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Bathing the Baby -published March 22, 2017

Bathing the Baby -published March 22, 2017 0

Bathing the Baby 

Here at Ab Fab we seem to be involved in a mini-baby boom. We have a staff member about to have her second child since she began to work at the store, and there are two Grammas here now as well. Our sales reps are also getting into grandparent mode, or great aunt in some cases, and there seems to be a lot of photo sharing and ‘aww, so cute’ sort of comments. Pictures of babies are adorable. 

Babies are the sweetest things. How they feel and smell when you are cuddling a little one is precious. With that in mind, I went baby bath and body care shopping at the trade show in January. It was a successful endeavor as we are happy to introduce our new Snowdrop baby-care line, which arrived March 6. 

It is created and manufactured in Canada by the Dans un Jardin company of Quebec. The line is called ‘Snowdrop’ and it is natural, gentle and very softly scented with heliotrope flowers. It is fully hypoallergenic and has been dermatologically tested to be safe for tender skin. 

Here’s a little rundown on some of the ingredients used in Snowdrop products:

Jojoba oil- for soothing and preventing dryness;

Sunflower oil- softens and nourishes skin

Cupuacu butter (an exotic plant from the chocolate tree family) –moisturizes and also nourishes

Beeswax – gently protects the skin and helps moisturize

Marshmallow root extract – softens and is an anti-inflammatory

And shea butter – rich in vitamins, it also protects the skin.

Bathing a baby is a pleasure for most parents and grandparents, particularly when you know the products you are using are gentle and effective. The Snowdrop line has both a soap and a bath foam; both are mild and give lovely clean results for hair and skin, with a no-tears formula in the bath foam. Once the baby is all patted dry, the Snowdrop soft moisturizing milk (lotion) is gently rubbed in. There is a zinc paste to use for any minor skin irritations as zinc and vitamin E form a natural barrier against urine. There is an outdoor cream for facial skin. This cream is non-scented and is perfect for anyone who spends time in the great outdoors, as it works hard to protect your face from the drying effects of the wind, water or sun. 

One of the nicest things you can do for your baby is to gently massage as this soothes the little one, maybe even into sleep! There is a bonding process as you massage the little arms, legs, back and belly. Massage can increase circulation, which stimulates the appetite and improves digestion. The Snowdrop massage oil is a “medley of six natural plant oils” and it is easily absorbed in to baby’s skin without feeling greasy. 

The Dans un Jardin company began in manufacturing gently fragranced bath products in 1976, in Paris, France. In the early 1980’s, the company moved to Canada, to Montreal and began a new chapter, adding fragrance products.  By the 1990’s, skincare was a prime objective. Now Dans un Jardin offers products for the entire family (we started with baby), and is a leader in skincare and well-being in the North American market. 

We invite you to come in for a sniff, and bring the baby (or the pictures) too!

Cathy and the Ab Fab girls

Did you know? The average baby will need a diaper changing 8000 times from birth to toilet training.  

  • Catherine Reid
The Wisdom and Why of Sifting -published March 15, 2017

The Wisdom and Why of Sifting -published March 15, 2017 0

The Wisdom of Sifting

If you like to bake, your recipes indicate that you are supposed to use sifted flour for successful baking. Why is it necessary to do this? Does it make a difference to the final product quality? And, what if you don’t own a sifter?

Let’s answer those questions! 

First, yes, if your recipe calls for sifted flour, or for you to mix all your dry ingredients together and then sift, do it. Think about this; your bag of flour has been sitting, compacted and dense. When you measure it out, it cakes and almost holds its shape. That means the flour hasn’t been aerated so is not light, lump free and easy to mix in to a batter. Baking is a ratio of dry to wet to rising ingredients. The amount of rising ingredient (baking soda or powder, or yeast) is proportional to the weight of the mix of dry and wet ingredients. Too little, and your baking is flat; too much and it puffs up too high and may collapse due to the huge air pockets inside the batter or dough. Caked or compressed flour is heavier than sifted flour.

