It’s Time to Try Catfish for Dinner

Today’s farm-raised catfish is a far cry from the fishy catch grandpa brought home. Sara Moulton, author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners, shares simple tips on how to pick and prepare this versatile dish for the whole family to enjoy.

These days, the catfish you consume aren’t like the ones your grandpa used to catch in local ponds and streams. The farm-raised catfish you will find in today’s markets have been trained to feast on a special diet that floats on the surface of the water and reduces the off flavors that once marred catfish’s popularity. Farm-raised catfish come to market in a uniform size, filleted, boned, and skinned, all ready to go in the pan, under the broiler, or on the grill. In the store, select fresh fillets that look moist, almost translucent, and vary from pure white to pink in color. As with all fish, catfish should have no fishy odor.

Catfish have several areas that are fattier than the rest of the fillet, and removing those areas not only makes the fish leaner, it reduces the possibility of the fish’s having the “muddy” flavor that wild catfish are known for. The largest fatty area is a layer right under the skin. This is sometimes removed in processing, and the fish is labeled “double skinned.” If the fatty area is still visible, it can be easily scraped off with the blade of a knife. Removing the gray line that runs lengthwise down the center of the fillet will also improve the flavor. You can either split the fillet and trim off the gray area or cut a V down the center of the fillet to remove it.

Admired by millions as the host of Cooking Live, Cooking Live Primetime, and Sara’s Secrets, Sara Moulton, author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners (Copyright © 2010 by Sara Moulton Enterprises), was one of the Food Network’s defining personalities during its first decade. In addition, the energetic Moulton was the executive chef of Gourmet magazine for twenty-three years. She is the food editor of ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, and the author of Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals and Sara Moulton Cooks at Home.  In April 2008, Moulton launched a new twenty-episode television series on public television, Sara’s Weeknight Meals. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.


Stylist Secrets for Decorating with Flowers

A bouquet of blossoms or a single dramatic stem can add character to any room. Weave flowers — and other natural objects — into your decor with these refreshing ideas from Flowers: Style Recipes by Samantha Moss.

Flowers have the rare power to create atmosphere. With a little clever arranging, flowers can instantly change the look and feel of a space and make you want to spend time there. Even a few blossoms can refresh a room and decorate it to suit the season or a special occasion.

When accessorizing with flowers, keep in mind that the height and size of an arrangement should be scaled to a room’s architecture — an oversize urn of snapdragons, for example, is best reserved for spaces with high ceilings. Take your cue from other items in the space: match the soft hues of a dining room with ranunculus, roses, and young bittersweet, like the bouquet at right. Gather inspiration from the paintings, fabrics, and colors in your home, and you’ll soon see how flowers and their environment work together in a stylish partnership.

Arrangements need not be confined to a table or shelf — in fact, you can be as creative with placement as you can with the flowers themselves. Use flowers and foliage to screen a fireplace, accent a windowsill, or decorate a staircase. As an alternative to a traditional arrangement, drape homemade flower garlands along an entryway or around a banister.

Experiment with the drama of single stems. Instead of one large-scale arrangement, divide a bouquet among a series of mismatched containers. Everyday objects — glass bottles, soup cans, teacups — take on surprising new character when used as vessels for flowers. Choose flowers whose color, shape, and fragrance complement the space or occasion. For added color and fragrance, incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables: asparagus, fig branches, and lemons are all versatile, long-lasting options that can anchor and accent an arrangement.

Samantha Moss, author of Flowers (Copyright © 2005 by Weldon Owen Inc. and Pottery Barn), is a writer and editor based in San Francisco.



Stylish Decorating Solutions for Small Spaces

Ty Pennington, host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and the author of Good Design Can Change Your Life, shares his tricks for making a big design impact in even the smallest of spaces.

Space is the ultimate frontier. Who doesn’t want more of it? I’ve lived in Japan where space is at a premium, as well as in tiny dorm rooms, and in overpriced, under-spaced NYC apartments so I don’t take a millimeter of free space for granted. And neither should you. Space makes you feel like you have room to grow, so don’t box yourself in, even if it means that you don’t get to put everything you want into a room.

The first design rule of thumb for a small room is to scale your furniture. Personally, I’m not a fan of big, soft, fluffy furniture to begin with. Especially big, soft, fluffy sofas: Sit down in one and you end up getting sucked into it, then the next thing you know you’re totally enveloped in pillows, which is comfy but can put you to sleep in seconds, and I like to try to stay awake most of the day. If you do like big, soft, fluffy furniture, fine — just don’t overstuff a small room with it or you’re not going to have any space to walk around. Try to limit it to one fluffy comfortable chair or maybe just a fluffy ottoman. Or, if it’s a bedroom, keep all the furnishings and the bed itself fairly streamlined and top the bed with a big fluffy comforter and pillows.

