Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and spring is in the air! This energizing time of year is perfect for giving your routine and your home a much-needed refresh after the long winter months, and this issue of American Lifestyle is here to help.
April is an exciting month for flower-and-garden enthusiasts, as cities and towns across the country ramp up for their annual flower festivals. Inside you’ll find a breakdown of the best fests across the country to spot the season’s most spectacular blooms.
The season of outdoor entertaining is upon us. To help get ready, check out the pair of recipes in this issue: scrumptious horseradish-braised chicken and a tasty tiramisu dessert dip. Your guests are going to love them.
Although April showers might bring May flowers, they can also bring potential damage to your home if you’re not prepared. The enclosed guide can help you ready your home for any wet weather Mother Nature may bring this season.
Spring showers, in addition to helping flowers bloom, spark your grass to grow. But if you’re tired of keeping up with an ever-growing lawn, be sure to read about the no-mow solutions in this issue. Your wallet and the planet will thank you.
Wishing you an amazing April and spring season! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
When John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles penned Good Day Sunshine, they summarized the health benefits of spending time outdoors. “I need to laugh, and when the sun is out, I’ve got something I can laugh about. I feel good, in a special way, I’m in love, and it’s a sunny day.”
Being in nature can increase your happiness and improve your health. The spring equinox on March 20 ushers in warmer temperatures and longer days, and as a result, there will be more time to enjoy in nature. Learn how opening the door and stepping outside can bring improvements to both your body and mind.
Research from the EPA shows that Americans are inside 90 percent of the day. You can miss out on the natural therapeutic qualities of sunlight when you don’t go outdoors, and taking in even a little sunshine can increase your brain’s release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, also known as the “happiness hormone.” Serotonin can ward off depression and help you feel calmer, more focused, and less anxious.
Getting fresh air can also help you feel better because it contains more oxygen and trees remove harmful pollutants from the air. Indoors, the concentration of pollutants can be two to three times higher, according to the EPA.
Forest bathing, the act of taking a leisurely stroll to absorb the healthy qualities of forests, is a popular practice in Japan. Forest air has especially high concentrations of oxygen and tree volatile essential oils, also known as phytoncides. These airborne substances are known to reduce inflammation, improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, boost immunity, and enhance sleep.
Getting some sun outdoors can also be good for you. When your skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, it starts your body’s production of vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” which is hard for many people to get from food alone. Research has linked low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of certain cancers, depression, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, and chronic pain.
As previously mentioned, your brain releases serotonin when you are exposed to sunlight. You need this hormone for your body to create another substance, melatonin, which helps you fall and stay asleep. Melatonin plays a role in your circadian rhythms—your body’s natural sleep-wake cycles. The brighter the sunlight you are exposed to during the day, the more melatonin your body will make to improve your sleep at night. If you lack melatonin, your circadian rhythms can be disrupted, resulting in insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and, possibly, weight gain.
If you spend more time outdoors and avoid crowded places like movie theaters or shopping malls, you might be able to reduce your exposure to harmful viruses like the cold and the flu, which are spread by tiny, airborne droplets. You are less likely to be exposed to these outdoors because fresh air is always moving and can more easily disperse them. The vitamin D your body makes from sunlight exposure can help fight off infections too.
Outdoor activities, such as hiking, gardening, or playing sports, and having an overall active lifestyle, can prolong your life. Experts recommend participating in at least two and a half hours a week of moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, running, bicycling, or active chores like mowing the lawn, to maintain good health.
Try these ideas for taking in nature, soaking up sunlight, and breathing some fresh air this spring.
A clean home is a happy home. However, if your organizing solutions aren’t eco-friendly, your home might not actually be 100 percent clean. Most organizing tools on the market today are made from harmful plastics. Instead, turn to the sustainable options in this guide to keep your home clean and green.
The first step toward getting organized is to review your current strategy. While doing so, it might be tempting to trash things you no longer want, but it’s best to gift them to someone who you know can use them or donate them. Even if your clothing or home decor has seen better days, it can be given a new purpose. Look for charities accepting donations that can pick up items directly from your porch. Organizations such as the Purple Heart Foundation, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and Goodwill accept all kinds of household items, including clothing and furniture. Be sure to call ahead to ensure that your store is in need of the items you’re donating.
Once you get rid of old items, take inventory of what needs to be replaced. Nowadays, there is no shortage of lightly-used secondhand items that you can repurpose. The easiest option is to ask your friends or family members if they have items they no longer want that will suit your needs. You can also find free organizing supplies by joining an online group such as Facebook Marketplace or a local buy nothing group. Groups like these often post regularly, just be sure to meet in a public place to pick up your items to ensure safety for both parties.
Reusing objects you already own is an eco-friendly way to get organized and gives purpose to something that might otherwise be clutter or trash. It also eliminates the cost of buying something brand new to store your odds and ends. The household materials below can be repurposed into useful storage containers.
Jars and mugs
Tins and boxes
When you can’t upcycle or find a solution from a secondhand source, be intentional about your storage-solution purchases. Here are a few eco-friendly products you might consider buying for your home.
Silicone sandwich bags
Plastic containers and single-use sandwich bags aren’t the best items for the environment, and they don’t keep your food fresh for very long. Silicone sandwich bags are the latest and greatest in food storage technology because they provide a lasting seal, and you can wash and reuse them. Check out these bag options from Stasher that come in a variety of sizes. You won’t need to buy another food storage system for a long time.