Second, sifting in a traditional manner means you use a sifter. Sifters are available in three sifting options. One, and my personal favorite, is the triple sifter with a spring grip handle. Squeezing the spring grip rotates three agitators that push the flour through a screen below each agitator so you sift three times in one operation. The second is a two-handed operation where you turn a cage that lifts the flour and pushes it through a rounded screen. Repeat for triple sifting. The third sifter is shaken from side to side and the agitators scrape along the screen, pushing flour through. These are sometimes double sifters. Sifters come in various sizes, from 2-8 cups for home use. I like the 5 cup as it holds all the dry ingredients for most recipes calling for sifting. 

Third, if you don’t own a sifter (or simply can’t cram another thing into a cupboard or drawer) your mesh sieve can double as a sifter. Just measure the flour into it and shake it over a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps. Repeat if you need triple sifting.  If you don’t own a sieve, use a whisk to aerate the flour and other dry ingredients, right in the mixing bowl before you add the wet ingredients. A whisk will not lighten the flour as much as a sifter, but it will help in the mixing. 

There are two whisks we are excited about (yes, we bake!) One is the SiftStir. A mesh cylinder slips over the whisk to help sift dry ingredients. Then slip the mesh off and use the whisk alone to blend dry into wet. It is heavy duty and can be used to mix puddings, batters and sauces. The other is the Vintage Cake Whip. It is a flat spoon-shaped whisk with a grid. The grid helps to break up lumps while combining dry and wet as well. Both whisks are made of stainless steel and are dishwasher safe. 

Now, what are you going to bake?

Cathy

Did you know? Alfred Bird was a British chemist who invented baking powder for his wife. She was allergic to yeast and eggs. Alfred likely was rewarded with lots of cake.

  • Catherine Reid
Sheet Shopping Check List -published March 8, 2017

Sheet Shopping Check List -published March 8, 2017 0

Sheet Shopping Check List

We have all slept in a bed and had the best sleep ever, while we shudder to remember the most uncomfortable night too. My best sleep ever was in a British hotel in India. The sheets were silky soft and heavy. The duvet was a light down blanket with a simple sheet over it and the pillows were a cloud of down. It was amazing. The most uncomfortable night had to do with a sagging mattress and worn out springs. Your bottom isn’t supposed to hit the floor when you climb into bed. No down pillows or silky sheets could have improved that night, so the itchy blankets, flat pillows and nubbly sheets on the bed completed the misery.

Sheets are the most intimate part of making your bed. There are a few things to note when shopping for new sheets, namely, thread count, material content, dye, and country of origin.

Thread count (tc) refers to the number of threads woven in one square inch. 100 threads woven vertically with 100 threads woven horizontally equal 200tc. Good quality bedding starts at 200tc, 300tc is better and 400-600tc is best. If the claim is 800tc or higher, the manufacturer is not counting threads but rather the individual fibres or twists in each thread, up to four per thread. When I untwist the fibres in a 200tc sheet, I could get an 800tc. This causes some confusion as it misrepresents the actual count.

Next is fabric content and dye when we discuss comfort as poly/cotton blends are less likely to wrinkle but will hold in some body heat, feel firmer and wear longer. 100% cotton is a preferred choice for comfortable sleeping, and adding Egyptian cotton creates an even softer feel. Cotton breathes, is sturdy and still soft, and wears well. Bamboo rayon has become popular in recent years as the inherent values of bamboo (antibacterial, breathable, and pesticide free) mean the sheets are very soft and comfortable, even silky, but may wear slightly faster than cotton. Generally, higher thread count sheets are only available in light colours as adding dye to the fabrics creates weight as the fibre soaks in the dye and thickens. Many dyes are organic or meet world standards for environmentally safe chemical treatment.

When sheet shopping, you might see the terms ‘percale’, ‘sateen’ and ‘combed’ used to describe the cotton. Percale and sateen refer specifically to the construction process as all cotton is combed to remove impurities and short fibres. Percale uses smooth long flat fibres in the weave and resists pilling (those awful nubbies that feel like sandpaper.) Sateen sheets are generally 100% cotton and have one vertical thread woven for every four or more horizontal threads creating a softer feel.  Egyptian cotton has longer fibres and is more luxurious in the softness. Pima cotton is similar in feel to Egyptian; the basic difference is pima is grown in the United States and Egyptian is from Egypt.

