Natural Sleep Remedies and Tips For a Restful Night

In today’s hectic world so many people struggle with sleep. It can be so hard to turn off the mind and relax after a busy day. Even when you are able to fall asleep it can be difficult to stay asleep. Fortunately there are a lot of techniques that you can try to improve your sleep without needing to rely on medicines from the doctor. Here are our favorite natural sleep remedies.

Melatonin Supplements
This is probably one of the most popular natural sleep remedies out there, because it is a sleep inducing hormone that your brain produces naturally. Melatonin supplements usually come in the form of a dissolving tablet that you take about 20 minutes before you are ready to fall asleep. It can easily be found in the vitamin and supplement aisle of your local drug store or grocery store. It doesn’t need to be taken every night. You can simply use it on nights that you are having difficulty falling asleep.

Meditation
One of the biggest reasons people have trouble sleeping is that their minds are going a mile a minute. They are thinking about the stresses of the day or things they have to do the next day. If anxiety is keeping you up at night, try practicing meditation. It is an excellent strategy for training the mind to stay relaxed and present. Those that practice meditation are less likely to feel bogged down by stress and worry.

Exercise
Like meditation, exercise can be a great way to reduce your stress levels. This will in turn have a positive impact on your sleep. Plus the more energy that you expend through out the day, the more likely you are to be tired at night. Be careful to not workout too late in the evening, as that could actually cause you to feel more alert.

Make Sure Your Room is Dark Enough
This may sound like a no brainer, but in today’s high tech world a lot of people underestimate how much our devices may be keeping us awake. If you are a late night TV watcher try turning off the tv well before you are go to sleep. Put your cell phone away. Turn away the lights that shine from your alarm clark. All the lights from these various devices can keep your mind from getting the signal that it is time to go to sleep.

Stop Consuming Liquids a Few Hours Before Bed
If you are waking up at night to go to the bathroom, try cutting yourself off from drinking liquids a few hours before bed. Especially avoid drinking caffeine in the evening or late afternoon. These techniques will usually cut down on nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Keep Your Room Cool
Body temperature can play a key role in falling asleep. You get better sleep when your body temperature is cool. Try investing in a fan or setting your air conditioner a little lower. Make sure you have breathable pajamas and blankets.

Make Your Bedroom a Relaxing Sanctuary
This may sound cheesy, but you want your bedroom to be a place that you find relaxing. If you bedroom is super messy and cluttered it may actually have the opposite effect. Try to keep it clean. Have a pleasant, calming smell in the room like lavender or other spa-like scents. Make sure you have comfortable pillows and blankets. Try not to have items in there that represent your work life like a computer or a desk.

Try Drinking a Glass of Warm Milk
This is probably one of the most classic natural sleep remedies. Your mother probably told it to you when you were a kid. The calcium in the milk helps your body produce melatonin.

If you are having trouble getting to sleep, sometimes it is best to just get up and do something else for a little while. Try reading a book or taking a relaxing bath. Then go back to bed and try to fall asleep again. Most importantly do your best to not worry about your lack of sleep or your trouble sleeping. Worrying about something never helps. Try calming the mind by focusing on something positive that puts your mind at ease. Avoid thinking about the next day and your impending to-do list. Let us know if you decide to try these natural sleep remedies.

Cast Iron Skillet Care: How to Re-Season a Cast Iron

Cast iron skillet care is an important part of getting the most out of your pans.

As we continue to explore options to the traditional non-stick pan we have discussed two common self-seasoning pans that require a different care from non-stick but will give you decades of use: Carbon Steel Pans & Cast Iron Skillets. Over time these pans develop non-stick properties via the seasoning process, the chemistry of which is covered in great detail in this blog from Sheryl Canter. Through continued use a cast iron forms a coating through fat polymerization, its that coating or seasoning we are looking at today. You will find no end of opinions on: who, what, when, where, and why the correct way to season a cast iron skillet. Or for that matter all of the finer point of cast iron skillet care, but from my experience I agree with Sheryl. Flax-seed oil is your best bet for seasoning a cast iron skillet.