Better yet, get furniture that’s sleek and low to the ground. Also consider having a few pieces on the sidelines — say, tucked away in a corner or pushed up against a wall — that you move to the center only when you have guests over. Those pieces might be stools for extra seating or even a couple of side tables that nest inside each other and can be pulled out for a cocktail party or the Super Bowl. You’ve got to have somewhere to put the chips, right?

If you’re creating an entertainment room, also think about housing your electronic equipment in the most streamlined way possible. For instance, in my entertainment room (page 141), instead of putting my TV and stereo in a bulky cabinet or armoire, I built low, simple shelving on the wall with some little drawers and narrow shelves for storage and display. It makes the room feel more open, doesn’t take up much floor space, and yet still has a decorative feel.

Probably the most important thing to remember about designing a small space is, keep it simple. Choose a few wonderful things for the room and leave it at that. Think quality, not quantity.

Ty Pennington, author of Good Design Can Change Your Life (Copyright © 2008 by Furniture Unlimited, Inc.), is the host of ABC’s hit series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He has won awards in graphic design and worked as a set designer and as a model before being cast as the carpenter in The Learning Channel’s series Trading Spaces. Ty has developed his own line of home products for Sears, Howard Miller, and Lumber Liquidators and has launched Ty Pennington at Home magazine.


Do-It-Yourself Pest Control

Stop ants, cockroaches, aphids, and other pests from invading your counters, cabinets, and plants. And do it the safe, earth-friendly way with these insect repellent tips from Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean.

When using insect sprays, especially those containing deet, try spraying clothes instead of skin — it’s much safer, especially for children.

A wonderful substitute for insect repellent is white vinegar. Apply it liberally to the skin with a cotton ball. Bugs hate the way you taste and the smell of the vinegar disappears once it dries. Great for kids!


For ants on the counter, wipe the counter down with undiluted white vinegar.

To prevent ants from coming in the house or getting into cupboards, sprinkle dried mint or red pepper where they are entering the house and in the cupboards. To get rid of anthills, pour 3 gallons of boiling water down them. This is best done when the ants are active and near the surface. Do not do this close to flowers or they will die, too.

Another way to kill ants is to mix a combination of 50 percent borax and 50 percent confectioners’ sugar. Place this on cardboard or a piece of board near the anthill. The ants are attracted by the sugar and carry the fatal borax/sugar combination back to the nest to feed the queen and other ants. Soon all are dead. A note of caution: Do not place this where children or pets may ingest this mixture. Borax is found in the laundry aisle at the grocery store as a laundry additive, not as a pesticide.


Mix nonfat dry milk with water according to the directions on the box, then put in a spray bottle and apply it to the leaves of your plants. As the milk dries, the aphids get stuck in the milky residue and die. You can rinse the plants from time to time with the hose. This will not harm your plants and offers an inexpensive solution to a big problem.


Wash off the plant with a mild solution of dishwashing liquid and water. Try a ratio of 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing liquid to 1 quart water. Flush leaves, including undersides, with the solution. Do not rinse off.

These bugs are attracted to bright yellow and can be trapped by placing a yellow board or other yellow objects such as yellow poster board, oleo lids, or sticks painted yellow, coated with heavy motor oil, petroleum jelly, or Tack-Trap® near susceptible plants. Recoat when the traps dry out.

Use 1 1/2  teaspoons of baking soda per pint of water and apply every seven days. This method is user-, earth-, and child-friendly.

To keep cockroaches out of the cupboards, place some bay leaves on the shelves.

Kill cockroaches with a mixture of 1/3 borax, 1/3 cornmeal, 1/3 flour, and a dash of powdered sugar. Sprinkle this in crevices under sinks and vanities where cockroaches love to hide. Remember, keep this away from children and animals.

You can also try this formula for cockroaches: Mix powdered boric acid with sugar and powdered nondairy creamer. I use a mixture of 50 percent boric acid to 25 percent each sugar and creamer. This is inexpensive and relatively safe, but it should be kept away from children and pets. Sprinkle the mixture in all the dark, warm places that cockroaches love — under sinks and stoves, behind refrigerators, in cabinets and closets, and so on. The roaches will walk through the powder and then clean themselves, much the way a cat preens. Once they ingest the powder they die.

Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.



