Blog Posts by Real Simple Magazine

  • Fake it with takeout: Tiny-size pizzas

    Caren AlpertCaren AlpertWhether you're hosting a formal party or just throwing together snacks for drinks with friends, we've got ideas for transforming carryout into crowd-pleasing cuisine. Everyone will assume your sink is stacked with dirty pots and pans. (And if you keep them out of the kitchen, they'll never know the truth.)

    Start with: A large cheese pizza. (Ask for it unsliced and, if possible, slightly underbaked.)

    To make: Avoiding the crust, cut out mini pizzas with round cookie or biscuit cutters. Heat the rounds at 400º F for about 5 minutes. Top with slices of olives, marinated mushrooms, chopped prosciutto, an anchovy fillet, or fresh herbs (such as basil, flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, thyme, or oregano).

    Get More Fake It with Takeout Ideas

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  • The best time of day to do just about anything

    Ngoc Minh NgoNgoc Minh NgoUse your body's natural rhythms -- and a few tips from the experts -- to find the best time of day to work out, see a doctor, go to the post office, and more.

    The Best Time of Day to Clean the House: 4 p.m.
    You're more likely to whistle while you window wash (and not kick over the bucket) if you do it in the late afternoon. That's when hand-eye coordination is at its peak and mood levels are high, says Michael Smolensky, a professor of environmental physiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston and author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health (Owl Books, $11, www.amazon.com). If anyone in the house has allergies or asthma, avoid insomnia-hour and morning cleaning sprees (nasal-allergy symptoms are most severe between 6 a.m. and noon, asthma attacks more likely between midnight and 6 a.m.), and finish well before that person walks in the door. "It takes about an hour for allergens and dust to settle after you clean," says Martha White, M.D., director of

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  • 12 Ways to Cut Clutter

    David PrinceDavid PrinceGet the house under control, whether you want to hide things quickly or sort them efficiently.

    Sort Belongings with a Shoe Organizer
    Designed to hold six pairs of shoes, this folding cotton-canvas and wood frame organizer can be repurposed for sorting and distributing belongings by room or family member.
    The Shoe Bagger, $35, www.organizes-it.com.

    Contain Collectibles in a Pie Cabinet
    Are beloved collectibles beginning to clutter your tabletops? Instead of using an expensive and cumbersome curio cabinet, display treasures or delicate glassware in a diner pie cabinet. It protects valuables from touchy-feely guests and eliminates frequent dusting.
    Display case by Carib, 10 by 14 by 10 inches, $130, Bowery Kitchen Supply, www.bowerykitchens.com.

    Hang Boots to Save Space
    Regain valuable floor space by hanging boots on a galvanized-steel rack. Chore Boot Rack, $13, www.gemplers.com.

    Store Rings on Icing Tips
    Instead of hiding rings away in a drawer, stack them on icing tips purchased

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  • Environmentally Friendly Tips

    Monica BuckMonica Buck26 easy ways to help save the planet, today and every day

    When You're at Home
    Use a water-filter pitcher

    Bottled water isn't necessarily cleaner or better for you than tap water. Get a Brita water-filter pitcher ($22, www.bedbathandbeyond.com) or an in-sink faucet filter. Take advantage of what you already pay for and save the environmental cost of transporting bottled water to the grocer's shelf.

    Skip red meat once a week
    Meat production -- especially in mass-produced beef -- is extremely resource-intensive. It can take seven or more pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, and livestock consumes 70 percent of America's grain. Eat less of it and choose pasture-fed, sustainably raised beef whenever you can. If you alone gave it up once every seven days, you would save the 840 gallons of fresh water it takes to produce a single serving.

    Clean up your dishwasher
    Switch to a dishwashing powder that's biodegradable and plant-based (try Ecover Ecological or Trader Joe's powders).

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  • Don't Lose Your Restaurant Reservation

    Problem:
    You are running late and don't want to lose your reservation.

    Solution:
    Be sure to call if you're more than 15 minutes behind schedule. Be specific about what is delaying you: the babysitter, traffic, or a work meeting. And be clear on when you expect to arrive. If you are so late that your table has been given away, apologize and ask, "Is there anything you can do for us?". Most restaurants get far more last-minute cancellations than they'd like to admit, so the chances are slim that there will be nothing available for you all night. Many restaurants also have at least one reserve table that they reluctantly bring out for unexpected situations.

    See Real Simple's Menu Lingo Defined

    If the restaurant truly cannot offer you a table, try eating at the bar, as you'll get a sense of the restaurant's items and the chef's style, and the food might even be cheaper. As a bonus, you can forge a relationship with the staff, increasing your likelihood of getting -- and keeping --

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  • How to Set a Pretty Table

    Whether you're serving dinner, lunch, or brunch, follow these rules of the table

    Special-Occasion Dinner Johnny ValiantJohnny Valiant

    A formal setting isn't meant to be "overcomplicated or just plain pretty," says Eric Ripert, executive chef of Le Bernardin, a four-star restaurant in New York City. "The order of everything on the table is logical."

