How to Plant Your Very Own Windowsill Herb Garden

Want to have fresh herbs right at your fingertips — without having to stop at the grocery store or farmers' market? Consider growing your own! Use these simple tips for planting a windowsill herb garden right in your own apartment.

  • Choose the window. An herb garden requires at least five hours of direct sunlight per day, as well as a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Buy starter plants. Unless you’re an expert gardener, your best bet is to start with grown plants rather than seeds. Chives, oregano, mint, rosemary, and thyme are among the easiest herbs to grow indoors.
  • Choose the right pots. Most people use terra cotta pots for their herbs because they are attractive and affordable. Be sure to choose pots with holes at the bottom for drainage and a saucer underneath to catch excess water. Herbs do well in pots that are 6- to 12-inches deep.
  • Add well-draining soil. Herbs require a lightweight potting mix that prevents against common diseases. Add 2 to 3 inches in the bottom of your pot, gently add the herb, and then cover to about an inch below the top of the pot.
  • Don’t over-water. Herbs require a regular watering schedule, but they don’t need to be watered every day. Water close to the soil, avoiding the leaves, whenever you notice your plant drooping.

Windowsill Herb Gardens [Epicurious]
10 Most Common Herb Garden Mistakes [About Home]
How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden [Spark People]

Silence Your Cell Phone for a Stroll Through These Scenic Washington, DC Parks

If you’re starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of city life, Washington, DC is home to a number of relaxing parks that can help you to de-stress while being surrounded by nature. Leave your cell phone at home, take a break from emails, and go for a stroll in one of these urban green spaces.

Meridian Hill Park
With a stunning multi-level fountain that flows into a large duck pond, Meridian Hill Park is certainly a sight to see. This European-inspired park is conveniently located minutes from the popular U Street stretch, but it offers respite from the crowds and noise. There is also a grassy knoll perfect for picnics, a number of historic statues, and even some ducks that call the park home.
2400 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20008

Gravelly Point Park
There are few things more relaxing than watching planes fly through the sky, and Gravelly Point Park offers the perfect opportunity to do just that. The park is situated just across from Regan International Airport, which means that visitors can watch the planes take off while lounging on the grassy hillside. There are also a few wooden picnic tables, a jogging path, and fields where you can join a pick-up game of soccer or football.
George Washington Parkway, Arlington, VA 22202

How to Clean a Microwave

After a few weeks of overflowing hot chocolate, splashing microwaveable dinners and dripping leftover Chinese food, your microwave is likely in need of a good cleaning. The microwave takes quite a beating in just about any home, and it is also one of the most difficult appliances to clean. Here are a few smart tips that will help you to sanitize (and deodorize) your microwave quickly and efficiently.

  1. Mix one cup of hot water with one cup of vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl. Put the mixture in the microwave for approximately 10 minutes until it begins to steam and then let the whole thing stand for a few extra minutes until it cools enough to touch.
  2. Remove the cup while wearing an oven mitt to avoid burns.
  3. The boiling mixture acted as a sort of “steam cleaner” for your microwave while it was heating up, so the inside of the microwave should now be moist enough to wipe clean with a wet cloth.
  4. Next, add ½ cup of water and the juice from a lemon to another bowl. Drop the lemon halves into the bowl for good measure.
  5. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat it for 3 minutes on high. Let it stand for 5 minutes after to remove set-in odors from the microwave.

Use a Lemon to Make Cleaning the Microwave Easy [Lifehacker]
How to Clean and Shine Your Microwave Without Cleaner [One Good Thing]
How To Clean Your Microwave Naturally With Just a Lemon [The Kitchn]

Easy Recipes Using Heart-Healthy Salmon

Salmon has been hailed a superfood because of its heart-healthy properties, but it’s also a delicate fish that can be difficult to cook at home. Luckily, these simple and flavorful recipes offer a few suggestions for preparing salmon—even if your cooking skills are a bit limited!

Poached Salmon with Watercress and Peaches [marthastewart.com]
This recipe is light yet flavorful, and the peaches impart a subtle sweetness that you might not expect. Poaching the salmon is also one of the healthiest ways to prepare this fish, as it doesn’t require any heavy oils or stir fry sauces.

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Dip [allrecipes.com]
The combination of salmon and avocado offers you a boost of healthy fats that simply can’t be beat. Plus, the dip is made with Greek yogurt to keep it low in calories yet still rich and creamy.

Glazed Salmon with Broccoli Rice [realsimple.com]
The glaze in this recipe may remind you of salmon preparations that you see at fancy restaurants, but don’t be fooled—it’s still very easy to make. Serve it over nutrient-rich broccoli to get all of your greens, and add a bed of rice for some healthy grains.

Heading to the Market? Read These Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips!

You’re committed to a healthy eating plan, and your first stop is the local supermarket. Here are a few simple, smart tips to help steer you away from the sweets aisle and toward the fruit and vegetables.

  1. Make a list. It may seem obvious, but making a list and sticking to it can work wonders when you actually come face-to-face with your favorite brand of cookies. Include things like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and head for the checkout once every item is checked off.
  2. Check the nutrition labels. Even if something is labeled “low-fat” or “all natural,” you should still check the nutrition labels on pre-packaged food items to make sure that there aren’t any unwelcome or unnatural surprises.
  3. Purchase at least half whole grains. Replacing only half of your bread or cereal intake with whole grain alternatives can make a big difference in your health. Make sure that these products say “100% whole grain” on the label.
  4. Choose healthier dairy products. Switch out your usual full fat milk, yogurt, and cheese with non-fat or low-fat options.
  5. Shop for lean meats. Instead of purchasing hamburgers or sausages, go for lean meats like turkey, fresh fish, and skinless chicken breast.
  6. Snack smarter. If you love to have snacks on hand, grab a bag of unsalted nuts or some dried fruit for a quick boost.

