Image by: Williams-Sonoma
Getting a homemade dinner on the table on a busy weeknight is easier said than done—but these seven tools and gadgets will help make prepping, cooking and cleaning up a breeze.
From time-saving electronic tools to simple products that cut down on messes, these must-have kitchen items will ensure your weeknight cooking sessions are as stress-free as possible.
Being organized and prepping your ingredients before you start cooking is half the battle. Start by having a variety of small bowls on-hand so you can easily chop and measure what you need for any recipe. This set of four microwave and dishwasher-safe bowls will help you do just that.
Mini latte bowls, Anthropologie, US$12.
Compact and easy to use, an immersion blender makes a myriad of kitchen tasks speedy. From puréeing soups and sauces to making homemade dressing and smoothies, you’ll use this hand blender on a regular basis.
Kitchen Aid Ice Blue 2-Speed Hand Blender, Crate & Barrel, $83, on sale for $55
Small tools can sometimes have a big impact, and this one sure fits the bill. A spoon rest will allow you to minimize mess while you’re cooking by giving you an easy (and pretty!) spot to place a saucy spoon in between stirs.
Gisela Spoon Rest, Anthropologie, US$12
Place silicone liners on your baking sheet in place of parchment paper. Its non-stick surface gives baked treats the perfect texture, without having to wrestle with cutting parchment paper to size. These made-in-France mats are easy to clean and roll up for fast storage.
Silpat Silicone Cookie Sheet Liners, Williams-Sonoma, $32–39
This pretty print makes a useful addition to any kitchen space. It will give you all the kitchen conversions you need at a glance so you don’t have to find all your answers via Google.
Kitchen Conversion Chart, WeJustLikePrints via Etsy $10
One of the handiest tools in the kitchen, this rasp will allow you to finely grate garlic, spices, chocolate and citrus zest in a matter of seconds.
Microplane Rasp Grater, Williams-Sonoma, $22
A cookie scoop simplifies baking by ensuring that all of your cookies, muffins and cupcakes are evenly portioned out, every time! Available in two different sizes, it helps make homemade treats that much more bakery-worthy.
OXO Cookie Scoops, Williams-Sonoma, $19–20
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
How to wash your pillows to keep them fresh and clean
Essential cleaning tips for keeping your pillows perfectly fresh and stain-free.
Cover them as you may, but pillows still develop odours and stains. Keep them fresh by washing them every three to six months. Our resourceful research editor, Mary Levitski, tells you how.
1 Start by checking the label for laundering instructions. Most newer pillows can be tossed in the washing machine, but some are dry clean only. Also, some fill materials, such as foam, can’t go in the dryer.
2 Use a front-loading washer (a top-loader isn’t suited for fully submerging a pillow). Select the warm water and gentle cycle settings. Add a bit of mild liquid laundry detergent (the powdered kind is harder to wash off). Insert pillows, ensuring they are not packed in tightly. To completely wash off the detergent, repeat the rinse cycle. Do not use the spin cycle unless your pillows are down.
3 To dry, squeeze out any excess water by hand. Put the pillows through a tumble dry cycle set to low heat. Repeat as necessary until completely dry. Pillows that can’t go in the dryer should be hung on a clothesline or rack.
Make a hotel-worthy bed by washing your linens regularly and ironing them with a scented mist like K. Hall Designs Washed Cotton Linen Water (Au Lit Fine Linens, $25). Trust us, you’ll be dreaming of a late checkout.
To extend the life of your pillows, dress them in protective pillow covers before putting on their cases.
Eco-friendly products to keep your pillows plump
On top of being greener and more cost-effective than dryer sheets, reusable balls also prevent pillows from getting lumpy in the dryer.
Scent your laundry with this Canadian brand’s delectable aromas like Apple Pie and Banana Bread. Tumbler tarts fair trade wool dryer balls, The Laundry Tarts, $30 per pack of 3; Re-scenting kit in Apple Pie, The Laundry Tarts, $13.
The prongs of these cute little rubber balls are great for keeping pillows soft and fluffy. Thermoplastic rubber hedgehog dryer balls, West Elm Market, $9 per pair.
These bright all-natural wool balls soften laundry and cut drying time. Wool Deluxe starter dryer balls, LooHoo, $28 US per pack of 3.
Image by: The Hoodwitch
Happiness, prosperity and love could be just a stone, an herb or a rattle dance away
From celebrities’ obsessions with healing crystals to the fashion set’s attraction to modern magic to influencers’ reliance on spiritual healers and energy practitioners, many appear to be inspired to “think mystically for guidance,” as put by Sean Monahan in The New York Times. This surge in the fascination with metaphysics, folk medicine and natural magic, Monahan explains, is triggered by shared feelings of an uncertain future and the desire to resort to magic to bring on the good vibes.
Smudging is being used to ward off negativity in homes, rose quartz crystals are being toted around to enhance love lives and shamans are being sought out to provide relief from stress, depression and anxiety using wooden rattles. No matter your concern, there's an otherworldly treatment that could help you feel and live better.
Whether you’re into the whole mystical healing thing or see it as another granola-approved trend, it seems wrong to completely ignore a concept that could bring positive energy your way. So, why not hop on the natural magic bandwagon with the rest of the pro-"woo-woo" community to cleanse the negativity out of your life and attract more happiness, prosperity and love?
Below, we’ve rounded up the top crystals and herbs that are the least weird and most popular natural magic practices today that can help you find balance in your life, strengthen your relationships and manifest success.
This powerful and sacred plant is commonly used for smudging — the burning of the herb in which the smoke gathers and dispels negativity in the home and on the body and welcomes positivity. It helps aid emotional, mental, spiritual and physical imbalances.
White Sage Smudging Stick, Amazon, $20.
Dubbed “the love stone,” rose quartz brings just that into your life, through romantic, platonic and unconditional relationships. Aside from amping up the love in your life, the stone can also increase self-esteem and self-worth, soothe internalized pain, lower stress levels and promote forgiveness.
This cheery yellow stone helps manifest happiness, success, health and prosperity. It can also assist with the recovery of depression, encourage generosity and help tame mood swings.
Natural Raw Citrine Cluster, Etsy, $15.
Known for being one of the most effective stones for healing people, amethyst is commonly used to help the home become and remain a clean and positive environment. The stone soothes the nervous system, enhances spirituality, fosters selflessness and can even help cure insomnia.
Aside from being used for psychic guidance, apophyllite is also used for enhancing creativity, reducing anxiety and fear, and encouraging acceptance. It can assist with planning for the future and helps one forget any negativities from the past in order to do so.
Apophyllite Crystal Specimen, Amazon, $8.