• 6 Ways to Decorate with Nature

    By Jean Nayar

    Why not make the most of nature's bounty by bringing it indoors to create artful accents for your home? In just minutes you can transform those graceful leaves, textured twigs and beautiful blossoms into a keepsake that can last for seasons to come. Here are some easy ways to decorate with elements from nature.

    1. Branching Out
    Transform a cheap, dorm-style lamp into a sculptural focal point by adorning its spindle base with a collection of cut branches. Gather five or six dry fallen tree branches, cut them with a handsaw to the height of the lamp base and sand the ends. Clean and dry the branches, then apply several thin even coats of paint to each branch, letting it dry between coats. Use a hot glue gun to affix the branches to the base.

    Photographed for Woman's Day by John Gruen

    2. A Feast for the Eyes
    Indulge the foodie in your family with framed images of eye-appealing edibles. Simply snap shots of vegetables, fruits or spices against

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  • By Melinda Dodd

    Everything You Need to Know About LaundryEverything You Need to Know About LaundryNo matter how often you do laundry, there's always more. In fact, the average family washes 392 loads per year. Our wash-and-go guide can help you do it faster, cheaper and better.

    The Basics

    Before you load the washer, take these six simple steps.

    1. Dot the Spots
    Give each item a quick once-over. "Pretreating is essential," says home expert Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty Laundry with the Queen of Clean. Forgetting to inspect and treat items can set stains forever. Cobb likes Zout stain remover spray ($4.49; Walgreens.com). To stay on top of things, keep a spray bottle under the kitchen sink and in bathrooms, so you can treat stains as soon as you notice them.

    2. Check Your Detergents
    Are you using the right ones for your machine? Old washers can use old-school powders, but high-efficiency machines require less bubbly "HE" detergent.

    3. Measure Precisely
    Follow the bottle directions. "Using too much detergent doesn't get clothes

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  • Yesterday I took a walk around my neighborhood and was struck by the number of people who were spending their Sunday afternoon washing their cars in their driveways. It's a ritual that I used to partake in regularly alongside my dad as a kid, and as I was ambling around yesterday I noticed that there was one key, super-useful tool that seemed to be absent from my neighbors' car washing kits:

    A chamois, which is basically fancy-sounding name for a leather shammy. The material is incredibly absorbent-there's truly nothing like it in terms of making drying your car fast, easy, and totally spot and streak-free. It's also great for picking up any lingering dust or dirt, and the chamois itself can be thrown in the washing machine when it needs a cleaning. One cloth will last you just about forever, and you can buy a pack of two-seriously, you'll be set for years and years of car washes to come-for less than $10.

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  • Despite the fact that I've washed and folded my bedsheets countless times over the last couple decades, I wasn't sure about the correct, most efficient, make-it-look-like-it's-fresh-from-the-package way to fold a fitted sheet until just now. And though I'm hardly what anyone would call a neat freak, beyond the benefit of looking tidy, you can save a ton of space in your linen closet when you implement the right technique.

    After much Googling, and reading various instructions on assorted websites, I found the most straightforward, easily digestible way to learn how to fold a fitted sheet was by watching a video. So, presented by a site called livingonadime.com, click here to check out the footage of an affable, grandma-like lady named Jill Cooper who gives step-by-step directions on how to fold a fitted sheet like a pro.

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  • I was a guest at my aunt and uncle's house earlier this week, and coupled with our recent guest room makeover, hospitality has been top of mind for me these last few days. In addition to comfy sheets, fluffy towels, a bedside lamp, reading material, and all the other ideas that have been bantered around lately, I picked up one more tip over the weekend from my aunt to add to that list:

    A night light. I can't believe I hadn't thought about it sooner actually. When you wake up in the middle of the night, and groggily fumble around for the bathroom in the pitch-dark, a night light makes you feel so much more at ease-which is especially important when you're in unfamiliar territory. I like the one pictured here for the following reasons: it emits a soft glow, so it won't interfere with getting a good night's sleep, yet is bright enough to help you navigate. It's extremely energy efficient (.03 watts!) so you don't have to feel guilty about leaving it plugged in. Design-wise it's clean,

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  • Quick: When was the last time you replaced your mattress? Pillows? Even that jumbo bottle of shampoo? You'd be surprised how the shelf life of everyday household items can affect your health, and their expire-by dates are often sooner than you'd expect. Here's what to toss and when:

    Extend the shelf life of your food and save money!

    1) Replace pillows every year

    Hair and body oils will have soaked into a pillow's fabric and stuffing after a year of nightly use, making it a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria and allergy-triggering dust mites. Using protectors can double the life of your pillows.

    2) Toss your mattress after 5 to 10 years

    A good mattress lasts 9 to 10 years, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but consider replacing yours every 5 to 7 years if you don't sleep well. A study at Oklahoma State University found that most people who switched to new bedding after 5 years sleep significantly better and have less back pain.

    How your house

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  • What's real life like for a glamorous Hollywood actress like Halle Berry? Well, actually, more low-key than many of us might think: "I just love to be home," Berry says in the new issue of In Touch Weekly. The 43-year-old Oscar winner is a self-described "interior design nut" who meticulously chooses the decor of her many homes (in addition to her Hollywood abode, pictured above, she reportedly owns properties in Los Angeles, New York and Canada). Her Hollywood house is a sprawling, two-bedroom, two-bath Mediterranean-style mansion that sits on more than an acre of prime LA real estate Berry purchased in 2001. It's located on a quiet street and surrounded by lush landscaping and massive pepper trees that add privacy and an alluring, hidden feeling to the grounds. The actress filled the home's interior with upscale amenities, like a kitted-out gourmet kitchen and a master bedroom suite with two walk-in closets and a stone fireplace.

    The estate (which was built in 1948) is home to

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  • I've got zero experience gardening, though I'm really over buying expensive fresh herbs at the grocery store, and am determined to start my own mini indoor herb garden. It doesn't seem that hard either: I've been researching the simplest varieties to grow and there are plenty to choose from, and I also came across a few helpful tips I thought I'd pass on to the rest of you who are considering testing out your green thumbs.

    According to wisegeek.com, among the hardiest, disease-resistant, versatile herbs to grow at home are: dill, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, sweet marjoram, tarragon, parsley, garlic chives, mint, and lavender, and each one is as fragrant and delicious as the next. Naturally, you'll want to choose based on your own cooking preferences, but since I tend to use basil, chives, rosemary and parsley most frequently I'll probably start with those.

    The site also offered some handy pointers: for starters, it's best to opt for clay pots instead of plastic ones, since

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  • In the midst of April showers, a brightly colored, boldly patterned umbrella is an instant pick-me-up. Here, a round-up of our favorite styles under $25.

  • From the sound of the product description, these space age-looking rubber dryer balls might be one of the most revolutionary household inventions ever: "Dryer Magic Dryer Fluff Balls dryer balls soften fabrics naturally without the need for fabric softener, reduces drying time, is non toxic and allergy free, reduces lint and need for ironing and saves you time by drying your clothes faster!"

    Woah! That's a lot of awesomeness, especially for $4.99. My curiosity is definitely piqued, though I haven't tried them yet, have you?

    Part of me wonders if they're a little too good to be true. On one hand, I can see how they'd speed up the drying process: as they bounce around in your dryer, they lift your clothes, which lets hot air circulate better, and stuff gets dry faster. Makes sense, right? But as for reducing lint and wrinkles, I'm skeptical. So I defer to the rest of you out there who already took the plunge to enlighten us: do they work or don't they?

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