Bamboo storage bins
Countertops are notorious gathering places for clutter. These aesthetically pleasing bamboo bins are the perfect size for a vanity, dresser, or coffee table to hold small everyday objects. Bamboo is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic and synthetic fabric bins. These bins are also great for kitchen and bathroom storage as bamboo can stand up well to heat and humidity.
Cotton rope baskets
These flexible cotton rope baskets are a stylish way to corral your blankets, towels, and children’s toys. Organic cotton is a soft, durable material that is a great option for a variety of home storage needs. Cotton is a long-lasting material when properly cared for and it can be dyed any color to match your decor.
By implementing the tips above, you’ll be wondering why you waited this long to take an eco-friendly approach to organizing!
With spring’s arrival, you may be eager to jump into your list of spring-cleaning tasks for your home and yard. However, there is another area of your life that may need some tidying up—your finances. Even if you keep up with your finances throughout the year, it’s beneficial to take time each spring to revisit your financial organizing strategy.
Review your credit report to track your financial progress and, if necessary, dispute inaccuracies. Whether you’re planning to buy a car, move into a new home, or simply become more financially aware, checking your credit report can help you improve your financial future. AnnualCreditReport.com offers a free yearly credit report from each credit reporting agency: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Check your credit report for any accounts you don’t recognize and report them to your credit agency. If your credit score isn’t where you want it to be, making regular payments to reduce your debt can improve your debt-to-income ratio and boost your score over time.
Your spending habits can drastically change over the course of a year, so make time to refresh your budget. Review your spending habits from the last few months, and note areas where you could spend less or you budgeted for too much. An excellent way to start a budget is to account for your necessities, such as food, utilities, transportation, and rent or mortgage payments. Don’t forget to factor in monthly changes, such as birthdays, vacations, holidays, and back to school. If you need help managing your budget, apps such as Mint and PocketGuard allow you to keep track of everything from the convenience of your phone.
Just like decluttering your home of items you no longer use or need, you should take the same approach to eliminate any subscriptions you don’t need or want. Whether it’s a streaming service or a subscription box, cancel anything that you feel is no longer necessary or enjoyable. Even if you do use it, do some research to find cheaper options.
Review your car and home insurance policies to make sure your coverage still fits your needs. As your life progresses, your insurance needs may change. Take some time to look over what you’re paying for and ask your agent if you’re eligible for a lower rate, which could create some room in the rest of your budget. Also, many insurance companies offer discounts when you bundle multiple policies together. So if you have policies spread across multiple insurers, you could save money by moving all your policies to one company.
Avoid the possibility of late or missed payments by setting up automatic bill pay or paying your bills through an app on your phone. This is not only a convenient method of paying your bills and a way to avoid late fees but also reduces waste, and it can help you save money on checks, stamps, and envelopes.
Once you’ve established your budget, you should dedicate a portion of your income to paying off any debts you have. If you have credit card debt, paying your balance could help increase your credit score and you won’t run the risk of maxing out your card. If you have a mortgage, making additional payments to the principal can help shorten the length of the loan, possibly saving you money in the long run as you pay less interest while increasing the amount of equity in your home.
Shred any paperwork you have stored that you no longer need. Organize the documents you need to keep in a lockbox or filing cabinet. Make it a goal to go paperless and sign up for digital documentation. You can also create digital copies of any necessary paperwork as a helpful backup. By eliminating a buildup of papers, you’ll have one less thing on your spring-cleaning checklist next year.
It’s essential to have money set aside in case of an emergency. The size of your emergency fund will depend on your lifestyle, monthly bills, income, and dependents. However, a good rule of thumb is to put away enough to cover at least three to six months’ worth of expenses. Try to save as much as you can every month. Even saving $20 a week can add up to more than $1,000 by the end of the year.
One of the best parts about spring’s arrival is that peak produce season is on its way. Although this glorious time of year is not yet in full swing for most of the country, these recipes from Milk Street Vegetables prove that you can make delicious, vegetable-based dishes that satisfy any time of year.
If you think you need a lot of ingredients to make a salad taste great, think again! This kale salad may sound simple in its composition, but it’s full of flavor and nutrients.
Don’t be intimidated by pasta if you’re trying to eat healthier. The key is managing the size of your portions and adding nutrient-dense toppings, like in this vegetable-forward dish.
recipe by christopher kimball
photos by connie miller
The green, minerally flavor of kale pairs well with sharp lemon, briny olives and funky Pecorino cheese. We rub the grated lemon zest with a little salt to fully extract the fragrant essential oils. This gives the salad extra brightness and a flavor reminiscent of preserved lemons. We like pecorino Romano, but Parmesan works nicely, too. Serve this salad as a side, or pile it on cooked rice or quinoa for a satisfying light main.
Serves 4 to 6
recipe by christopher kimball
photos by connie miller
To make this simple one-skillet pasta dish full of bright, spring-time flavors and a pleasing mix of textures, we use store-bought fresh linguine. We cook the pasta in only 3 cups of water; the starch the noodles release as they simmer creates a thickened liquid that’s the basis of the sauce. Most jarred marinated artichoke hearts are quartered; if yours are whole or halved, cut them into smaller pieces. Jars come in different sizes, but a 10-ouncer will yield the right amount of drained artichokes for the recipe. Look for asparagus spears that are about as thick as a pencil so they cook to tender-crisp doneness in the right amount of time.