Tips for Cooking With a Cast Iron Skillet

In the kitchen, a cast iron skillet is durable, versatile, and even adds a dose of healthy iron to your diet. Cooking with a cast iron skillet is a little different than cooking with stainless steel or on a non-stick surface. If you follow certain cooking and maintenance tips, though, you'll find that your cast iron skillet is the pan you turn to over and over.

Season the Skillet
A brand new cast iron skillet needs to be seasoned before its first use. Now, don't grab the salt and pepper just yet. Seasoning a pan consists of coating it with oil and baking it. First, wash the skillet with hot water, a couple of drops of mild detergent and a soft cloth. Dry the pan thoroughly. Next, coat the entire skillet with vegetable oil and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.

Frying in Cast Iron
Frying is a good way to "break in" your new skillet. Heating oil in the newly seasoned pan will help to reinforce the seasoning. Also, because the heat is distributed so evenly in a cast iron skillet, you'll find that it is easier to achieve consistently golden brown results when frying.

Preheating the Skillet
If you are not using your skillet to fry, preheat it in the stove or on the oven before cooking with it. Because cast iron is so heavy, it takes it longer to heat up than skillets made from lighter materials. By preheating the pan, you will ensure that the heat is evenly distributed before adding the food.

Getting the Most Iron Out of Cast Iron
Whenever you cook with cast iron, a small amount of iron seeps out into the food. Yes, it sounds icky, but the extra dose of iron is actually good for you. In fact, doctors often recommend the use of cast iron to their patients with anemia. In order to get the most iron out of your pan, cook acidic foods such as marinara or spaghetti sauces, which break down even more of the iron.

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet
As archaic as it may seem, it is necessary to hand wash cast iron. Putting it into the dishwasher will wash away all of your seasoning efforts and may even cause the pan to rust. Instead, you should usually just clean it with hot water and a soft cloth. If the skillet is especially sticky or gunky, a mild detergent and plastic scrubber may be used. After washing the skillet, dry it thoroughly to prevent rust.

Words of Caution
Before you jump right in and whip up a batch of corn bread, there are a few more things you should know. Cast iron retains heat for a long time. Always use an oven mitt or pot holder when removing it from the stove. Keep in mind, also, that the skillet may leave black marks on the pot holder so you might assign one or two pot holders to use on the skillet every time. Finally, do not boil water in your cast iron skillet. This can cause the pan to rust.

Five Tips for Dressing to Stay Warm & Dry in the Snow

Enjoying snow and snow sports is one of the most anticipated aspects of winter weather. Activities in snow can quickly become uncomfortably cold, wet and dreary, however, if you're not dressed appropriately. With some advance thought and planning, your clothing can help you stay warm and dry for the duration of your snow adventure.

Wear a Hat
Since as much as 40 percent of body heat is lost through the head, keeping the head covered is key to staying warm in cold weather. Choose snug-fitting hats made of waterproof material that extend to cover the ears.

Choose Proper Fabrics
Choose inner layers of clothing made from synthetic fabrics, not natural fabrics such as cotton. Unlike natural fabrics, synthetic fabrics allow dampness from sweat to pass through the material and into the outer layers of clothing, keeping the skin dry. All outer layers of clothing should be water and windproof.

Layer Clothing
Aim for three layers of clothing: an inner, closely-fitting synthetic fabric layer that fully covers the arms, legs and trunk; a middle layer that covers the top and bottom of the body with a thick high-quality insulating fabric; an outer layer consisting of a shell jacket and pants.

Protect Hands and Feet
Wear gloves with glove liners, insulated snow boots and two pairs of socks. The pair closest to your skin should be made of synthetic fabric, while the outer pair should be a heavy pair of insulating socks made of a fabric such as wool.

Remove Damp Clothing
Pack extra inner layers of clothing--both shirts and pants or leggings--and change these layers when they become damp as soon as possible. In addition, have extra pairs of both synthetic fabric and thick socks on hand.

How to Get Stains Out of Silk Ties

Silk ties are stylish and attractive, but they are also difficult to adequately clean once they're stained with food, water or oil. Keeping the tie well out of the way when it might become stained--such as when eating--is the best way to keep a silk tie clean, but if the worst has happened, prompt attention to the stain is your best bet at retaining the look of the tie.

Step 1
Blot the stain immediately with a soft, dry cloth, a paper towel or tissue. Remove as much of the staining substance as possible.

Step 2
Pour approximately 4 oz. of rubbing alcohol into a bowl and moisten the corner of a small, clean cloth with the alcohol. Squeeze all excess alcohol out of the cloth. Use the moistened portion of the cloth to gently scrub at the stain. Dry the tie off immediately with a hairdryer.

Step 3
Repeat small applications of the rubbing alcohol. It may take several cycles of gentle scrubbing and drying to see any difference in the stain. If you do not have rubbing alcohol, you can use club soda instead.

Step 4
Apply a very small amount of stain remover to an inconspicuous area on the back of the tie to make certain that it will not change the tie's color. If it does not, put a small amount of stain remover directly on the stain, then blot the area dry with a clean paper towel.

Step 5
Sprinkle a thin layer of cornstarch, talcum powder, or Borax over oil or grease stains. Leave the tie undisturbed for several hours, then use a dry towel to wipe off the powder. Repeat these applications of powder for a minimum of three times.

Soft cloths
Paper towels
Rubbing alcohol
Stain remover
Cornstarch, talcum powder, or Borax

Be careful about taking silk ties to professional dry cleaners for cleaning. Silk ties are too delicate for the dry cleaning process and can be easily ruined by the chemicals and process used.

Never try to remove a stain on a silk tie with water.