As part of normal cast iron skillet care you will from time to time need to re-season it, this allows you to start with a fresh base. This is what I have found to be the most effective process (this is assuming you are starting with a stripped or new cast iron skillet).

Start by warming the pan a low oven to around 180-200 degrees. Place the pan in the oven for 20 minutes to warm it through. This causes expansion and opens up the pores of the metal. From there remove the skillet from the oven wipe out any moisture or remaining residues. With the pan out of the oven raise the temperature to 500+/- degrees while you finish wiping out the pan and begin to grease it. For the greasing process take a tablespoon of flax-seed oil, using a paper towel and your fingers while the pan cools work oil into every nook and cranny in the pan. Wipe out an excess flax-seed oil. Place the cast iron skillet back into the pre-heated oven and let it bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn the oven off and let it cool with the skillet inside for a couple hours until you can handle it without burning yourself. If you are starting with a brand new unseasoned pan, or reviving a severely rusted cast iron skillet, it may come out with a matte finish to it, if so repeat the steps above as needed until you get a nice semi-gloss finish.

How to Prevent and Heal Chapped Lips For Good

Chapped lips are one of those small health and beauty nuisances that we all want to avoid. Not only can they be unsightly, but they can also be painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately there are easy ways to prevent and heal chapped lips. Here are my favorites tips to transform your chapped lips.

1. Drink Lots of Water
Dry lips can be a sign that your body is dry and dehydrated in general. Make sure that you are getting enough water each day to stay plenty hydrated from the inside out.

2. Consider if You are Using Irritating, Drying Products
Have you started using a new soap, toothpaste, lipstick, etc that may coincide with the onset of your chapped lips? Sometimes cosmetics and toiletries can be the culprit especially toothpastes and lip products since they come into close contact with your lips every day. However anything you put on your face, even if not placed directly on the lips, could potentially cause an issue. I once had irritation from a new sunblock that I was using. I discovered that it was drying out my lips even though I wasn’t applying it to them directly. If you started using something new maybe give it a rest for a couple days to see if that makes a difference.

3. Try Vaseline
A lot of popular lip balms that claim to help hydrate your lips actually end up drying them out more, leaving you increasingly dependent on moisturizers. Avoid this cycle by using something simple and plain like petroleum jelly. Vaseline now makes small pocket size containers that you can carry around with you to use throughout the day. I typically apply it just once in the morning and once at night.

4. Protect Yourself from the Elements
If you know you are going to be out in the sun or in cold winds try wearing protective garments like hats and scarfs that will help minimize your face’s exposure to the elements.

5. When You Get Flakes, Exfoliate
You may have used an exfoliator or a scrub for your skin before, so you may not be surprised to learn that there are exfoliators and scrubs made just for your lips. You can purchase a lip exfoliator or you can simply put some warm water on a washcloth and wipe your lips firmly but gently to wipe away the dead skin. You could also make you own scrubs and exfoliators at home with things you likely already have laying around like brown sugar and coconut oil. Here is a recipe in case you are interested in giving that a shot.

6. Take Your Vitamins
A vitamin deficiency could be the source of your problem, so make sure that you get your daily dose.

7. Put Some Oil On Them
I love a good natural remedy using things you already have in the kitchen. Try dabbing on some oils such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, or even olive oil. Try this a few times a day for a couple days until your lips heal.

All in all, the best thing you can do is avoid irritants or allergens and stay hydrated both inside and out. Try to stick to natural products as much as possible, since a lot of beauty products for the lips can do more harm than good. There are some exceptions out there, but if you are truly prone to chapped lips you may want to go easy on lipsticks and trendy lip balms. Also, avoiding licking your lips. That habit can also lead to excessive dryness. If you do these things your chapped lips will become a thing of the past!

