Blog Posts by Good Housekeeping

  • 5 Things Every Good Umbrella Should Have

    Don't settle for an umbrella that will only last a few downpours.Don't settle for an umbrella that will only last a few downpours.

    The truth is many of us don't think about buying a new umbrella until the sky turns black or, worse, when the one you have suddenly breaks in a downpour. But snapping up the first umbrella you find means it'll likely end up broken and tossed in the trash. We've tested many compact and mini umbrellas for water repellency, durability, size, weight, ease of opening and closing, and more in the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. After putting all those umbrellas through the wringer (and our rain tester!), we learned a thing or two about what makes a good one.

    Related: 9 Signs You're Seriously Over Winter

    Here's what we recommend:

    1. A model that's about 10 or 11 inches long
    A large, domed canopy is one key to good protection. In our test, umbrellas that were in this size range offered the best combination of coverage and compactness. If you really want something smaller, try the Totes Signature Micro 'Brella ($22). It packs a lot of umbrella into only six inches.

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  • 8 Biggest Mistakes You Make with Fresh Cut Flowers

    Whether your get them from a florist or the grocery store, give your blooms the attention they deserve.Whether your get them from a florist or the grocery store, give your blooms the attention they deserve.

    Fresh flowers are a speedy way to brighten any space in your home. But take the time to avoid the mistakes that diminish your bouquet's staying power.

    1. Going overboard choosing blooms
    We're all for creativity, but if you're unsure of your eye for arranging, keep it simple. "Try choosing flowers in a single color," says Eric Buterbaugh, chief floral designer at The Bouqs. "I think they're more sophisticated and visually powerful. You don't have to overthink it."

    Related: 8 Ways to Upgrade a Plain Glass Vase

    2. Not putting your flowers in water ASAP
    Don't plop your bouquet on the counter and then go off to answer a dozen emails. "It's important to hydrate your flowers immediately to preserve their integrity," says Valerie Ghitelman, floral merchandising director at 1-800-Flowers.

    3. Cutting the stems straight across
    "Stems should be cut at an angle with a sharp clean pair of clippers," says Ghitelman. "It provides a wider surface for water to travel up the

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  • 6 Biggest Mistakes You Make Putting on Mascara

    Follow these tips to make sure your lashes always look their best.Follow these tips to make sure your lashes always look their best.

    1. You start with your top lashes.
    You know those annoying dots you get on your eyelids and under your eyes? To prevent those, start with your bottom lashes when putting on your mascara. Otherwise your top lashes will smudge when you look down. When doing your top lashes, look straight ahead and place your wand at the base of your lashes. Then, use a zig-zagging motion while moving the wand up your lashes, recommends Marlena, founder and CEO of the blog Makeup Geek. "This will help give your lashes a curled effect. Keep repeating this until you get your lashes as thick as you want, usually two to three coats. When it comes to the bottom lashes, tilt your head forward slightly to keep from getting mascara onto your cheek." You can also use a credit card, business card, or small piece of paper to keep your mascara from traveling.

    Related: Don't Even Think of Touching Your Eyebrows Before Reading This

    2. You pump the wand too much.
    Are you spending more time separating your

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  • 4 Fabrics to Keep Away from Fabric Softener

    Sure, you want your clothes feeling soft and smelling nice, but the damage may not be worth it.Sure, you want your clothes feeling soft and smelling nice, but the damage may not be worth it.

    Whether you use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets, fabric softeners work well at softening fibers, reducing static, and adding a bit of fragrance to your laundry. But using it on certain materials can actually have a negative effect on the fibers. Here are four times you should skip it:

    Related: 10 Tips to Your Fastest Laundry Day Ever

    1. Microfiber
    What's great about microfiber is that its intricate fibers have the ability to trap dust and absorb spills. However, if you toss it in the wash with fabric softener, you could end up destroying the effectiveness and durability of its fibers.

    Related: How to Clean Your Washing Machine (Yes, It Needs to Be Cleaned)

    2. Athletic Sportswear
    Many types of athletic wear have wicking technology to absorb sweat from your skin and keep you cool when you're working out. If you use fabric softener on these garments, it'll leave a coating that will prevent them from wicking.

    Related: 7 Ways to Save Money on Dry Cleaning

    3.

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  • 7 Things You Think Are Germy — but Aren't

    Photo: Corbis 1. Coins
    Germs prefer soft, moist environments. "Coins are made of metal, and metal has some antimicrobial properties," says microbiologist Kelly Wroblewski, director of the infectious disease program at the Association of Public Health Laboratories. "They're not a good place for germs to live." In fact, copper, nickel, and silver are antimicrobial, says Gerba. Philip Tierno, director of microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center and author of "The Secret Life of Germs," said that just like paper money, which has an antimicrobial coating, coins are dry. "Coinage money like dimes, nickels, quarters, generally don't support bacteria." "Trace metals like silver, nickel, aluminum, and copper don't allow survival of organisms. They're poisonous to organisms."