There is a world of opinion on which country makes the best bed linens. Italy is well regarded for beautiful weave; this has as much to do with the high quality of cotton as the process. Israel also competes in the market with the sateen bedding. India and China produce our mass cottons, and price has to be the guiding factor as the range of cotton quality is huge. You will pay for good cotton. And it will last you for years and feel as good as the night you first slept on it.

Take time to feel the sheets, read the packaging and ask questions. And sleep better for it!

Cathy

Did you know? Around 7000BC, Mesopotamians used pillows for the first time. The number of pillows on your bed was a status indicator and proof of your wealth and affluence.

  • Catherine Reid
Loving a Clean Oven -published March 1, 2017

Loving a Clean Oven -published March 1, 2017 0

Loving a Clean Oven

Have you ever baked a pie and had it spill over on to the bottom of your oven? You don’t know it has spilled over until the awful smell of burning sugar begins to permeate your home. That burned smell repeats itself for a number of oven-use times.

There is a solution, and it is simple. The Cookina Gard-xtra Oven Protector is 100% non-stick. The protector is fabric, coated in PTFE. PTFE is polytetrafluoroethylene, a fluorocarbon solid that is hydrophobic. In plain English, PTFE is a compound of fluorine and carbon that repels water. It is non-reactive and is used to coat pipes of all sorts, and can be a lubricant too. It is even used in human surgeries as a graft material.

This boils down to our oven liner boasting of a coated fabric, which repels anything containing water. When your blueberry juice drips from the pie, or the cheese oozes off the pizza, both contain water. The liner, sitting on the bottom of your oven or on the bottom rack, catches the juice or the cheese. Both will dry out or burn off, and the residue will wash clean from the liner.

The Cookina Oven Protector works effectively up to 550ºF/288ºC and should be removed before using a self-cleaning oven. Since the worst of our baking spills are on the bottom of the oven, this handy liner will reduce the time and energy you expend to clean the stove. Truly, cleaning the oven is one of the most awkward household chores possible.

Both sides of the Oven Protector are non-stick so there is no up or down. If your oven has no visible element (go now and peek inside to see if you can see the element on the bottom), then the liner is placed on the bottom rack. If your oven has an element showing, gently lift it up and slide the liner under it. You can even use it in a gas oven, as it is placed on the bottom rack so no open holes are covered.  It can be cut to fit your oven dimensions and measures approximately 16x23 inches.

Cleaning the liner is easy, as you simply soak it in a sink full of warm water and dish detergent, and gently scour using the cleaning pad included with it. It isn’t necessary to use any other cleaning agents, particularly anything that could scratch the surface. Once it is clean, hang it to dry and put it back in the oven. If you have to store it, roll it up, don’t fold it. The manufacturer claims it is dishwasher safe. That claim always makes me smile a bit as exactly how am I supposed to wash a big piece of fabric in the dishwasher?

The Oven Protector should be on your list of home improvements. Before you bake the next blueberry pie…

Happy homemaking,

Cathy

Absolutely Fabulous at Home

Did you know? PTFE was discovered by accident in 1938 by a scientist working for DuPont, an American chemical company. The company was founded in 1802 as a gunpowder mill and is now one of the largest chemical companies in the world.

  • Catherine Reid
Clean Spaces = Happy Faces     -published Feb 16, 2017

Clean Spaces = Happy Faces -published Feb 16, 2017 0

Clean Spaces = Happy Faces

This time of year, we spend a great deal of our time inside. In my house, that means spending time with fluffy critters who spread their hairy love all over the place adding to the mix of normal household dust and debris. We clean, sweep, vacuum and mop a lot. The big dog enjoys climbing in and out of the bathtub too. The winter has me wondering just how much of our time we spend cleaning, and can I do it faster and better?

Google research on the stats is interesting as Canadian researchers focused on the products we use in our homes (mostly in terms of environmental issues and cost) and our American friends looked at how much time we spend on household chores. I’m interested in both as we try to keep our chemical use down because everything we put on the floor gets transferred to 12 paws and therefore can end up in 3 pet digestive systems. The time spent cleaning is equally important, as there are so many other things I’d rather do, like read, or walk the paws.

