Blog Posts by Real Simple Magazine

  • Last-Minute Survival Guide for Parents

    Cheryl ZibiskyCheryl ZibiskyNeed a kid's costume, pronto? Desperate to find a replacement babysitter hours before your dinner reservation? Help is on the way.

    You Need: A Halloween Costume

    The bad news first: A white sheet and a kid do not a ghost maketh. To cobble together a costume, read on.

    The Quick Fix:

    For Girls: Her closet probably has the makings of a fairy princess -- a leotard, a wand, a tutu. Just add glitter gel to her face and hands. "Whether the costume is accurate to a character doesn't matter. Kids will go for it," says Laurel Burke, co-owner of the Spook Shop costume store, in Bellingham, Washington, and a film production designer. For a crown, cut points into a sparkly or colored translucent school folder and glue the ends together, says Burke.
    For Boys: Got a big cardboard box? Cut off the flaps and cut holes for arms and a head. Spray-paint it silver or decorate it with markers and you have a robot. To make feet, cut a hole into the bottoms of two shoe boxes for him to put

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  • Convection Baking or Regular Baking?

    Burcu AvsarBurcu AvsarIf you've purchased a new oven in the past 20 years, chances are you have a convection setting -- and chances are you've never used it. After all, convection is rarely mentioned in recipes, although it can cook many dishes more evenly and 10 to 20 percent faster than a regular oven while using lower temperatures.

    The convection setting uses a fan in the oven to circulate the hot air around the food, which makes it good for cooking meats, fish, vegetables, and other relatively firm dishes. It's not a great option, however, for things that can easily shift or splatter, like quick breads and other bakery items. The air from the convection fan can blow around a moist batter, leaving a messy oven and a lopsided loaf. Use the regular setting for these goodies.

    If your recipe doesn't give instructions for convection baking, the general rule is to drop the temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit and to start checking the dish when three-quarters of the normal cooking time has passed.

    Try it a

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  • Embrace Your Inner Cheapskate

    Maira KalmanMaira KalmanHere, one man challenges himself to go one week without spending a cent and finds the sacrifices (no morning coffee?!) are more than he bargained for

    I like to think of my attitude toward money as enlightened. Last summer, for instance, I received a letter informing me that I had won a small grant from the state of Massachusetts The next day I was informed that I was being audited -- by the state of Massachusetts. Ah well, I thought. The state giveth and the state taketh away.

    My friends and family see my attitude toward money in slightly different terms. "You're a total miser" is how my darling wife, Erin, puts it.

    In fact, it's a bit worse than that. I'm one of those irritating guys who try to convert self-deprivation into a virtue. I buy my pants secondhand. I hoard hotel soap and used aluminum foil. I eat the not-too-badly-chewed leftovers off my daughter's plate. And I constantly rail against consumerism.

    Which is why I recently subjected myself to a little

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  • Surprising Expiration Dates

    A handy, who-knew guide to 77 foods, beauty products, and household goods KeateKeate

    Certain items in your house practically scream "toss me" when their prime has passed. That mysterious extra white layer on the Cheddar? A sure sign it needs to be put out of its misery. Chunky milk? Down the drain it goes.

    But what about that jar of olives or Maraschino cherries that has resided in your refrigerator since before the birth of your kindergartner? Or the innumerable nonedibles lurking deep within your cabinets and closets: stockpiled shampoo and toothpaste, seldom-used silver polish? How do you know when their primes have passed?

    With help from experts and product manufacturers, Real Simple has compiled a guide to expiration dates. These dates are offered as a rough guideline. The shelf lives of most products depend upon how you treat them. Edibles, unless otherwise indicated, should be stored in a cool, dry place. (With any food, of course, use common sense.) Household cleaners also do best in a

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  • The Best Way to Store Cold Cuts

    Amy WilsonAmy WilsonQ. What is the best way to store cold cuts?

    A. Use an airtight container.
    Deli meats lose their freshness quickly once sliced, so it's best to keep them for only a few days; packaged meats also last that long after they'e been opened. To prevent spoilage, store both in resealable plastic bags or airtight plastic containers and keep them in the refrigerator's meat drawer or toward the back, where it's usually coldest.
    If you're saving food in plastic bags, be sure to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration guidelines for safe storage. Frozen foods can be stored indefinitely, but the flavor can change when cold cuts are stored past the time limits below.
    Refrigerator: 3 to 5 days
    Freezer: 1 to 2 months

    More Cold Cut Solutions
    Print Out Sandwich Recipes
    Discover 19 quick lunchtime meals that take only minutes to prepare.
    Check out Lunch-Box Favorites
    Pack these food-saver products in your brown bag.

