Kitchen Tip: How to Oil Your Cutting Boards

Woodenware Oil Framed

Cutting boards are workhorses in a kitchen. Nary a day goes by that I’m not using one for something: chopping an onion for dinner, slicing a tomato or an apple for lunch, or serving cheese and crackers. They’re endlessly useful.

And, since they’re made of wood, they tend to dry out over time.

That’s why a monthly coat of mineral oil can help them last for years. Mineral oil is food safe and helps protect the wood, keeping it naturally antibacterial. It prevents cracking, splitting and drying.

Some helpful hints:

  • Set aside one day a month, say the last Sunday of the month, to oil your cutting boards.
  • Use only food-safe mineral oil like this one from Tree Spirit. DO NOT use olive oil, vegetable oil or any kind of oil you would use for cooking as they go rancid.
  • Make sure the cutting board is clean and dry. To apply, use a soft, clean cloth or a paper towel and pour some oil onto the cloth. Apply to the cutting board with the grain. Allow to sit for a minute and then wipe off any excess with a dry cloth.
  • Add more oil to the cloth as needed to treat all of your cutting boards.
  • Use the same oil-soaked cloth to wipe the wood handles of knives, cutlery, knife blocks … any unfinished woodenware will benefit!

All said, it will take about 15 minutes or less a month to keep your woodenware looking and performing its best.

Read More

Decorating for the Senses: Add Aromatherapy to Every Room with Essential Oils

I recently surveyed my most loyal readers and found that more than a third of them don’t know where to start a room makeover, even when they know they want to make a change.

Philosophically, just having the realization that a change is needed is already “starting” but I’m all about practical information.

There are a lot of great places to start a decorating project and here’s one that you know off the top of your head, literally: start with the senses. Look at the room in terms of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

This week we’re kicking off a 5-part series on, you guessed it, Decorating for the Senses with a video chat about incorporating aromatherapy into your room makeover. Click the video for the full discussion. A handy chart is provided below—feel free to print it and share it online, too!

According to my guest Terri Allen, pure essential oils actually have specific healing properties that have a positive and powerful effect on the body, mind and soul. So while they smell good, they also create an environment to help you feel better.

This is because essential oils affect the part of our brains known as the limbic system which controls emotions, hormones, nervous system, blood pressure, heart rate, and the ability to concentrate.

Terri recommends using an ultrasonic diffuser, a device that mixes a few drops of your favorite oil in a chamber with cool water so the oils are released in to a fine water vapor that mixes with the air in the room.  Terri cautions against confusing a diffuser with a humidifier! She also says that diffusers that use intense heat (light bulb or flame from a candle) will alter the chemical makeup and therapeutic qualities of the essential oil.

Different oils have different effects on the body, as shown on the chart below.

Aromatherapy Makevover

When designing your aromatherapy, also keep in mind the quality of the oil. Terri says there are different grade of oils and it’s really important to understand the differences.

  • Synthetic Grade – used by the perfume companies and other manufacturers of bath and body products. These oils are made up of synthetic compounds or are chemically engineered so you really don’t know what you’re inhaling and in some cases, it could make you sick!
  • Food Grade – used in the food industry.  It only has to pass the GRAS standard (Generally Recognized as Safe).  They put this in our toothpastes, mouthwashes, gum, candy, and other food items.  It’s still not pure.
  • Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils – these are the oils you typically see at Whole Foods, beauty supply places or even the dollar stores.  These oils have fillers and other things mixed with the essential oil so you typically cannot not ingest them and the therapeutic benefits are diminished or non-existent because they’ve been diluted down and you also don’t how the essential oil was produced.
  • Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade – this is the highest standard of essential oil on the market today.  They are guaranteed to be 100% pure and free of synthetic compounds or contaminates.   Terri uses doTerra oils and they extract oils from plants that are indigenous to the region producing oils with the highest healing compounds.

There are a few of these choices that I would love to try! Personally, I use lavender in the bedroom as I feel it helps with a more restful sleep. I use lavender-scented linen spray on my pillow cases, too!

What sensory effect would you like to make in your next makeover? Post in the comments below, and be sure to follow Your Virtual Decorator on Facebook for more great tips!


About Terri Allen

Terri Allen is a holistic wellness coach and certified personal fitness trainer, who works with individuals, practitioners, spas, hotels, and corporations, educating them about nutrition, integrating fitness into every day practice, and assisting people at home, work, or on the go, in finding natural ways to treat physical and emotional issues utilizing aromatherapy. Contact Terri at (661) 993-5970 or via email at

Read More

How to Dispose of Hazardous Household Waste

Last weekend while doing a bit of straightening up in the garage, I came across a couple of items gathering dust simply because I didn’t know how to dispose of them: three long fluorescent tube light bulbs and a battery pack from a defunct drill.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to just chuck them into the bin, but I’d put off doing the research to learn how to recycle or properly dispose of them.

I figured other people probably had the same question, so here’s a handy infographic that highlights some of the most common household items that need special attention–things that are considered “hazardous household waste.”  Since many of these items may be taken to the same place for disposal, such as your local home improvement center, designate a bin or a space in the garage for such items, and take them in the next time you need something from the store.

Be sure to bookmark this post or pin the graphic to one of your Pinterest boards so you’re sure to come back to it the next time you’ve got an aerosol can or an armful of VHS tapes to toss.

Disposal Tips

Read More

Organizing the Christmas Chaos

Sad to say, but it’s time to start thinking about taking down the Christmas decorations. It seems like you just put them up, right? Here are some tips to make the deconstruction of Christmas a little easier this year. As an added bonus, taking the time to organize the “tear down” will make decorating the house that much easier next year.

