy Duty Cleaning Paste by Shaklee. For more information, visit www.canada@shaklee.com or call 888-574-2553.

For the laundry, try Ecologik Whitening Detergent (97 % natural), Ecologik Liquid Laundry in Wild Grass Scent (94 % natural) and Ecologik Fabric Softener in Scent Neutral (99.9 % natural).

After you have cleared and cleaned your living spaces, you will be inspired to redecorate.

As winter progresses, we often crave the freshness of the plants and greenery that we enjoy in the spring and summer. Brighten winter days by bringing nature indoors in the form of living plants or fresh flower arrangements. Use the plants indoors, not only for “green” beauty but also for air purification and oxygenation of your space. Spider plants, peace lilies, orchids, golden pathos, English ivy and succulents are just some of the many options that help to remove toxins from the air such as off gases from plastics, carpets, window coverings, paints and household chemical fumes.

Source: www.canadianfengshui.ca.

Along with greening up the indoor environment, decorate your everyday spaces by putting out only things that you love. Display photographs or personal effects of special people or places that inspire good memories.

I have an old perfume decanter that was my grandmother’s, and I was lucky enough to have been able to bring this little piece of our time together home. Sometimes during a busy day I will just stop and smell the old container of “O De London” and I am instantly uplifted and ready to face the rest of the day.

Each of you will have little items that appeal to your own senses through good memories. Get these décor gems out and let them inspire you.

Remove things in your home that you do not like or cause you anxiety, and you will find that your environment is more peaceful. Your space should be a reflection of all the things that make you happy.

Add ambiance to a space with soft lighting. A small LED reading lamp or some battery operated candles with a timer make a flickering glow on a dark winter night. Adding low light to a room creates a feeling of comfort.

Now it is time to reset, renew and refresh your menu choices. Food trends include following simple, easy and detoxifying menu planning, using products that are as close to fresh as possible and with product labels on ingredients that we recognize. Preparing food should be like creating art, except these creations can physically enhance your health given the right choices.

Lemon flush

Tired of your usual morning drink? Start your day with this cleansing drink. It really has a unique taste.

1 lemon, squeeze and use the juice
1 tbsp. cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (check the labels) 15 mL
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley 30 mL
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger root 15 mL
1 frozen banana

Add water to make the mixture the consistency that you want. Start with at least 1/2 cups (125 mL).
Put all the ingredients in a blender with water. Mix until smooth and enjoy. It’s a real cleansing smoothie.

Slow cooker apricot chicken

Winter nights require aromatic, warm and nourishing meals. The slow cooker allows us to have dinner waiting when we walk in the door.

6 chicken breasts (bone in or boneless, or you can use an equivalent amount of chicken thighs bone in)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
1 onion thinly sliced
1 c. apricot preserves 250 mL
2 tbsp. soy sauce 30 mL
1 tbsp. dijon mustard 15 mL
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger 5 mL
2 tbsp. chopped parsley 30 mL

In a small bowl, whisk together the apricot preserves, soy sauce, dijon mustard and ginger. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken in the pan and cook for four to five minutes on each side until browned. Add the onions to the pan and cook for five minutes or until softened.
Place the chicken pieces and onions in a slow cooker. Pour the apricot sauce over the chicken and onions.
Cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for three to four hours. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Serve with hot rice, mashed potatoes or for a light flare, just a crisp green salad.
Source: www.dinneratthezoo.com.
Raspberry dessert topping

This offering is so simple, but my kids still remind me that it is one of their favourites. The beautifully coloured sauce is a no-cook sweet treat. A great topping for a white cake, it is best over a scoop of ice cream or creamy vanilla or honey Greek yogurt.
1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
12 oz. pkg. frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed or approximately 2 c. fresh berries 500 mL
In a mixing bowl combine the berries with sugar. It’s best to mix them at least one hour before serving.

Blueberry snack cake

This is great for winter coffee guests.

2 c. flour 500 mL
1 1/2 c. sugar 375 mL
1/2 c. chilled butter 125 mL
1 tsp. baking powder 5 mL
1 c. milk 250 mL
2 eggs, separated
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries 500 mL
1 tsp. lemon juice 5 mL
1/8 tsp. cinnamon .5 mL
dash nutmeg

Combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter to the flour mixture until crumbly. Set aside a generous 1/2 cup (125 mL) for the topping. Add baking powder, milk and egg yolks to the remaining flour mixture. Stir until well combined. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them into the batter.
Pour into a greased nine by 13 inch (22 X 33 cm) pan.
Sprinkle the blueberries with the lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place berries on top of the batter and top with the remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into pieces. Store in the refrigerator.
Note: if using frozen berries, do not thaw before adding to the batter.
Source: www.tasteofhome.com.

Blueberry cobbler

There is just something about warm baked fruit desserts. This time of year when there is not a lot of fresh fruit in season, why not turn to the frozen options for your menus. The deep hue and nutritional value of blueberries make this fruit a great choice.

4 c. fresh or frozen blueberries 1 L
1 tbsp. lemon juice 15 mL
1 c. sugar, divided 250 mL
1/2 c. butter, cubed 125 mL
1 c. flour 250 mL
2 tsp. baking powder 10 mL
1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
3/4 c. whole milk 180 mL
1 large egg, lightly beaten
whipped cream or whipped topping

In a saucepan, combine the berries, lemon juice and 1/2 cup/125 mL sugar. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Set aside. Place butter in an nine by nine inch (22×22 cm) baking dish. Melt butter in a 350 F(180 C) oven.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining sugar with flour, baking powder, salt, milk and egg. Pour over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon berry mixture over batter. Do not stir.
Bake at 350 F(180 C) for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with whipped cream or whipped topping.

Source: www.tasteofhome.com.

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