Types of Suit Jackets

The most important--and most visible--part of any suit is the jacket. Picking a jacket that flatters and harmonizes with your personal taste in fashion is an important part of looking and feeling great in a suit. With the many types of cuts, designs and styles of suit jackets available, there is one to match every look and body type.

Single-breasted suit jackets are the most common and classic of all suit jacket types. They look good on all gentlemen, regardless of size or shape and can be purchased in a variety of fabrics. Single-breasted suit jackets come in four main sub-types, defined by the number of buttons on the front of the jacket: single-button, double-button, three-button jackets and jackets with four or more buttons. Double and three-button jackets are the standard in business and professional settings while single and four-plus button jackets make more of an eye-catching fashion statement.

Double-breasted suit jackets are best worn by gentlemen for whom the added visual width of the jacket won't be overwhelming or needlessly chest-expanding: very slim and very large men should avoid double-breasted jackets. These jackets provide a polished, sophisticated look and should be worn with all six of the buttons fastened at all times.

Suppressed Waist
Suppressed waist suit jackets have been popular for several years in Europe and are finally finding their way across the Atlantic. They fit more snugly around a man's waist and help define his figure in a flattering way.

Alternative Vents
Vents are vertical slits along a suit jacket's hem that allow for greater movement and comfort. There are three vent variations in suit jackets: double vents, a single vent and no vents. Single vent jackets are the most common in the United States. Double vent jackets are more common in Europe, though they allow for more freedom of movement and are an attractive cut for most men. Suit jackets with no vents are most appropriate for very thin men.

How to Use a Pumice Stone on Your Feet

Your feet get a lot of abuse over the course of day, whether you engage in high-impact workouts or stand behind a counter, run after a toddler or stroll barefoot on the beach. Give your feet some loving care by using a pumice stone to help wear away corns and calluses and remove the dirt and dry skin that can build up, especially on your heels.

Step 1
Check your feet for troubled areas. Pumice works best on hard, dry or cracked skin and calluses. If you have cuts, sores or blisters, skip the pumice treatment for now, because the friction is too intense for areas with wounds.

Step 2
Soak your feet. Place them in a shallow pan or bucket with warm water, or soak your feet in the bathtub or shower for five to 10 minutes. Add a couple drops of an essential oil to give your feet a spa treatment. Try peppermint oil to invigorate or lavender oil to relax. Add a few drops of baby oil or other moisturizing agent to the water to soften your skin.

Step 3
Moisten the pumice stone. A dry pumice stone creates too much friction and can damage skin. Rub the wet pumice stone on the target areas of your feet, using a small circular motion. Be gentle. Your goal is not to remove huge amounts of dry skin, but to begin the long-term process of promoting better turnover of dead skin cells. If you have not used a pumice stone for a long time, you will need several sessions to remove built-up callouses and corns.

Step 4
Rinse your feet and the pumice stone with warm, soapy water. Place the pumice stone where it can air-dry until you want to use it again. Gently pat your feet dry with a towel.

Step 5
Moisturize your feet. Your pumice stone foot treatment exposes new skin, so protect this new layer of skin by moisturizing it. Add a dab of Vitamin E oil to your feet if you like. If you plan to walk barefoot or in open sandals, put some sunscreen on the back of your heels to keep the new layer of skin from getting burned.

Gentle soap
Moisturizing lotion

Use a pumice stone shape and size that you can hold comfortably and that fits the contours of your feet and toes.
You can do a pumice stone treatment every few days.

If you have diabetes, consult with your doctor before using a pumice stone on your feet.

What Are the Basics for Planning a Wardrobe

Carefully planning your wardrobe is the best way to get the most out of both your clothes and your clothing budget. Too much of the time, people shop haphazardly, purchasing shirts, dresses, pants and accessories as the fancy strikes them. Unfortunately, shopping in this manner increases the chance your wardrobe will be filled with mismatched garments that lack versatility. Taking the time to plan on what colors and pieces will give you the most wear will make every dollar you spend worthwhile.

The most important considerations for planning a wardrobe are your budget and the occasions and places you dress regularly for. If you have a good idea of how much money you can spend on clothes over the course of several months or even a year, you will be better able to use your finances evenly when purchasing different garments. Additionally, a firm idea of what you need your clothes for can prevent you from spending too much on clothes you will wear less frequently. For example, if you work in a professional office every day, then business clothes should make up the bulk of what your clothing money is spent on.

Personal Aspects
One of the benefits of a carefully planned wardrobe is that pieces can be chosen specifically to flatter your particular body type. A well-planned wardrobe takes into account which tops, skirts, pants and dresses look best on you, whether you have an hourglass, triangular or rectangular figure. Instead of purchasing clothes at random, you can shop knowing which cuts and styles you will look and feel your best in.

All well-planned wardrobes contain a number of basic items in solid colors that can be mixed and matched with one another and with patterned items. These garments include a variety of short and long-sleeved T-shirts, jeans and neutral-colored pants in a cut that flatters your figure, button-down shirts and blouses, sweaters, cardigans, a plain black dress and a plain pencil or A-line skirt.

Different seasons require different types of basic garments. A good wardrobe contains a number of items geared for all seasons. The fall and winter portion of wardrobe should include a sturdy, high-quality coat, a blazer, pantsuits, dark jeans and a selection of sweaters in different fabrics. A good spring and summer wardrobe includes light cotton blouses and skirts, lightweight sweaters, cotton dresses, white jeans or pants, tank tops and at least one formal or semi-formal summer party dress.

Getting Started
To begin planning a wardrobe that makes the most of every garment you own, inspect all of your clothes and discard everything that you don't like or that fits badly. Make a list of all the items you need to round out the wardrobe, including the best colors, styles and cuts for each piece. Keep a copy of the list in your closet or bedroom and place another copy in your purse to use for reference when you are out shopping.