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  • Easy Organizing Tips from Real Simple Readers

    Hector SanchezHector SanchezThe only way to get my family out the door in the morning is to organize everything the night before. Backpacks, lunches, outfits, after-school-activity items, my pocketbook, coats, hats, gloves, etc., are placed right by the front door on our catchall ottoman. In the morning we get ourselves ready, then just grab our things and go.
    June Karpowich
    River Edge, New Jersey

    I toss my keys on the same table every time I come into my house. Even if they end up under something, I know they're there.
    Naomi Sandell
    Petoskey, Michigan

    A few months back, my family decided we wanted to actually eat at our kitchen table rather than using it as a central drop spot. I conquered this awful dilemma by sorting through the pile, putting bills with bills, shredding junk mail, and so on. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the pile diminished. But that was not the hard part -- the hard part is maintaining. Every day I immediately go through the mail and sort paperwork as it comes in. Whatever

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  • How to Save on Your Electric Bill

    You know to turn the lights off when not in use and switch your regular bulbs for those squiggly ones.Quentin Vijoux Quentin Vijoux But about how much can you save? And are there still tricks you don't know about?

    Save a Little

    • Use your curtains. During cold months, leave them open during the day to allow sunlight in; in the summer, keep curtains shut in rooms where the sunlight hits. Monthly Savings*: 95 cents to $3.30.
    • Install motion detectors on lights in kids' rooms. The lights will never be left on by accident. Monthly Savings: 36 cents per lightbulb.

    Save a Little More

    • Insulate your hot-water heater. If it's more than seven years old, wrap it in a precut jacket or blanket (available at hardware stores). Monthly Savings: $1.50.
    • Use a programmable thermostat. Set it to raise or lower the temperature setting automatically when you're not home. Monthly Savings: $4.50.
    • Use electronics wisely. Unplug them when not in use; they draw power even if they're off. And use
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  • Real Simple Halloween Party Recipe: Quick Caramel Apples

    Francesco LagneseFrancesco Lagnese14-ounce bags of caramels
    2 tablespoons water
    Apples for dipping

    Melt the caramels with the water, stirring until smooth. Serve in individual bowls with apples cut into wedges for dipping.

    Yield: Makes 8 servings

    More Halloween Party Recipes:
    Pumpkin-Leek Soup Recipe
    Spiced Pumpkin Seeds Recipe
    Warm Mulled Cider Recipe

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  • Shop Your Closet

    Jessica Antola Jessica Antola Weary of your wardrobe? Join the club. Peering into a closet can make a person feel oddly empty, despite the fact that the closet is (presumably) packed to the gills. Thing is, there are dozens of new looks in there -- you just need to uncover them. Joe Lupo, a fashion consultant and a coauthor of Nothing to Wear? (Plume, $16, ), and stylist Sarah Davidzuk helped one lucky woman see her same-old stuff in a brand-new light. (See How to Organize Your Closet)

    Closet Case Study: Andrea Costa, 41

    Problem: "I have a stocked wardrobe but always dress the same way."
    Working from her New York City home and taking care of two children, Andrea, a mortgage consultant, tends to keep T-shirts and jeans on heavy rotation -- despite her love of shopping. "I buy pieces that I think are fabulous, but in reality I can't seem to coordinate them with what I already own," she says. So most of her nicer things are collecting dust, including the scarves she can't stop picking up. "They look so

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  • Haunted Houses: Fact or Fiction?

    Here is what's really behind the spooky tales of strange voices, creepy visions, and objects that move by themselves.

    Unsolved Mystery: Doors Opening Spontaneously

    What It Could Be
    Your door is breathing. No, not the come-alive-holding-a-butcher-knife breathing. Most claims of this type of paranormal activity in the northern United States are made between the months of October and March, says Grant Wilson, cohost with Jason Hawes of the Sci Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters. Here's why: "In the winter, the heating system evaporates moisture in the wood, making doors contract and causing them to become unlatched."
    A small draft. When a door opens or closes, it can raise or lower indoor air pressure, causing another door to move.
    Bad hardware. "Not long ago, we went to a lady's house where, during really humid days, her door's latch would be a hair off, so that it didn't fully close," says Wilson. "On particularly windy days, the door would open by itself." (See Home Upgrades That Pay Off)

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