This is a long lead up to some new ideas in cleaning gadgets we recently began to stock. The pair of Kitchen Appliance Cleaning tools is one of the items that I like. Two pieces with two tools on each, which snap together for convenient storage, and from Good Grips, the company that likes to make things work well. On one tool is a small looped bristle brush for cleaning around blades or sink drains, with the other end a sharp wedge for clearing out the gunk around your sink seal (for example). The other tool has a scraper to clean caked on stuff and an angled brush to scour hard-to-reach areas like behind your sink. My dad suggested dedicating one of these sets to the bathroom, and he is on to something. It is awkward to clean around the toilet seat, where it connects to the toilet base. And the bathroom sink is a tight fit around the faucets too so the scrubbing bristle brush would come in handy here. The brushes are about 9” or 24cm long.

Because we need to clean our bathtub of paw prints on a regular basis, the extendable tub & tile brush is a blessing. No bending or twisting to get around the tub, just extend the pole (up to 42” or 105cm) and scrub. The brush is sort of wedge shaped and the tapered design makes it easy to get behind the toilet or around the showerhead. Nylon bristles are strong without scratching. It’s another Good Grips design. I know I talk a lot about Good Grips; the company is impressive with constant improvements and introductions of items that really do make life easier, or with these items, cleaner.

Here’s to a happy, clean house for people and critters,

Cathy

Absolutely Fabulous at Home

*Did You Know? According to the US Dept. of Labor, the average American couple spends 66 minutes a day on kitchen and household cleaning. An Ipsos Canadian poll found 2/3 of Canadians make natural and environmentally friendly choices in their cleaning products. Interesting stats.

  • Catherine Reid
Loving Little Luxuries     -published Feb 9, 2017

Loving Little Luxuries -published Feb 9, 2017 0

Loving Little Luxuries

In the middle of February, a month that can seem to take forever to pass if the days are gloomy is Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is all red, pink and white, with those hot little cinnamon candy hearts and sweet cards.

When you were in grade school, you traded Valentine cards with everyone else in the class, and you made sure to punch out the one for the teacher, so her day was special too. It is a day of little treats (chocolate is a nice idea) and for thinking of the ones you love. For my family, Valentine’s is a remembering kind of day when we know we are all thinking of each other.

Maybe it is the same kind of day for you. And maybe you would like to take a few minutes to think about some treats for your loved one. The little treats I’m thinking of are Little Luxuries, a fabulous soap’n’bath bubble maker from Middle Musquodoboit, right here in Nova Scotia. Theresa quotes her mission “from day one in making these products has been to produce lovely little luxuries that would be well received as gifts, but at a price that is affordable enough for everyday use. Bath and body care is a small area of our lives that can be a little luxurious and enjoyable, every day. Because we all deserve a little luxury.”

Her little luxuries are personal. She makes bath bombs in a variety of fragrances. Bath bombs are made of baking soda, citric acid, cornstarch, salts, fragrance, colour and oils. When you drop one into your tub, it bubbles as it dissolves (not like bubble bath, more like alka seltzer) and the hot water releases all the good stuff. And it is good stuff for your skin, and your stress level. Fragrance plays a big part in helping you relax, so lavender, vanilla and rain scents are good if you need to mellow out a bit. If your bath is before a big day or you are getting ready for an evening event, you might want to try the tangerine, the cranberry or the apricot & honey, as citrus and fruit scents are more invigorating. The baking soda softens the water so it feels silky. The oils help moisturize. Bath bombs are really about helping you relax, and aren’t necessarily therapeutic.

The bubbling salts might be a touch more helpful with Epsom salts, fragrance and bubbles for your hot bath. Now your skin can detox, smell wonderful, and the bubbles add a touch of fun. Little Luxuries also has bubble bath, lotion and soaps. We really like the fact that this is product made right here in Nova Scotia. Plus, it smells really good.

This Valentine’s Day, treat your loved one (or yourself, because that’s what Theresa suggests too!) to a Little Luxury. Include a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, and double the treat.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Cathy and the Cupids

Absolutely Fabulous at Home

*Did You Know? The first box of chocolates produced just for Valentine’s Day was an idea Richard Cadbury had back in the late 1800’s. Good man.

  • Catherine Reid