Does Your Home Stress You Out? Why Less Is More

Don’t let your stuff define you. Embrace a new mind-set of consuming less and living with less, and you’ll find more peace and happiness at home, says expert organizer Peter Walsh in Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less.

If I had to give you one word that lies at the root of most people’s emotional pain and anguish today, you’d probably be surprised it’s not “money” (or the lack thereof). It’s “stuff.” Stuff keeps us from having the rich, full life we deserve. More stuff doesn’t equate to a better life. Stuff has a way of creeping into and overtaking our homes. It also has a way of defining us, when we should be defining ourselves from a much deeper, intangible perspective. And when our stuff begins to define who we are, we become incapable of defin­ing ourselves outside of what we own and what we can buy. This, as many of you may know by now, is a setup for utter unhappiness. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Fight Club: “The things you own end up owning you.” It’s a great quote, one that I use often and one that’s really worth pondering. I can also extend that quote: “The things you own end up owning your identity.

It’s time to seriously examine ourselves and our relationships with the money, people, and things in our lives — and the lack thereof. No one should feel stressed out when she opens the door to her own home or buys staples for living. No one has to. No one should feel like he has “nothing” when he can count on his loved ones, even when there’s a lack of material possessions and money. Your home and your financial stability are within your control. Con­sider this: if your home is not providing you with a place of peace and calm, of focus and motivation; if your home is instead a major source of stress and anxiety in your life, then isn’t it obvious that things are seriously out of balance? If your own home does not offer you some measure of nourishment and calm, where are you finding that peace? Chances are, nowhere! Your home should be the place where you escape all negative forces in the world. How you live in that home — eat, breathe, sleep, play, and connect with loved ones — should be the antidote to stress, not the cause.

To get to the heart of our financial problems, we have to reframe how we view what we own, what we buy, how we pay, what we can af­ford, and what will help us create the life we want for ourselves. This is about living mindfully within our means and it begins with a new perspective and a new mind-set about consuming less, living with less, and being happy with less — a mind-set that embraces the idea that happiness doesn’t automatically come with more. This process must start with a clear vision of the life you want — not a debt num­ber or credit score. Just a vision — your vision — and a big one at that.

Let’s be honest, the concept of less is far less attractive than the con­cept of more. Just that word “less” carries a boatload of negative con­notations. Less drums up thoughts of not having enough, being a few dollars short, getting the short end of the stick, not functioning at 100 percent, missing something, lacking something, and so on. It implies hardship, deprivation, destitution, and poverty. But does it have to be a negative term? What does less mean to you?

Complete the following statements:

With less, I am afraid that:

With less, I won’t be able to:

With less, my happiness is:

Think for a moment about what automatically comes to mind when you think of you with less. Are you afraid that life won’t be as plea­surable or rewarding? Does less mean you can’t be happy? Does the very idea of less threaten your happiness? Will having less and living on less income mean you won’t be living the life of your dreams? Why do you think this way? How is this so? What preconceived no­tions about “more” are clouding your definition of “less”?

Now let’s turn this table around. Our cynical relationship with this word “less” is completely arbitrary. What if we chose to look at it from a different perspective? What if, for example, we couch “less” in terms that relate to abundance? Having less doesn’t have to equate with being less, or missing anything. It can, in fact, result in the opposite effect of being more and having more — less of the things that cripple us or trip us up and more happiness, more simplicity, more relaxation, more satisfaction, more energy, more time, more joy, more order, more freedom, more flexibility, more opportunities, more of the things we truly value and need to live the life we want. This concept of “less” that will change our lives is less stress, less worry, less anxiety, less debt, less dissatisfaction, less frustration, less failure, less chaos, less dependence, less dysfunction in our relation­ships, and less feeling trapped in our financial instability and clutter-filled homes. When you look at it this way, less really can be more.

The shift from seeing less as a negative to less as a positive hap­pens when we embrace the concept of less as an opportunity to be re­sponsible and to be mindful consumers. It’s about filling our souls rather than our physical space. It’s about peace of mind rather than just more, more, more.

Peter Walsh
, author of Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less (Copyright © 2011 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.), is a clutter expert and organizational consultant who characterizes himself as part contractor and part therapist. He is a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and hosts Enough Already! with Peter Walsh on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Peter holds a master’s degree with a specialty in educational psychology. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.



Start-to-Finish Makeup Guide for Women with Acne

With the right tools and a handful of tricks of the trade, applying makeup needn’t be a chore for those with imperfect skin. Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields asked professional makeup artists for their best makeup trips for women with acne. Here are 14 tips from their book, Unblemished: Stop Breakouts! Fight Acne! Transform Your Life! Reclaim Your Self-Esteem with the Proven 3-Step Program Using Over-the-Counter Medications.