Carbon Steel Pans – The non-stick alternative

Carbon steel pans have been widely used in restaurants for years, but only really came to light for many home cooks with a feature in Cooks Illustrated last year. With out getting into the politics of Teflon we’ll say that there has been a significant rise in people looking for alternatives to the trusty non-stick pan we all have. One driver of this is that the non-stick coating decomposes over time eventually flaking off into the food you cook. This presents two issues – one its gross to find flakes of Teflon in your food, and two you now need to buy a new pan. Constantly buying new pans is frustrating and becomes expensive over time. Due to this people have been searching for alternatives to non-stick at higher and high rates, the most common of those has been cast iron, but that has its limitations.

Enter Carbon Steel Pans

These pans have a number of advantages over traditional non-stick those combined with their durability are a main driver of their commercial use. What are those advantages? Glad you asked. Carbon steel pans get much hotter than a non-stick pan which means it is a better choice for searing, it also means more font in the pan for better sauces. These pans are also much safer than non-stick which begins to actively decompose at 500 degrees. This temperature limit for Teflon also means that tossing the pan in the oven to cook a piece of meat all the way through can be a no go. Finally durability – in my kitchen a non-stick works great for about 6 months and is worn out in a year, a carbon steel skillet like a cast iron will last decades.

Carbon Steel Drawbacks

These pans do have two potential downsides, the immediately noticeable one is weight. An 11 inch carbon steel pan can weigh two to three times that of a non-stick pan, this is something to consider especially if you have a volume of liquid in the pan. The second drawback is care – like cast iron these pans achieve their non-stick properties via the “seasoning” process, that means they require a little more care to preserve than the simple wiping out of a non-stick. Once done cleaning the pan dry the pan right away and then rub the inside with a little vegetable oil.

P.S. – if you are curious about non-stick safety check out this informative piece from the fine folks at Good House Keeping

Becoming a better cook – Digital Apps for beginners

As a novice cook, looking to become a better cook, I often find myself relying on recipes a lot of the same recipes. So learning new techniques and being exposed to new recipes and growing as a cook becomes difficult. Sprinkling in new ingredients, technics, and dishes is key to growth as a cook. That is why I love cooking apps, they can get you out of a rut and thinking of new meals to cook. It happens to us all, we fall into the trap of making the same meals week after week. However, after discovering cooking apps I’ve been inspired to expand my horizons. Here are some awesome cooking apps that I think will help inspire you to break out of your cooking rut as well.

Recipe Book
If you are looking for a tool that suggests recipes based on what you have on hand in your fridge or cupboards, Recipe Book is great. Select a couple ingredients you have around and shake your phone. The app will show you recipes based on those ingredients. If you looking for more exotic options from around the world Recipe Book has you covered with meals from around the globe.

Sidechef
If you are a cooking newbie this app is the total package. Not only does it provide recipes but it also provides guided audio directions and videos. Plus the video and audio instructions have built in timers to give you enough time to complete steps before the next one. That way you don’t have to touch your phone mid chop or mix. If you have food allergies or are sticking to an elimination diet, this app can help by allowing you to search for recipes by those restrictions.

Yummly
This App aggregates all the best recipes from the top recipe sites and food blogs around the web, its basically a newsreader app for recipes. It also have functionality save your favorites to your recipe box and easily incorporate all the ingredients into your grocery shopping/ instacart list. This is a great way to experience new recipes and learn techniques you might not otherwise be exposed to which is one of the best ways to become a better cook.

The Betty Crocker Cookbook
With more than 15,000 recipes in this app long time trusted name in cooking Betty Crocker really delivers here, functionality such as save and share is great for learning from and with others. When cooking with the app you can set it to cook mode which locks the screen, so that it doesn’t keep going dark while you are working. You can also keep track of ingredients you have already added by pressing on each ingredient in the list to check it off. The app also gives you substitution ideas if you are avoiding certain ingredients.

EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry
When you are looking to eat healthy this is a great app. Sometimes it seems quicker and easier to grab some fast food, but the meals in this app are specifically designed to be both quick and easy. Many of the recipes only take less than15 minutes to make. Another nice bonus is that the app gives you the full nutrition facts for each meal.

So there you have a quick LifeHomeLiving guide to app that will help you become a better cook – if there are any others you think we should review as always drop us a line here on our Facebook page.