Smart Living, Home Decor and Entertainment Ideas

Ideas That Spark provides home decor and entertainment ideas for home owners. Articles and content cover serving health meals to guests, style and decoration ideas, and holiday entertaining

Four Things to Avoid During the Eclipse

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few months, there is a once in a lifetime event happening this coming Monday August 21th. For the first time since 1979, the moon will pass directly between the sun and the Earth and cast a shadow on the Earth. And, if you happen to be in the ‘path of totality’, you will enjoy 3 minutes or so of complete darkness. So, just to put this into perspective, the last time this happened Willie Stargell’s Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series and turn sports onto ‘We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge. Jimmy Carter was in the White House, it snowed in the Sahara Desert, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 15 year in exile, and 63 Americans were taken hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran. So, this is a big deal for a lot of people.

The Eclipse has stoked plenty of excitement and generated its own economy (yes, people selling eclipse glasses on Ebay for $900), but my guess is that once it is over, we’ll all be depressed and hungover and scared to face the next day. Trump will still be President after all. Crazy and rare naturally occurring events are a thing of wonder and beauty, so it’s okay to get over excited and trek out to Oregon or Idaho to get yourself into the path, but please heed this list of ‘Don’ts’ about watch the Eclipse. The Nasa website is also a good resource.

Don’t Miss Work to See the Eclipse

There will plenty of picture and videos available on the news or on social media for you to review, so don’t jeopardize your livelihood for the Eclipse.

Don’t Try to Profit Off it

Selling bogus Eclipse glasses or renting your house online by misrepresenting how close it is to the path are dishonest, morally corrupt, and really bad karma. Fraudsters are not making real contributions to the general good and this is why the world is in such a bad spot right now.

Don’t Take Pictures of It

This is a magical event and you spirit will be moved if you just keep your phone in your pocket and enjoy one of coolest events a human can witness. Let the pros take the photos and you can look at the online later, but during the Eclipse remember to be in the moment. You will get much more from it if you just relax an take it in.

Don’t Stare Too Long

Obviously, make sure the glasses you’re wearing are the real ones, and even then take care to look away every few seconds and give your eyes a rest. Even if you are wearing protective glasses you can damage your eyes so be careful, you're going to need your eye site long after the Eclipse is over.

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5 Festive Holiday Grogs

In this blustery weather, there’s nothing better than some warm holiday grogs to kick off the cheer of the season. With or without alcohol, the following holiday drink recipes can add some flair to your festivities. Enjoy the aroma of mulled cider, sip a rich cup of Mexican hot chocolate after a snowy walk, or serve a ginger-infused eggnog or espresso almond latte while wrapping presents. Whatever the occasion, you’ll love these delicious holiday drinks.

Ginger-infused Eggnog

Serves 4 to 6

1 quart good-quality eggnog

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup ginger syrup, or to taste

4 ounces light rum, optional

2 tablespoons chopped, candied ginger

Grated nutmeg

Combine the eggnog, cinnamon, ginger syrup and rum in a large pitcher. Stir well and chill for at last 2 hours. Pour into 4 to 6 mugs and top with a sprinkling of candied ginger and grated nutmeg.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Serves 8

4 cups whole milk

Four 12-ounce cans evaporated milk

8 ounces chopped Mexican chocolate (or other good-quality bittersweet chocolate)

1/4 teaspoon ancho or chipotle chili powder, or to taste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 vanilla bean, split down the middle (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)

4 ounces tequila, optional

Whipped cream

Cocoa powder

In a large heavy-duty saucepan, combine the whole and evaporated milk, chocolate, chili powder, cinnamon and vanilla bean over moderate heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate is completely melted and the drink has a creamy consistency. Remove from heat; allow cinnamon and vanilla to steep for 10 minutes. Remove the sticks and pod before serving. Stir in the liqueur, if using, and top each portion with a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder.

Spiced Citrus Apple Cider

Serves 8 to 10

2 quarts apple cider

2 cinnamon sticks, plus additional as garnish

3 whole cloves

2 allspice berries

1 orange, cut into thin slices.

Juice of half fresh lemon

8 ounces apple brandy, optional

Combine ingredients in a large pot over moderate heat. Allow to simmer 10 minutes to develop flavors. Strain and serve each portion with an ounce of apple brandy and cinnamon stick.

Santa’s Kiss

Champagne or sparkling wine

Fresh pomegranate juice

Fill each champagne flute three-quarters full. Add a splash of pomegranate juice to taste.

Espresso Amaretto Latte

Serves 8

8 to 16 shots good-quality espresso coffee

2 cups half-and-half, warmed

1/2 cup almond-flavored liqueur, optional

Whipped cream and shaved semi-sweet chocolate, optional

Combine coffee with warmed half-and-half and liqueur (if using). Garnish with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

How to Speed Clean Your Living Room

The living room is often one of the main gathering spaces during holiday parties, but its typically larger size can be intimidating when it comes to cleanup. Fortunately, you don’t need to carve out an hour to clean this room. Instead, follow these step-by-step cleaning tips provided by Debra Johnson, training specialist for Merry Maids, to speed clean up your living room in a flash.

Step 1: Product Preparation

Before you start, gather all your cleaning products in a caddy or placed in one location. This will help prevent precious time from being wasted running back and forth. For this room, Johnson suggests the following products:

  • High dusting tool
  • Dry microfiber for dusting
  • Damp microfiber for removing smudges
  • Box to gather items not belonging in living room
  • Extra cloths for washing floors
  • Trash bag
  • Multipurpose cleaner, glass cleaner, floor cleaner
  • Multifunctional vacuum with upholstery attachment
  • Floor washing tool

Step 2: Straighten

Place any items that belong elsewhere in the box to be moved to other rooms. Fluff throw pillows, straighten picture frames and stack coffee table books.

Step 3: Go Top to Bottom

“Working from the top down will prevent repeating steps,” says Johnson. Remove any cobwebs from the room using a high dusting tool. If time allows, vacuum any window treatments, lamp shades and baseboards. For rooms with a fireplace, vacuum the hearth area.

Step 4: Dust

Use a dry terry microfiber cloth to dust items such as doors, window sills, door knobs, ceiling fan blades, light switch plates and outlet covers. “ The ends of the microfiber are open and attract and grab dust rather than spreading it around,” says Johnson. Dust furniture from top to bottom, and clean glass surfaces. “Avoid overusing glass cleaning product, which can result in residue and extra work to remove the product,” says Johnson. Dust and dirt will then just stick to the residue.

Step 5: Vacuum

Vacuum upholstery with an upholstery tool, then vacuum area rugs. Depending on your floor type, vacuum the hard surface or carpet. “Vacuum floors rather than sweep,” says Johnson. “The sweeping motion will stir dust in the air, and then the dust will need to settle.”

Step 6: Maintain

Color code your microfiber cloths for each cleaning task: one color for dusting; one for glass; one for floors. “A cleaning cloth for each function will assist in better cloth use and cloth maintenance,” says Johnson. Each evening, straighten up the room and return any items that don’t belong in the living room to its proper place.