Step 1: Schedule a “changeover day.”

There really is no hard-and-fast rule to take down Christmas; some people leave up the decorations through Valentine’s Day. Purists pack everything away by Epiphany on January 6, but for most of us it’s a matter of having the time to do it. So that’s the first step: setting a day, a series of evenings, or a weekend to put Christmas away and return the house to normal (more about that in a moment).

Step 2: Revisit the past.

Before you take one ornament off the tree or remove one light from the roofline, take some time to go through what you didn’t put up this year. Why didn’t you use those items? Are they broken? Worn out? Has your taste changed? Did you inherit it from a relative, and it’s just not “you”? Perhaps it is time to donate those items to charity or sell them on eBay and bless someone else’s home next year.

Step 3: Evaluate your storage options.

If your holiday decorations are stored in cardboard boxes, consider gradually replacing them with clear plastic bins as your budget allows. Most stores will put them on sale this time of year, so watch the Sunday paper for good deals. The bins are easy to carry, see-through and last much longer than cardboard, which can harbor little creepy-crawlies. There are bins with little compartments for ornaments, and durable nylon bags for wreaths and even trees; find out what works best for your situation.

Step 4: Collect and sort.

One of the guiding principles of organization is keeping like things together.

Everything for the living room Christmas tree is in one place.

With this in mind, collect all the decorative items you placed around your house and corral them in one location such as the dining room table. Natural groupings should emerge. For example, put all the kitchen items in one corner, keep all the nutcrackers together, etc. Pack these items together. For example, all of my clear and silver accessories are in one bin, all the bathroom décor items are in another. For the ornaments, remove them from the tree and pack directly into bins or boxes. Remember to collect all the ornament hooks into a zipper bag and pack with the ornaments.

Step 5: Pack and track.

Pack away items in appropriate containers and store them in the appropriate locations. For example, you may not want to keep Grandma’s porcelain angel in a garage or attic that has extreme temperature swings.

In the garage, easy to see.

Try to find a place in an interior closet for such delicate items. Remember to wash any holiday linens and towels before storing them. Space-saving, airtight plastic bags (such as Space Bags) are perfect for condensing these items for storage. While you’re packing, make an index card for each bin or box and detail the contents; mark the box or bin with a corresponding letter or number. Keep the index cards in a desk drawer or in a section of your recipe file box – wherever it makes sense for you.Finally, if you purchased new Christmas items this year, make sure you have room to store them. If space is at a premium, use the “one in, one out” rule: for every new item you bring in, one has to go out. If you don’t have space for it, be strong and don’t buy it!

Read More

Thanksgiving Timeline

One of the best, surest solutions for busy people on a busy week like the days before Thanksgiving is to use a timeline and/or a checklist. So I’ve come up with the Thanksgiving Countdown to help you navigate through last-minute details and help you make sense of everything that needs to be done.

The Countdown includes essential tasks from shopping to homekeeping for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a full-blown hour-by-hour schedule for Thanksgiving Day. Plus, get turkey roasting times!

My goal is to help you arrive at your own Thanksgiving dinner table a little less stressed and filled with gratitude for the gathering of family and friends. Download your copy of the Thanksgiving Countdown here:Thanksgiving Countdown

Read More

Keeping Flowers Fresh as a Daisy

2005_0313LLV0012Valentine’s Day is a portent of spring to come; with the vernal equinox just five weeks away, it’s time to start thinking about new life and new growth. Nothing signifies life and growth better than flowers, and maybe that’s why flowers have become such a symbol of Valentine’s Day.

Whether you receive a vase of roses or pick up a mixed bouquet at the farmer’s market, here are a few tips to keep cut flowers looking their best. Note, this isn’t professional advice, just things that have worked for me over the years.If you are arranging flowers yourself, keep these ideas in mind:

1. Remove any greenery below the water line, otherwise it will breed bacteria and the blooms will quickly die.

2. To remove rose thorns, place the pad of your thumb on the side of the thorn and snap it off.

3. Always cut the stems, and cut them at an angle with a very sharp pair of scissors or a paring knife. Even if the stems are the right height for the vase, cut ¼ inch off the bottom. If the stem is thick and woody (like lilacs) and hard to cut, smash the end with a hammer to ensure water can penetrate the stem.

4. If you don’t have a vase large enough for the entire bouquet, make smaller arrangements in several vases. (And think beyond a “vase” and look for anything that can hold water like drinking glasses or pitchers.) This is also a good tip to spread fresh flowers throughout the house.

5. When it comes to water, some people swear by those packets of powder from the florist. Others add lemon-lime soda, sugar, bleach or even a penny to the water. But I’ve found that the best way to keep the flowers fresh is to keep the water fresh. Change the water every other day, re-cutting the stems just a bit. I’ve kept roses alive and fresh for two weeks this way.

6. Some flowers, such as Gerber daisies and tulips just die more quickly than others. Remove wilted or dead blooms from the arrangement and if the arrangement is looking thin, transfer it to a smaller vessel.

7. Heat makes flowers wilt. If possible, keep the bouquet in a cool (but not freezing) place at night, such as a garage in winter, and bring them back inside to enjoy during the day.

For premade arrangements, be sure to add water to the vase when you receive them and change the water every other day. If you don’t want to take apart the professionally-done design, try holding the flowers to the side with one hand while emptying the vase with another and then refill with water.

One last tip: when the flowers have all had their day, be sure to wash the vase with warm, soapy water and add capful of bleach to the water to kill any bacteria. Always dry the vase with a linen or flour sack towel to keep it sparkling and spot-free for the next bouquet!

Read More