    Table Tips

    • This table, featuring handpainted dishes by Pupilles et Papilles at Michael C. Fina, is set for a first course of soup, followed by a salad, an entrée, and a dessert.
    • A charger, or presentation plate (shown under the soup bowl), holds a spot for the dinner plate and should be removed after the salad course. In all but the most formal settings, you can forgo chargers, but etiquette sticklers swear by them, insisting guests should never walk up to a bare table.
    • All flatware should be evenly spaced, about a half inch apart. People typically reach for water more often than wine, so the water goblet goes above the knife tip, with wineglasses (red above
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  • 12 Secrets of the Closet Pros

    Bob HiemstraBob HiemstraConquering chaos and creating closets that work is easier than you think with these expert tips and strategies.

    1. Double Rods
    You don't have to get out the power drill or call a handyman to add a second rod to a closet. Hanging rods that hook over existing rails are a smart, inexpensive, and instant way to create extra room for short hanging clothes.

    2. Valet Hook
    Outside your closet, install a hook or a pullout rod for hanging dry cleaning before it goes into the closet or to plan outfits for parties, vacations, or the next day's work.

    3. Hangers
    There's a good reason wire hangers are free: They're basically worthless. If you want to prolong the life of your clothes, don't keep them on wire or flimsy plastic hangers. Wood and padded hangers are the best ways to go for maintaining the shape of a garment.

    4. Baskets
    Put all your purses in baskets and you'll never be on your hands and knees searching for a runaway again.

    5. Hooks
    Belts invariably get tangled up or lost on the

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  • Arrange Your Kitchen by Activity

    David PrinceDavid PrinceWhen you have egg whites forming stiff peaks, an oven at 400 degrees, and butter melting on the stove, a hunt for kitchen supplies can have catastrophic consequences. The most efficient organizing principle is to group things by activity and keep them stationed around the starring appliance.

    Anything that doesn't fall under the main kitchen-activity categories -- baking, cooking, serving, and storing -- doesn't need to be taking up valuable space. Larger serving dishes and roasting pans should go on low or high shelves in the kitchen or pantry.

    If you're really strapped for space, store seldom-used and seasonal items, such as birthday-cake molds and cookie cutters, away from the kitchen entirely. Be sure to label the boxes or storage containers so you know what's stored where.

    As for never-used fondue sets, chafing dishes, bread and ice-cream makers, snow-cone machines, and creme brulee torches, share the wealth at your next tag sale.

    Activity: Baking
    Area: Near the mixer
    Can

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  • 7 Ways to Uncover the History of Your Home

    Tara DonneTara DonneEver wonder what your house once looked like -- and who lived there? These easy steps will help you uncover your dwelling's past.

    1. Take a closer look.

    To obtain some background -- and a sense of what your house may have once looked like -- start with a physical examination. A peek behind a piece of vinyl siding on the exterior, for instance, might reveal a hint of an original paint color. Inside, try lifting up the carpeting. (Mismatched floorboards can suggest there was an addition.) Or loosen a corner of wallpaper or paneling -- perhaps you'll find a vintage wallpaper print or even old newspapers, which were often used as insulation. Look into every nook and cranny. "I always check the newel post on the stairs," says Tim Gregory, a house historian in Pasadena, California. "Sometimes the top screws off and you'll find rolled-up house plans in there." For help identifying your home's architectural style, consult an easy-to-understand, illustrated reference book, such as A Field

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  • 5 Surprising New Uses for Your Microwave

    Michele GastlMichele Gastl1. Disinfecting and Deodorizing Sponges

    Don't throw out the kitchen sponge that smells like last night's salmon. Soak it in water spiked with white vinegar or lemon juice, then heat it on high for 1 minute. (Use an oven mitt when you remove it.) This will also disinfect any sponges you used to wipe up the juices from a raw chicken.

    See Real Simple's Surprising Household Cleaners

    2. Cooking an Entire Dinner in Under 10 Minutes

    And we don't mean the TV variety. We mean braised salmon with green beans and mashed potatoes. Use the microwave for any recipe that calls for braising, poaching, or steaming. Just subtract about three-quarters of the cooking time. Remember to stir liquids often to redistribute the heat, and always take the food out a minute or two before it's completely done, since it will continue to cook.

    3. Disinfecting Plastic Cutting Boards

    Wash the board well, rub it with the cut side of a lemon, then heat for 1 minute.

    4. Making Potatoes

    While the microwave won't give

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