Try These Tips for Heart-Healthy Grocery Shopping [American Heart Association]
27 Foods to Ban From Your Shopping Cart [Reader’s Digest]
Build a Healthy Diet with Smart Shopping [Nutrition.gov]
Healthy Grocery Shopping [Medline Plus]

NPR Podcasts That Will Make Learning Enjoyable

If you’re always on the hunt for fascinating new podcasts, NPR is one of the best resources out there. The National Public Radio website features podcasts on a variety of different topics, with interviews, experiments, and true stories that will excite your mind and make you think. Here are two of NPR’s best podcasts.

Science Friday
Created for everyone from amateur science enthusiasts to real life scientists, Science Friday is a fun podcast that’s full of educational resources. The podcast itself is a news source for the latest science stories and inventions, and the website contains award-winning digital videos, amazing photography, and interviews with scientists and other interesting people. Science Friday’s website describes the show as “brain fun, for curious people”.

Car Talk
If you’re interested in cars, Car Talk is like listening in on a conversation between your closest buddies. The hosts, Tom and Ray, discuss just about everything there is to know about cars, including types of oil filters, cars that are used to drive in avalanches, garage tours of some crazy car collectors, and reviews of the best cars on the market today. The website also offers useful information about basic (and not-so-basic) car problems, just like your own online mechanic.

Driving Tips for Bad Weather

No one likes driving in bad winter weather. Prepare yourself with these great tips.

Click here to read more.

How to Take the Stress Out of Home-Cooked Meals

For as long as you can remember, there’s always been a certain pressure to provide your loved ones with a nightly “home-cooked meal.” Although it may sometimes feel like it’s impossible to prepare an elaborate dinner on busy weeknights, these smart tips will show you how to take the stress out of the classic home-cooked meal.

  1. Start meal planning. Sure, making a home-cooked meal is difficult if you don’t have all the ingredients or don’t know what to make. By planning a week’s worth of meals on Sunday evening, you can get your cooking schedule under control.
  2. Make preparations. Many at-home chefs use their weekends as a time to prepare the bases for the week’s meals. You can cook a dozen chicken breasts, bake a casserole, or even begin to marinate a steak to save yourself time the night of.
  3. Choose basic recipes. If you don’t have time to experiment with fancy recipes from cooking magazines, choose recipes that you already know and love. Just because your favorite spaghetti and meatballs is pretty basic doesn’t mean that it’s not home-cooked.
  4. Make it from scratch, but not entirely from scratch. Don’t feel like you have to crush your garlic by hand or chop each vegetable individually for your meal to count as home-cooked. Buying frozen veggies or garlic powder works just as well.

10 Secrets of Home Cooks (And How You Can Become One, Too!) [Real Simple]
6 Tips for Stress-Free Family Meals [Right @ Home]
How to Plan Your Weekly Meals, Stress Free [Lifehacker]

How to Take the Stress Out of Home Entertaining

Even the best party planners get stressed out when it comes time for a large get-together, but there are some simple tips that help to take the pressure out of entertaining. Here are a few smart ideas that will make your upcoming holiday party or gathering effortless and worry-free.

  1. Make a to-do list. Any expert entertainer will tell you that the easiest way to stay organized is by making a to-do list. Detail everything that you need to do to prepare and keep things separated by days. If you start the planning a week or so in advance, everything will come together on party day.
  2. Keep things relaxed. It doesn’t take fine china to set a beautiful table. Keep things low-key by using attractive paper tablecloths and napkins, and make sure that all of your flatware matches so that you can mix and match pieces depending on the type of food that you’re serving.
  3. Create a lively atmosphere. Do whatever it takes to make your guests feel welcome and comfortable, from creating a fun playlist to drawing up seating place cards that best match guests who don’t know one another. This ensures that the conversation will flow all night long.
  4. If all else fails, make enough food. If your guests love the food, you can almost guarantee a good party.

10 Tips To Help You Throw a Great Party Without Losing Your Mind (Or Blowing Your Budget) [The Kitchn]
12 Secrets to Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday Party [HGTV]
The Stress Less Dinner Party [Real Simple]

Learn Computer Science With These Free Online Courses

Computer science knowledge is useful for just about any career nowadays, and these simple, affordable courses from Udacity can help you learn the basics of this interesting subject. With at-home lessons that you can complete at your own pace, you can master the basics of computer science in your free time with Udacity. Best of all, the courses are free to audit!

Introduction to Computer Science
Introduction to Computer Science teaches key concepts in computer science, as well as the basic steps for writing a computer program in the context of building a simple search engine. This course is split up into 11 lessons that you can complete whenever you’d like, and no prior programming knowledge is needed to enroll.

Web Development
If you’re a moderately experienced programmer who wants to learn the basics of how the web works, this course is for you. Throughout its seven lessons, Web Development will teach you how to build your own blogging application, process user input, use APIs, and much more.

Programming Languages
Programming Languages is a course designed to give students an introduction into the fundamentals of, you guessed it, programming languages. Over the course of seven lessons that you may complete at your own pace, you will learn how to specify and process valid strings, sentences, and program structures in order to build a simple web browser.

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