Following are some of the best tips about makeup application we’ve learned from professional makeup artists. The products listed are available at drugstores, department stores, or company websites. Remember, have fun with your makeup — let it be a life-enhancing experience, not an obsessive chore.

  • Always begin with a clean, dry face. The correct order for successful makeup application is medication, moisture, sunscreen, makeup. Try using dual function products, such as a moisturizing sunscreen, to lessen the number of products on your face. Remember, always let your medicated products dry completely before applying anything else.
  • Never use medicated cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur on the eye area, as they can be intensely irritating.
  • When in doubt, make sure your makeup is noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic. These terms indicate that the product has been tested and shown not to promote acne.
  • It’s often best to apply foundation and powder to skin that has been primed with some form of moisturizer. Otherwise, foundation and powder can cake and be uneven in appearance. For those with extremely oily skin, a mattifying lotion will help set makeup so it doesn’t streak.
  • It’s easy to smear mascara during application, which you then have to remove from the skin. If this happens often, particularly if you have long lashes, try applying your eye makeup and mascara before your other products. This way, if mascara smears by the side of your eyes or onto your cheeks, you won’t have to reapply your concealer or foundation. This is especially important when you’re using medicated products first.
  • Makeup varies in different lighting. For instance, if you work in an office with fluorescent lighting, it will look different from the way it does in your bathroom. For a more even and natural look, apply makeup in natural light. Sitting near a window and using a hand mirror works well.
  • More is not better, especially for those with severe acne. The temptation is to keep reapplying concealer or powder during the day, but this can often have the opposite effect, drawing attention to the pimples as well as adding potentially acnegenic ingredients to the area.
  • Makeup migrates into the pores. For those with acne, medicated makeups containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide allow this migration to benefit your complexion by healing and preventing acne.
  • Makeup also rubs off. To limit this, keep your hands away from your face whenever possible. We know this can be extremely difficult, but if you keep rubbing the makeup off, you’ll want to keep reapplying it, which sets up a vicious circle of overuse and irritation.
  • “If you have extremely oily skin that causes your makeup to streak after several hours, place a piece of cellophane tape over the streaks and pull it off,” suggests Melissa Greene, a makeup artist in Brooklyn, New York. “It sounds crazy, but it works. This will pull off the oil and leave your makeup intact. You can also try blotting papers, such as Proactiv Solution Oil Blotter Sheets or Lancôme Matte Finish Shine-Control Blotting Sheets.”
  • Don’t be afraid of color, but if you have a lot of acne, it’s best to highlight only one area of your face at a time. If you like dramatic eyes, go for subtle lips, and vice versa. Keep your cheeks neutral. And if your face tends toward redness, stay away from the red, pink, and purple families for shadows and blush, as they can appear to intensify it.
  • Makeup formulations are all different. Experiment until you find the best colors and textures for your skin. Note: Nearly all brands accept returns if a product causes irritation.
  • Never share makeup, especially mascara and eye shadows. This can cause infection and contamination.
  • Applying makeup is an acquired skill, one that is often crucial for women with acne. A makeup lesson from a professional makeup artist who understands acne can be illuminating and save you hundreds of dollars by steering you away from the products that might not work best for you. Being taught how to apply makeup properly will also help cut down the time it takes to put on makeup, an asset to anyone already overburdened with work, school, and family commitments.

Katie Rodan, M.D., is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Kathy Fields, M.D., is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California-San Francisco. Both have been profiled in Best Doctors in America, and their work has been featured in numerous national magazines and television shows. They are the authors of Unblemished: Stop Breakouts! Fight Acne! Transform Your Life! Reclaim Your Self-Esteem with the Proven 3-Step Program Using Over-the-Counter Medications (Copyright © 2004 by Rodan & Fields Inc.).


Give Your Refrigerator a Freezer-to-Floor Makeover

Spills, science experiments, sauces from the last decade…If opening your fridge feels like an archaeological expedition, it’s time for a freezer-to-floor makeover. Learn the best way to store fruits, vegetables, condiments, and half-eaten dinners with this step-by-step guide from Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter.

The refrigerator and freezer take a lot of abuse. There isn’t a person alive, I venture, who hasn’t peered into the depths of their refrigerator at one time or another and pulled out a “mystery bowl” lurking somewhere in the back. To stop the science experiments, use these tried-and-true methods.

