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10 Questionable Household Tips from the 19th-Century White House Staff

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1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a big place, and understandably the upkeep is a little more complicated than that of any typical suburban home. That's why Fanny Lemira Gillette, famed housekeeping guru and mother of the inventor of the safety razor,  and Hugo Ziemann, the White House steward, teamed up in 1887 to write The White House Cook Book, a "comprehensive cyclopedia of information for the home" and one of the best-selling cookbooks in U.S. history. Aside from useful recipes for Chicken Jelly and Mayonnaise Fish, Gillette and Ziemann's book is full of expert housekeeping tips. Though we can't in good conscience advise trying most of these, here are 10 of the better examples.

1. Rooms get stuffy, probably more so when air-conditioning hasn't been invented yet. To clear the air in a room that needs some refreshing, Gillette advises pouring a healthy sprinkling of ground coffee onto a shovelful of hot coals. If no coffee is available or if you'd prefer to leave the house smelling like something different than a malfunctioning Keurig, try a cupful of sugar instead.

2. To keep your milk from curdling, grate a tablespoon of horseradish right into the pitcher. "It will keep it sweet for days."

3. Ventilation is key to keeping a home fresh-smelling and livable, but some rooms don't have windows. An alternative option is to place a pitcher of ice-water — "the colder the more effective" — on a table in the center of a room. This will "absorb all the gases with which the room is filled." Watch out, though, because that water, once it has done its job, "will be entirely unfit" for any other use. Don't even pour it in the flowerbeds.

4. To remove stains from laundry, rub them with egg yolk before washing. (There are no tips for removing egg-yolk stains from clothing.)

5. If you find your cooking oil goes rancid very quickly, try adding "a few drops of ether to the bottle."

6. Moths can be a real pain, especially if they're residing in your sofas. The good news is that moths and their eggs never live through a two-hour soak in a naphtha-bath. What the heck is naphtha, you ask? It's a group of highly volatile, lightweight hydrocarbons that are typically created during petroleum distillation, very similar to gasoline. So if you can get your hands on a vessel large enough (and can afford the hundreds of gallons of gas), just dip your furniture in and leave it for a few hours. As a bonus, "all oil, dirt or grease disappears, and not the slightest damage is done." Just remember not to try that burning-coffee deodorizer too soon afterward.

7. Say someone has been sick for a while and you'd like to disinfect the room. Put away your Clorox Wipes; there's a more flammable option and 'the perfume is very pleasant and healthful." In a saucer of coffee grounds, place a lump of camphor. Light the camphor with a match and let it burn until it and all of the coffee have been reduced to a sticky black resin. There you go, no more germs!

8. Got a problem with mosquitoes and/or bats coming into the house while you sleep? No worries: "If a bottle of pennyroyal is left uncorked in a room at night, not a mosquito, nor any other blood-sucker, will be found there in the morning."

9. Oh, goodness. An unrefined guest has failed to chew his dinner thoroughly and is choking at the table. You can try the Heimlich maneuver, of course, but in 1887 your options were a) straighten a hairpin, make a hook at the end, and pull out the offending piece of food, or b) "food lodged in the throat may sometimes be pushed down with the finger."

10. And finally, advice for preventing unpleasant cooking smells from escaping the kitchen. Boiling ham or cabbage: "Throw red pepper pods or a few bits of charcoal into the pan they are cooking in." Hope you like your cabbage spicy.

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Live Smarter
Need to Calm Yourself Down? Try This Military-Approved Breathing Technique
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Whether you’re dealing with co-worker chaos or pressure to perform on a project, it’s difficult to excel at work when you're extremely stressed. Can’t escape the office? Take a cue from real-life soldiers and try a technique called tactical breathing—also known as combat breathing, four-count breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing—to lower your heart rate and regain control of your breath.

“It’s one you can use when things are blowing up around you”—both literally and figuratively—“and you need to be able to stay calm,” explains clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich, who demonstrates a version of tactical breathing in Tech Insider’s video below.

Vranich is the author of 2016’s Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. Watch, learn, and—of course—inhale and exhale along with her until you feel zen enough to salvage the remainder of your workday.

[h/t Business Insider]

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10 Creepy Candles to Get You in the Halloween Mood
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Candles are always a handy household accessory, but they're especially useful around Halloween, when they can be used to light jack-o'-lanterns, summon spirits, or simply brighten a long, dark night. These spooky lights are more suited for tabletops than pumpkins, or soirees than seances, but they'll still make your upcoming costume shindig extra festive (and fragrant, to boot).


