Bookworms Unite!

Summer is an ideal time to form a book club (you know, since you might actually have a minute or two to read for pleasure), and it’s super easy to organize. Here’s how.

Call on your crew. Put out the word to your bookworm buddies that you’re starting a club, providing as much detail as possible up front—think what, when, where, and why. To get things rolling, choose the first book yourself, preferably a new release that’s been getting a lot of buzz. Set up a calendar invite so everyone stays in the loop, and aim to meet once a month (more than that might start to feel like another item on the to-do list).

Set the scene. If it’s an alfresco affair on your patio, make sure to set out enough outdoor furniture for everyone to have a seat. Scatter throw pillows on your chairs to make seats more comfortable. If you’re hosting at night, set out a basket of blankets and wraps in case it turns breezy.

Play up the theme. Serve snacks that the characters from your book might have eaten, or recreate the setting with your decor. If the story is set at a beach house, for instance, incorporate shells or sea glass into your tablescape or serve snacks in beach pails. Make a playlist of summer songs to stream as background music.

Schedule the next session. At the end of the first gathering, decide on the next book and ask for volunteers to host the next meeting. Don’t rush to dismantle your party space, however. Keep a cozy spot or two for when you curl up to read your next assignment.

Give Your Car a Spring Cleaning

There’s nothing like having a car that looks and smells like new. With these five steps, your automobile can appear new-car clean in no time.

Step 1: Out with the old. Start by taking everything out of the car. Collect the candy wrappers, soda cans, old parking stubs, and other trash and throw it away. Then place your car staples, such as tissues and spare change, in a shopping bag or bin for now; you can return them to their proper places later.

Step 2: Dust the dashboard. Use a duster to brush away the dust and debris from air-conditioning vents, control buttons, cup holders, and crevices. Then wipe the dashboard and other non-leather surfaces with a sponge or paper towel. For really hard-to-reach places, try blowing out loose debris with a can of compressed air.

Step 3: Organize the glove box. Find out what treasures might be hiding in there by emptying it and wiping it out. Then carefully go through the contents to make sure things like your car registration and insurance cards are up to date. If you keep a flashlight in your glove box, check that it works.

Step 4: Vacuum. At this point, you’ve knocked a lot of debris loose and now is the best time to vacuum inside. Be sure to move the seats back and forth to capture all the dirt, and hit the trunk too. Then remove the mats, if you haven’t already, and vacuum them.

Step 5: Make the interior sparkle. To clean like a pro, you’ll need the right tools. Choose a multipurpose cleanser that includes a stain remover. Mix the cleaner with warm water in a bucket or plastic squirt bottle, and use it with a sponge to clean and brighten the upholstery, floor mats, dashboard, cup holders, and other places where stains have snuck in. (Tip: Cut up a sponge to smaller sizes that fit into the nooks and crannies.) Be sure to rinse well when done. For leather seats and trim, use leather cleaner instead, which will condition and beautify those surfaces. 

The final touch? Go for a drive and enjoy the bright, fresh ride. 

Weekend Cleanup: Revive Your Fitness Gear

 

Revitalize your fitness machines and gear.

 

 

Even if it’s caked in cobwebs, you can get it sparkling again in no time. Use a vacuum (and its handy attachments) to clear dirt, dust, and webs. Then dust the exposed surfaces. For dirt that’s tougher than dust, wet a clean rag in a solution of a stain remover and water, wring it, and wipe up the spots. Use a fresh rag to dry things off. Do the same to spot-clean yoga mats, blocks and straps, exercise balls, or neoprene-covered weights.

 

 

Get your bike looking new.

 

 

Wipe off your bike chain and drive chain with a towel and then spritz them with a degreaser, using a fine brush to go in between the links. Now clean the bike with a sponge that’s been soaked and wrung to lightly damp, using a stain remover and warm water (follow directions on the label). Wipe the surfaces, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.

 

 

Clean your kicks.

 

 

Fitness shoes caked in old mud? First, brush away any loose dirt with a chore brush. Next, check labels. If they’re machine washable, follow the care directions and toss them into the washer with your favorite detergent, and add a stain remover the washing machine as well. This color-safe cleaning booster will go the extra mile to help those sneakers sparkle.

 

 

Rejuvenate your sportswear.

 

 

Stinky sports outfits can get a second life with the right detergent. Wash with a detergent formulated for knocking stains and smells from sports apparel. If your sportswear has lost its functionality, that’s another story. Say goodbye to stretched-out bras and fitness tights, or anything that’s pilled or hole-y. You may find that replacing the old with new jump-starts your workout mojo. Next weekend’s task: a new training routine!

 

5 Ways to Help the Environment

 

Fill the dishwasher.

 

 

Did you know: Running the dishwasher only when full can save 100 pounds of carbon dioxide and $40 per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Make sure whoever is on dish duty knows that the load shouldn’t be run until it’s full. If you have a newer appliance, skip rinsing before loading—you’ll save even more water.

 

 

Switch to cold.

 

 

Did you know: Doing the laundry in cold water for one year can save enough energy to drive a car up to 421 miles. There are detergents specifically formulated to work effectively in cold water that provide the same stain-removal and color-protection power as a regular detergent. Make the switch to cold, and start saving energy.

 

 

Unplug.

 

 

Did you know: You can charge your smartphone for a lifetime with the energy you save by switching to cold washing for one year. When your phone and other devices aren’t in use, unplug ’em! Store chargers in a basket or drawers to reduce clutter around the house. Use a drawer organizer or segmented basket to keep cords coiled and organized.

 

Bike to work.

 

 

Did you know: Switching your commute—even just a few days—from individual car trips to mass transit or biking can save a lot of energy. In fact, you save the same energy by biking to work for up to five days as you would by using cold water for laundry for a whole year. If you live in a city with a bike share program or are close enough to your office to make the commute, try it out! 

 

 

Turn off the tap.

 

 

Did you know: Leaving the tap running while brushing your teeth can waste up to eight gallons of water per day, according to the EPA. A little run of the tap here, a little run of the tap there, can add up to a lot of water loss. Save H2O by stopping the faucet when you’re not wetting or rinsing your brush, rinsing your hands, or washing suds off a dish. Like cold drinking water? Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator at all times so you don’t have to run water from the faucet until it’s cold.

 

The Perfect Pillow

You spend about a third of your life sleeping, so it stands to reason that you want to be as comfortable as possible while you do it.  Follow the advice below for pillow care that will help you get the best rest possible.

Try the squish test.  Your pillow should spring back into shape after being folded in half. If it doesn’t, it won’t give you the support you need to rest comfortably. With a memory foam pillow, press your hand on the center. The foam should give, but not to the bottom; and when you remove your hand, it should return to its normal shape.

Find your firmness.  However you sleep, you want a pillow that supports your neck in its natural sleeping position. In general, back and side sleepers will rest easier with a medium-firm pillow, and stomach sleepers will like a soft pillow. Waking with a stiff neck is a clue you’ve got the wrong headrest.

Get the right covers.  Pillow covers (which zip closed and are different from pillowcases) add a layer of drool and grime protection that will help your pillow last. Allergen-reducing covers are a smart investment if you’re allergic to dust mites; they cost more than regular covers, so you may want to get allergy tested before diving in.

Wash and dry them.  Most pillows can be washed with detergent in cold water—read the labels. Be sure to check seams to make sure they’re secure, or wash with a zip-on cover in place. Pillows can go into the dryer on a low setting, unless they're foam, in which case you should air-dry them. For extra freshness, try an in-wash scent booster that has a lasting, calming scent.