Clean out the refrigerator and freezer separately, starting with the refrigerator. First remove the entire contents of the refrigerator, examining things as you go to determine what is a keeper and what can be disposed of. Have a sturdy trash bag standing by to receive any “mystery items.” Use a cooler to keep perishables cold while you work. (Don’t worry, this won’t take long!) “Keepers” are condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings — if they are still fresh.

A quick word of advice: Even condiments have an expiration date. They last, open in your refrigerator, for about 12 to 18 months. Take a look at them as you replace them in the refrigerator. If they have changed color or look excessively watery, it’s time to toss and restock. And remember, when you are using perishable items such as mayonnaise or salad dressing, return them to the refrigerator as soon as possible to keep them fresh longer.

Now’s the time to thoroughly clean the interior of the refrigerator. Remove glass shelves or racks one by one to clean them. As you take them out, wash the wall areas of the refrigerator that can be reached. A mild solution of 1 gallon of warm water and a couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid and 1–2 tablespoons of borax will do the job nicely. Mix this up in the sink or a bucket, and use a sponge or soft cloth. You probably found that box of baking soda in the back that has been deodorizing the refrigerator for months. Remove it and sprinkle some of the baking soda on a damp cloth to remove stubborn food spills from the walls and shelves. When you’re done, you can place the box with your cleaning supplies, for many other uses around the house. Put a fresh box in the refrigerator. Wash and rinse the shelves and dry with a soft cloth; then replace them in the refrigerator. Here you’ll want to put a coat of Clean Shield® on the shelves before putting items back. This wonderful product creates a nonstick finish that is stain- and soil-resistant. You can mop up spills in your refrigerator with just a damp sponge, making cleanup a lot easier.

  • Group keepers by type. Store salad dressings, horseradish, and other condiments together in the door. Jams and jellies can stay here too. Check the dates on your perishables and dispose of anything that’s past its prime. Consider how you use things in the refrigerator. If the kids are constantly reaching into the back for the jelly, for instance, move it up front and store less frequently used items in the back.
  • Dairy products such as cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream should be stored in their original containers. Hard cheese will stay freshest if stored wrapped in foil, wax paper, or plastic wrap after opening.
  • Group fruits and vegetables separately, each in their own crisper bins. This way you can pull open the drawer and know if you need to pick up a head of lettuce or some more apples. This also keeps your produce fresher longer, as fruits and vegetables emit gases that cause each other to deteriorate; grouping like things together will keep these vapors from mingling. Remember not to wash produce prior to storage, as this speeds up deterioration.

Is your refrigerator the place where you keep the leftovers until it’s time to throw them out?

  • A separate section of the refrigerator just for leftovers is a good idea. This keeps you from overlooking them. Store them in see-through containers, and hopefully you won’t shove them to the back to linger for six months! Remove any leftovers from cans and store in plastic or glass to keep a metallic taste from ruining the food. Leftovers need to be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking, so be sure to store them as soon as mealtime is over. As you store your leftovers in the refrigerator, make a list of them and tack it to the refrigerator door. You’ll be more apt to remember and to use them and you’ll never find a mystery bowl next time you clean.
  • Perishables such as eggs should be stored on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Remember that the door is often the warmest place in your refrigerator, and that’s where the egg container usually is. It’s much safer to store your eggs in their original container until they’re used. For this reason, you’ll want to store your butter, margarine, and cream cheese on the top shelf too. Leave the door area for your sturdier condiments, such as ketchup and mustard.
  • Store meats on the bottom shelf if your refrigerator doesn’t have a meat tray. This prevents them from dripping on other items, in case the wrapping isn’t tight. Thaw a roast or other large cut of meat inside a bowl, so that as it defrosts the juice will run into the bowl, not all over your shelves.
  • If your family drinks a lot of canned juices and soft drinks, a can rack will come in handy. Here’s where an extra refrigerator is a bonus too, to hold beverages you buy on sale or use frequently. A word of warning: Do not place warm cans of soda in the freezer to quickly cool them off. The carbonation causes the can to burst. Not a pretty sight.

Don’t overcrowd the refrigerator, as the premise for keeping food cool is that interior air is allowed to circulate. You’ll want to set the temperature dial to less than 40 degrees to keep harmful bacteria from growing. Look for a refrigerator thermometer at home stores; leaving one in your refrigerator will help you keep your food fresher longer.

Leftovers? Think Again!
By now you probably have collected partially used bottles and containers with just a little left in them. Here’s what you can do with those leftovers.

