Blog Posts by Real Simple Magazine

  • A Marriage for All Seasons

    Marc RoyceMarc RoycePeggy and Jim have a great partnership. But here, in her own words, Peggy describes how the relationship changed when their sons grew up.

    Jim and I were married 25 years ago, on a day when it rained in biblical proportions. A canopy of umbrellas hovered over me and my wedding gown as I was swept over the puddles by a protective entourage of family and friends. They covered me from my home to the church, from the church to the limo, and from the limo to the reception. From there on, it was Jim's job. This was not to be the last time in our marriage that I required shelter from the storm, but I certainly stopped worrying about getting wet. Rain, after all, brings the promise of new life, as it did on that day 25 years ago.

    I had met Jim just a year earlier, and within six months we were engaged. His heroic arrival at a party one night signaled the end of a romantic drought in my post-collegiate life. He was a rising young executive with a promising future as a taxation planner for

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  • The best way to dust

    Monica BuckMonica BuckDon't let dust build up into grime -- use these tools and techniques to get every room clean

    A little dusting goes a long way, and it's the task to tackle first when you're doing housework. In every room of the house, including bathrooms and the kitchen, if you let dust build up, it becomes grime. Grime requires heavy-duty (and invariably toxic) measures. Counterintuitive as it may seem, dust accumulates more easily in newly constructed homes: The airtight building methods and materials minimize air circulation, while older, draftier homes naturally self-ventilate. (But make no mistake -- they stop well short of dusting themselves.)

    Read on for the tools and techniques you need to get the job done.

    From Real Simple: How to Make Tricky Household Surfaces Sparkle

    Monica BuckMonica BuckThe Basic Tools

    • Microfiber cloths. Update and consolidate your tools: Most dusting can be done quickly with a microfiber cloth and a vacuum. "Feather dusters and rags often just blow dust and dirt around,"
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  • 5 Ring Bearer and Flower Girl Gifts for Under $50

    Design PublicDesign PublicGive the youngest members of your wedding party members something to remember the day (and keep them entertained)

    DwellStudio Baby Finger Puppets, $32

    The 5 modern, whimsical animals are super cute and sure to spark some imaginative play. All ages.
    To Buy: designpublic.com

    From Real Simple: 5 Groomsman Gifts for Under $50

    Quadrino Wooden Arranging Game from Haba, $45

    Brightly colored wood pieces create abstract designs that resemble stain glass windows. A great keep-them-occupied game, each piece is hand-painted with a food-grade, non-toxic paint. Ages: 2+ years.
    To Buy: oompa.com

    SanDisk Sansa Shaker MP3 Player , $40

    Shake this 512 MB music player to change songs and share the tunes with the dual headphone jack. There is even a speaker to share with a group of friends. Age: 8+ years.
    To Buy: amazon.com

    From Real Simple: 5 Bridesmaid Gifts for Under $50

    Think GeekThink GeekRemote Color Bug Doodling Toy, $30

    Who needs hands to draw? Put a marker in this remote

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  • Maximize your home office space

    James BaigrieJames BaigrieTurn a spare corner of any room into a work area that really works

    Create Office Space in Your Kitchen
    Create your own corner (of the kitchen) office using furniture that fits in -- in this case, with the clean, contemporary lines of the stainless-steel appliances.

    Take cues from the countertops: Pasta- and cookie-storage jars and spice and cutlery receptacles adapt perfectly to office work.

    Keeping everything on casters means the whole office can move easily across a hard floor -- great for when it's mop-up time or you want to keep an eye on Judge Judy in the family room.

    Message Center
    A steel bulletin board is a sleek stand-in for traditional cork. Affix papers and notes with magnetic clips, and store paper clips, file tabs, and the like in magnetic spice containers.

    Lighting
    This lean brushed-steel lamp pivots in two directions (up and down, side to side) and projects bright halogen light exactly where you want it.

    Furniture
    A

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  • Nitty-gritty guide to cleaning household surfaces

    Michele GastlMichele GastlWith just one bucket of supplies, you can scrub the entire house -- here's which products clean what

    How to Clean Butcher Block
    Use: A few drops of mild detergent, like dishwashing liquid, and warm water. (It coated with urethane or polyurethane, follow care instructions for Hardwood Cabinets).
    Tools: A cloth or sponge.
    Tips: After cleaning, rinse with plain water and pat dry. Water left on the surface will stain. Replace boards that have cracks, as bacteria can grow there. Sanitize with a slice of lemon, not bleach, which is unsafe around food.
    Tough Stains: Unlike most surfaces, butcher blocks can be professionally sanded.

    How to Clean Ceramic Tile
    Use: For glazed tiles, one capful of isopropyl alcohol in one gallon of water. For unglazed tile, like terra-cotta, a few drops of dishwashing liquid.
    Tools: A cloth or mop.
    Tips: Rinse with water and a clean cloth. Avoid oil soaps or ammonia, which will yellow grout. Avoid vinegar, which will damage grout.
    Tough

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  • Can credit cards help you retire?