    2. Dog kisses
    Slobber can be gross, but it's not necessarily germy. "The dirtiest things around the house are the humans," says Elaine Larson. RN, PhD, associate dean for research at the Columbia

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  • Al Roker's Secrets to Being a Great Husband

    The Today Show star shares how he's made love last for 19 years.The Today Show star shares how he's made love last for 19 years.

    The Today Show star shares how he's made love last for 19 years.

    How did you and Deborah meet?
    She was filling in on the Today Show reading the news, and I was filling in doing the weather for Willard Scott. It started as a friendship and over a two-year period of time, it turned into a romance.

    When did you know she was 'the one'?
    It was the first time she made me laugh. You don't find a lot of beautiful women who also have a great sense of humor.

    Related: 9 Reasons Second Marriages Are Better

    You have the undivided attention of the nation every weekday morning. What do you do to keep your wife's undivided attention?
    The best way to get anybody's attention is dinner. I have good kitchen skills and good grocery shopping skills.

    How do you achieve a sense of balance between work and family [Roker has three kids, ages 11, 15 and 25]?
    It's a work in progress, and that's how you have to look at it. I try to err on the side of family, but because of the nature

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  • 3 Cleaning Chores to Leave to the Pros

    There's nothing wrong with calling in a little extra help.There's nothing wrong with calling in a little extra help.

    Everyone sees spring as the time to do a clean sweep and catch up on all the household chores you've been putting off. But if tacking these jobs is more than you can handle right now, hiring outside help isn't a bad option. Let a pro tackle these three to-do's to get the biggest bang for your spring-cleaning buck (and one less thing on your list).

    1. Washing Windows
    Depending on the type and number of windows you have, washing them yourself can turn into a multi-day project. Professional window-washing services will usually clean the windows (inside and out), screens, and sills as part of the basic package. Some will move furnishings and protect floors and surrounding surfaces at no extra charge. The total cost will be based on your location, the number of windows, and any extras like blinds or storm windows that you also want cleaned. Call several services to compare what they offer. Most will provide free estimates for your consideration. Check the websites of associations

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  • 5 Times You Should Skip the Fat-Free Version

    Great news: You don't have to reach for fat-free cookies. Great news: You don't have to reach for fat-free cookies.

    "Fat free" may sound healthy, but sometimes it's not the smartest pick. Here are a few culprits to watch out for -- and what to eat instead.

    1. Dairy
    Skim milk isn't the only way to go if you're dieting: A few studies suggest that people actually lose more weight when they drink whole milk. But keep in mind that whether you can have fat-free milk, yogurt, ice cream, or cheese depends on what else you're eating. Fat helps absorb nutrients -- like the vitamins A and D in dairy. "I wouldn't recommend a fat-free yogurt or cottage cheese as a stand-alone snack," says nutritionist Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet. "You need a little bit of fat to help fill you up and hold you over till your next meal." Adding a few almonds to your yogurt is the perfect solution, she says.

    When it comes to cheese, Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, author of the Nutrition and You series, says it's a taste question. "A little bit of something fabulous will get the job done, where eating a lot of

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  • Being Married is Good for Your Heart (Literally)

    That box you check on your tax return has more of an impact on your health than you might think.That box you check on your tax return has more of an impact on your health than you might think.

    When it comes to your heart health, it's not just physical factors that make a difference -- matters of the heart (metaphorically speaking) apparently play a big role. A new study of 3.5 million Americans has found that married people have a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease than those who are single, divorced, or widowed.

    Related: 10 Surprising Ways Marriage Makes You Healthier

    The study was conducted from 2003 through 2008 at more than 20,000 cancer and other disease screening sites in all 50 states. The average age of the subjects was 64: two-thirds of them were female, and 80% were white. The married people had a 5% lower risk of heart disease compared to the singles. Widowed people had a 3% greater risk, and divorced people had a 5% greater risk. Married people under 50 had a 12% lower chance of heart disease than single people in that age range.

    Related: 11 Signs You Married the Right Man

    "Our survey results clearly show that when it comes to

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  • A Curious Connection Between Exercise and Your Eyes

    Here's a very good reason to put on your running shoes.Here's a very good reason to put on your running shoes.

    In addition to all the other ways regular exercise is amazing for you, a new study has found that it could keep your eyesight from deteriorating as you get older.

    Related: 10 Habits That Are Ruining Your Eyes

    According to research recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists at Emory University and the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center tested mice by making a group of them run on little treadmills for about an hour a day and another group stay sedentary. After two weeks, they exposed half of the mice in each group to a searingly bright light for four hours, while the others stayed in dimly lit cages. The light exposure is a known way of inducing retinal degeneration in animals, comparable to what happens to humans as we age -- though with us, it's a much slower process.

    Related: Knowing These Numbers Could Save Your Life

    The sedentary mice, by the end of the experiment, had failing vision: Almost 75 percent of the light-detecting neurons in

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