  • That old odor-absorbing box of baking soda — put it down the kitchen drain followed by 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar for a fresh-smelling, clear-flowing drain.
  • Lemon juice — clean your brass with lemon juice by adding salt. Rub it on, rinse, and dry well. Clean stains off counters with a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar. Remove rust from hard surfaces or white fabrics by putting the lemon juice on the rust. For fabric, lay it out in the sun.
  • Ketchup — now’s the time to shine that copper by rubbing it with ketchup until it shines. Rinse and dry well.
  • Clear soda water that’s lost its fizz — use to wipe down white appliances for a great shine. Buff with a soft cloth. Clear soda water also adds vigor to plants and cut flowers.
  • If that onion is not good enough for the salad, remove rust from your utensils, such as paring knives, by sticking them in the onion and letting them sit until the rust is removed, usually a matter of hours.
  • Put citrus peels from citrus fruit past its prime down the garbage disposal to freshen and deodorize.
  • If that potato isn’t looking great, cut it in half and rub it on white shoes. Let the shoe dry, and then polish for a streak-proof shine. Or, remove mud from clothes by rubbing with the cut side of a potato.
  • Add shine to a wood table by polishing with that last bit of mayonnaise in the jar. Rub it in well and buff with a soft cloth.


Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.


8 Rules for Running a Productive Home Office Editor-in-Chief Erin Rooney Doland shares 8 tips to make the most out of working from home. From Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-Day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life!

Work from Home or Live at Work?

My husband likes to say that there is a misconception about people who work from home: People don’t work from home; they live in their offices. Whether you’re a full-time telecommuter or a parent who manages the house and children, being at home the majority of the time makes you feel like you are always at work.

My husband knows firsthand the truth of his statement because he has been telecommuting since 2000. When I started working from home in 2006, he was an incredible resource to me as I made this transition. We share an office (our desks are just seven feet away from each other), and I know I would have a much more difficult time working from home if he weren’t here to keep me company.

Also, be aware that other people (friends, family) may have a harder time adjusting to your working from home than you do. They may assume that since you work from home you’re
free to run errands for them or that your work hours are flexible. Even if this is the case, it’s best not to let other people know, at least initially. You want it to be clear that you are a professional and that your work is just as valuable as the work completed in more traditional office environments.

Here are just a few ways to establish a productive and enjoyable home working environment:

  • Create a workspace separate from everyone else in your home. Establish a defined space that is just for your work. This may mean that you need two desks, two computers, and two phone lines in your home. Experience has taught me that when people share desks, one person always feels like they’re invading the other person’s space.
  • Know your UPS/FedEx/mail carrier’s first name. Delivery people are not accustomed to your being home during the day. Acquaint yourself with these people so that they will actually ring the doorbell and wait for you to answer the door when they have deliveries.
  • Make your office a place you want to be. Similar to the advice I gave on Monday in the laundry section, you need to want to work in your space. Decorate the room, buy quality equipment and supplies, and have sufficient lighting for the needs of your work.
  • Purchase and use a good set of earphones. Ultimately, there will come a time when you’re in a productive zone and your roommate or spouse will decide to talk loudly on the phone or feel compelled to tell you about something funny. Music playing through the earphones allows you to tune out other conversations and also sends the message that you’re not to be distracted (even if you’re not actually listening to music).
  • Have a phone with a do-not-disturb button and forwarding capabilities. Often, clients assume that because you work from home it’s okay to call you at all hours of the night and on the weekends. If you worked in an office building, they would never have the expectation that you would answer your phone at dinnertime. When your workday is finished, press the do-not-disturb button on your work phone and let it ring straight to voice mail. That being said, if you take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood in the middle of the afternoon, it’s best to forward your office phone to your cell phone so that you won’t miss any important business.
  • Set strict office hours. This is an important rule for you and for everyone else in your life. These boundaries keep you at your desk and productive throughout the day and also remind people that you are a professional. When you’re done with work for the day, clear your desk, hit the do-not-disturb button on your phone, turn off the light, and close the door. If you’re a parent who stays home to manage the house and take care of your children, schedule these work times to take place every day when the kids are napping or participating in a supervised activity.
  • Get ready at least a little bit every morning for work. It’s fun to work in pajamas, but it’s not fun to let your hygiene go. Brush your teeth, shower, and put on something you won’t be embarrassed to answer the door in when the UPS driver comes with a package. It helps your productivity when you feel more put together than you did when you were sleeping.
  • Take advantage of working from home. Make yourself a nice breakfast or lunch in your kitchen. Work from your front porch on sunny afternoons. Throw a load of laundry into the washing machine before work, toss it in the dryer during lunch, and fold it at the end of the workday. Run to the post office when things are slow during your morning. Take advantage of the perks of working from home to remind yourself why you do it.

Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-Day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life! (Copyright © 2009 by Erin Doland), is an organization consultant and the Editor-in-Chief of, a popular website that has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, House Beautiful,, and on the BBC and HGTV. She is a twice-weekly columnist for Real Simple online, and has written for Ready Made, Women’s Day, and, among others. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband.

The Surprising Cost of Clutter in Your Home

Not only does clutter burden you emotionally — it’s costing you financially. Expert organizer Peter Walsh shows you how to calculate the value of unused space in your home due to clutter. From Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less

That Clutter Is Costing Real Dollars
It’s easy to put a dollar figure on the cost of professionally stored clutter, but what about the clutter you keep at home? How much is that costing you? I’m not just referring to the financial cost. I’m also talking about what it’s costing you emotionally. The emotional cost may exceed the dollar cost.

Try going through one room and make a quick estimate of the cost of what you’re not using. For example, look in your bedroom and consider the cost of unworn clothes and shoes, unread books, unworn jewelry, or unused makeup. Consider the unused toys in your den or child’s bedroom. If any particular item you come across tugs at your heart or makes you emotional, then consider that an added cost. Add up the cost of the items — I’m guessing that some of those clothes still have the tags on them so it won’t be that hard — and write down the amount. Is it big? How much of that are you still paying off? This simple exercise should give you a rough estimate of the cost of the clutter in your home.

Another assessment you can do is to work out how much each square foot of your home is worth and then see how much of that space is unused due to clutter. Simply take the current value of your home (make a rough estimate; you’re not trying to come up with the exact selling figure for real estate purposes so just obtain the general ballpark figure), and determine how much each square foot is worth.

Value of your home ÷ Square footage of your home = Value of each square foot

____________ ÷ _______________ = ____________

So, if you live in a $250,000 home and it’s 2,500 square feet, then each square foot is worth $100.

The value of each square foot of my home is: ­­­­­­­­­­____________

Now let’s calculate how much of your home’s space is occupied by things you don’t use. Walk around your home and make a rough calculation of how many square feet are unusable because of the clutter. Don’t forget the basement, closets, and garage!

The number of square feet in my home that are occupied by things I don’t use: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________

Now let’s find out how much that wasted square footage is worth:

Value of square footage x Square feet occupied by things you don’t use = Value of unusable space

____________ x _______________ = ____________

Are you surprised at the value of the space you’re giving up to things you don’t use? Is it a big waste of space? A colossal waste of money for space that is lost to you and your family? Every month when you pay your mortgage company, a decent chunk of that money is paying for storage in your own home.

Now let’s do this once more but this time go through and write down what everything in each room is worth. Mark which items have been totally paid for. And then write down how much you still owe on the other items. For example, let’s say you have a big-screen TV that you bought for $2,000 when it first came out because you had to have it for the Super Bowl three years ago. Did you put it on your credit card? Have you paid the card off or are you carrying a balance every month? Think about it: if you are carrying a balance, some part of the balance you pay every month is that TV you bought three years ago. If that TV breaks, you are still paying it off even if you replace it. And then you’ll be paying for both the broken TV and its replace­ment! Really look around your house and figure out exactly what you own and what you still owe money on. Was anything worth the worry and stress of those monthly bills?

Peter Walsh
, author of Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less (Copyright © 2011 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.), is a clutter expert and organizational consultant who characterizes himself as part contractor and part therapist. He is a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and hosts Enough Already! with Peter Walsh on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Peter holds a master’s degree with a specialty in educational psychology. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.



8 Essential Foods for Gorgeous Skin

Acai is the new pomegranate, and goji berry is the new blueberry! Who can keep track of all of the “super skin foods” touted in magazines? And honestly, who needs to? Here, Dr. Ellen Marmur reveals the top eight everyday food elements, from antioxidants to zinc, that will help optimize your skin’s health.  From Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

As popular as the “super skin foods” topic may be in magazines, there’s not much sound scientific evidence behind all of it yet. Scientists are studying the effects of many foods and vitamins on the health of the skin, but strong studies are still pretty scarce. Even so, there are things you can eat that definitely benefit the skin in particular, and deficiencies of certain nutrients is damaging. A lack of protein can lead to poor wound healing and hair loss, and a fat deficiency can bring on dry skin and brittle hair and nails. A lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy (yes, even in this day and age!), which leads to spongy gums and bleeding hair follicles, among other awful skin conditions. So don’t be caught short of the nutrients your skin needs in your diet, but don’t make yourself crazy either. It’s really not too difficult to incorporate essential food elements into your daily meals.