    I'm a big fan of rewards credit cards. The way I look at it, if I'm going to charge something anyway, why not get something out of the transaction? (Besides a bill at the end of the month, that is.)

    So I was intrigued when Fidelity announced last month that it was introducing a Retirement Rewards Card. Basically, for every $1 you charge to the card (from American Express), you earn 2% toward a Fidelity IRA account. Since most Americans aren't saving enough for retirement, this gives them one more way to sock cash away for the future. With no annual fee and no cap on rewards, it seems like a no-brainer, right?

    From Real Simple: Credit Cards 101

    Well, not exactly.

    Rewards cards are good options for certain kinds of spenders, and this one's no exception. For instance, if you carry a balance, this isn't the card for you, since it carries an interest rate of 16.99% -- fairly high compared to the 10.84% average, according to Bankrate.com. Miss a payment, and that rate will

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  • Slow cooking questions, answered

    Anson SmartAnson SmartThe ins and out of your kitchen's secret weapon

    Ellen Brown, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Slow Cooker Cooking (Alpha, $17, www.amazon.com), tackles common questions about one of the most underrated kitchen appliances.

    Why use a slow cooker? A slow cooker produces an even, low, moist heat that eliminates the need for stirring, so you can simply prepare a meal, then leave it to cook. And unlike an oven, says Brown, a slow cooker is very energy-efficient. Plus, you can leave it on all day, even when you're out of the house.

    Is it safe? Food is susceptible to bacteria growth between 40° and 140° F. "A slow cooker brings food through the danger zone so fast, bacteria cannot take hold," says Brown. But keep this in mind: If you brown your meat in advance, don't store it in the refrigerator mixed with raw or partially cooked ingredients or you'll increase the risk of contamination.

    From Real Simple: The Best Slow-Cookers

    Will the cooker boil over? Fill it at

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  • Displaying family heirlooms

    Andrew BordwinAndrew BordwinAre your passed-down pieces collecting dust on a shelf or - worse -- in the attic? REAL SIMPLE. REAL LIFE. design expert Gia Russo offers these tips for putting treasured keepsakes front and center.

    HEIRLOOM: Photograph, medal, ribbon, album cover, document, baby gear
    HOW TO DISPLAY IT: Shadow boxes such as from Umbra. Available in a range of sizes, shapes, and colors, a shadow box is an ideal way to give heirlooms their due gravitas. (A padded foam core allows you to suspend items inside using straight pins.) Select one with a neutral background to allow the items to shine. Tip: Shadow boxes look great in small groups, so consider starting with a trio.

    HEIRLOOM: Old chair
    HOW TO DISPLAY IT: Seating that's not sturdy enough for regular use anymore -- or simply doesn't go with your other chairs -- can make a charming and unexpected bedside table. If there's a hole in the caning or upholstery, place a tray on the seat to support your alarm clock, lamp, and the like.

    Learn

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  • What to Buy at an Armenian Market

    Explore the abundant offerings of this Middle Eastern cuisine

    Armenian cuisine is all about celebrating abundance. The food is plentiful, simple, and packed with vegetables. It's also surprisingly familiar, since Armenian culture -- which was scattered after hundreds of thousands of Armenians were deported by the ruling Ottoman government in the early 20th century -- has extended into the Middle East, North America, Europe, and many other lands.

    Many basic Armenian ingredients -- such as tahini, flat breads, bulgur, and specialty olives -- can be found in supermarkets around the country. But if you're having trouble finding any Armenian items, try ordering from Kalustyan's, in New York City (www.kalustyans.com); Sunnyland Mills (www.sunnylandmills.com); and even Amazon's gourmet food section (www.amazon.com/gourmetfood). Here, Barbara Ghazarian, author of Simply Armenian (Mayreni Publishing, www.amazon.com), names the building blocks of Armenian cuisine and tells how to enjoy

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  • Healthy After-School Snacks

    David PrinceDavid PrinceREAL SIMPLE. REAL LIFE. resident foodie Nathan Lyon offers these nutritious afternoon alternatives. (Yes, your kids will actually eat them!)

    WHOLE WHEAT MINI PIZZAS
    Toast a whole wheat English muffin, then top it with tomato sauce and a good quality cheese, such as aged mozzarella. (The better the cheese, the stronger the flavor -- which means you can use less.) Pop it in the broiler until bubbly.

    PRE-SLICED APPLES, CHEESE, AND PEANUT BUTTER
    Perfect for prepping ahead of time. Slice an apple into wedges, drizzle with lemon juice, and place in a resealable plastic bag. (The citric acid will keep the apple from going brown.) Serve with a scoop of all-natural peanut butter and a small hunk of cheddar cheese.

    Learn What to Do with Leftovers at Real Simple.

    HOMEMADE TRAIL MIX
    Why buy the processed pre-made stuff? Instead, create your own blend from your family's favorite nuts, dried fruits, and seeds, preferably salt- and sugar-free. (All that protein will keep

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