PyroPet’s cat-shaped Kisa candle looks like an ordinary wax feline. But as it melts, a hidden surprise reveals itself: a macabre metallic skeleton with charred bones and bared fangs.

The Kisa candle costs $34 and comes in three colors: pink, gray, and an ultra-spooky black. Not into cats? Additional PyroPet offerings include birds, bunnies, reindeer, owls, and dragons, all with the same silver framework.


Brain candle by Creepy Candles
Creepy Candles

This specimen-inspired candle by Etsy seller Creepy Candles would look equally at place in a mad scientist’s laboratory as it would at a Halloween soiree. A wax brain is suspended in green-tinted gel that resembles formaldehyde, but the candle itself thankfully smells like grapefruit. The Brain Candle costs $25 and is handmade to order.


Beeswax human spine candles, set of three, by Grave Digger Candles
Grave Digger Candles

Grow a spine this Halloween—or at least buy one. These notched beeswax pillar candles are inspired by the Victorian Era, a period in which physicians created detailed wax models of flayed corpses to teach medical students the literal ins and outs of anatomy. Etsy seller Grave Digger Candles sells them in sets of three for $76.


LED battery-operated Ouija board candle by Twisted Nightmares
Twisted Nightmares

This Ouija board-inspired, LED battery-operated candle probably won’t summon spirits, but it’s still spine-tinglingly spooky. Sold by Etsy user Twisted Nightmares, it costs $20 and requires three AAA batteries, which aren’t included with purchase.


Bleeding Heart Candle by Cozy Custom Candles
Cozy Custom Candles

Love guts, blood, and Gothic romance? Your heart might bleed for this candle, which turns into a gushing heart when lit. Sold by Etsy seller Cozy Custom Candles, the heart-shaped light source has a white outer shell made from a high-melt point paraffin wax, while its core is made of a red-colored wax blend with a low melting point. The candle hemorrhages vital fluids as it burns, making it the perfect accessory for a bloody good time.

The Bleeding Heart Candle costs $17 and comes in multiple autumnal scents, including caramel apple, pumpkin pie, and sweet cinnamon-pumpkin.


Pick Your Poison candle by Mr. Toad's House of Wax
Mr. Toad's House of Wax

The “Pick Your Poison” candles by Etsy seller Mr. Toad’s House of Wax appear to have been snatched from the shelf of a Victorian apothecarist. But while labeled “Poison Hemlock Oil” and “Tincture of Wolfsbane Poison,” they smell like fresh fallen leaves, pumpkin spice, and other autumnal scents when lit. Both candles cost $21, and are embellished with a sparkly jewel and black velvet ribbon.


Woods & Earth candle by Geeky Girl Scents
Geeky Girl Scents

There’s nothing quite like the aroma of trees and fresh graveyard dirt on a fall night. With hints of wood and earth, this candle by Etsy seller Geek Girl Scents will make your living room smell like a haunted cemetery. An eight-ounce jar costs $15, and a 16-ounce version is also available.


Witch Farts Scented Soy Wax Candle by The Candle Crate
The Candle Crate

If you’ve ever wondered what witch gas smells like (who hasn’t?), you can find out by purchasing The Candle Crate’s flaming ode to supernatural flatulence. The Etsy seller’s “Witch Farts” candle is more Glinda the Good Witch than Elphaba, with top notes of peach, apricot, and blackberries and middle notes of mandarin, cinnamon, and rose.

The soy wax candle costs $12, and is sold alongside other witchy, Harry Potter-inspired products like “Number 12 Grimmauld Place” and “The Leaky Cauldron.”


Ghost Repellent candle by Nola And Neighbors
Nola And Neighbors

Even if you ain’t afraid of no ghosts, you can still keep them at bay with this “Ghost Repellent” candle by Etsy sellers Nola And Neighbors. It smells like lavender and sage, and comes with an instruction label informing owners to light it “at dusk or dawn” for best results—although the ghost’s removal is “not guaranteed.” At $17, it’s still way cheaper than hiring the Ghostbusters.


Zombie Golden Girls prayer candle set by The Eternal Flame
The Eternal Flame

Golden Girls devotees who’d follow the Fab Four to the grave and beyond can light up their lanais with these zombie prayer candles by Etsy shop The Eternal Flame. They come in sets of four (one for each Girl, naturally) and cost $40. Color choices include white, orange, and purple.


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