Top Substances in Food That Optimize Skin Health
>>> Vitamins C and E
Vitamin C is found in: Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, papaya, and tomatoes

Vitamin E is found in: Sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, sunflower seeds, avocados, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables

What they do for skin: These antioxidant vitamins fight oxidation damage in skin cells’ DNA. Because they are key elements in the structural proteins in the body, they are important to the integrity of the blood vessels and hair follicles. They’re required for the formation of collagen, and medical studies have found that they decrease wrinkling of the skin. Vitamin E reduces inflammation and helps wound healing. Vitamin C enhances the immune response.

>>> Vitamin A
It’s found in: Fish oil, salmon, carrots, dairy products, spinach, and broccoli

What it does for skin: Since it promotes normal keratinization (the turnover of skin cells), it helps with conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Without it, skin becomes extremely dry and dull. It’s important to note that if you use a synthetic retinoid (a derivative of vitamin A) on your skin, you may need to stop vitamin A supplementation, since too much of this vitamin can lead to hair loss and liver dysfunction.

>>> Protein
It’s found in: Meat, eggs, grains, sunflower seeds, dairy products, fish, legumes like beans and peas, and nuts such as walnuts and pecans

What it does for skin: Protein is a component of all the cells in the body and a building block of skin tissue. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, the building blocks of new proteins for the body’s constant reconstruction job. They are like Legos, coming in different shapes, sizes, and types that help construct collagen or create lubricating ceramide in the skin. It’s a perfect economy, with the amino acids being recycled into new proteins on a supply-and-demand basis.

>>> Zinc
It’s found in: Turkey, almonds, Brazil nuts, and wheat germ

What it does for skin: This anti-inflammatory mineral calms irritation in the epidermis and helps to heal acne and treat rosacea. It also facilitates cell regeneration.

>>> Biotin
It’s found in: Egg yolks, brewer’s yeast, bananas, lentils, cauliflower, and salmon

What it does for skin: This B vitamin strengthens skin, hair, and nails. (A deficiency is extremely rare because bacteria in your intestines make all the biotin you need.) A deficit can lead to hair loss or dermatitis (itchy, scaly skin). Some people swear by biotin supplements to strengthen brittle nails, but studies haven’t proven that it’s beneficial for anyone who’s not deficient in the vitamin.

>>> Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 is found in: Seeds, nuts, eggs, and sunflower and soybean oil (which are in lots of snack foods, such as crackers, cookies, and cereals)

Omega-3 is found in: Cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines, flaxseed oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and almonds

What they do for skin: These essential fatty acids support skin health, improve nerve and vascular function, and act as antioxidants. Omega-3 has strong anti-inflammatory properties and may calm skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema and minimize redness. It also boosts immune system functioning. Some nutritional studies have shown that omega-3 may protect against squamous cell skin cancers and decrease sunburn response. Studies have shown that diets rich in the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid are associated with less skin dryness and thinning. But it’s important to note that these fatty acids must be balanced in the body. For example, too much omega-6 and linoleic acid can cause an inflammatory response in the body, while omega-3 minimizes it. Because of the prevalence of omega-6 in processed snack foods, it’s believed that we are getting an abundance of them and not enough omega-3. And studies have shown that too much omega-6 can increase the risk of everything from high blood pressure to dementia and depression. The key is balancing your intake of the two.

>>> Monounsaturated Fats
They’re found in: Olive oil, canola oil, and avocados

What they do for skin: These healthy fats help to maintain the water level in the epidermis and supply the ceramides and fats that keep the bricks and mortar of the skin healthy and intact. This translates into less itchy, healthy-looking, glowing skin.

>>> Antioxidants
They’re found in: Blueberries, green tea, red kidney beans, olive oil, artichokes, pomegranates, dark chocolate, and red wine

What they do for skin: These are indeed the superheroes of the nutrient family. We’ve heard a lot about how antioxidants extinguish the dangerous free radicals (the toxic oxygen molecules that can be by-products of cell renewal and are also generated by pollution and sun damage). The polyphenol antioxidants in green tea have also been shown to help prevent certain skin cancers and protect skin against sunburns. Antioxidants found in red wine and green tea are being studied for their possible cancer-fighting potential, but so far the results aren’t conclusive. There have been studies that strongly showed that the antioxidants in green tea (among them epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG) protect the DNA in skin cells from UV-induced damage.

Ellen Marmur, MD, author of Simple Skin Beauty (Copyright © 2009 by Dr. Ellen Marmur), is the Chief of Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical center in New York City and specializes in skin cancer surgery, cosmetic surgery, and women’s health dermatology. She lives in Manhattan with her family.