Archive: May 2017

Memorial Day

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Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.

The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history, requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

On May 5, 1862, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Many Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

 

Cleaning Tip

Always clean from top to bottom. Gravity carries dust down onto lower surfaces.

 

 

Staying Hydrated This Summer

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With the hot summer days approaching us, it is very important to stay hydrated. Whether you’re at work, exercising, playing sports, traveling or just lounging in the sun, it’s especially important to take precautions to stay hydrated.Many people tend to forget that during exercise we experience increased sweat loss (compared to day-to-day activities like working at a desk or watching TV).As summer arrives, make a conscious effort to increase your fluid intake to counteract the warmer temperatures and elevated humidity.

Drink Up With These Helpful Hydration Tips

If these tips are followed, chances of becoming dehydrated will be low.

Know the Signs- Avoid Dehydration

If you are feeling thirsty, your body is needing fluids. Listen to your body and drink water throughout the entire day during the hot summer days. Always watch for potential signs of dehydration:

Stay cool and well hydrated during the these warm summer days!

Cleaning Tip

Place mats strategically at each entrance to collect dirt that would otherwise be tracked in from the outside onto carpets and floors. Encoutage friends and family to wipe their feet before entering the house.

 

How Often to Water Your Garden

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Many people wonder how to water a garden. They may struggle over questions such as, “How much water should I give my garden?” or “How often should I water a garden?” It’s really not as complicated as it seems, but there are some things that should be considered. These include the type of soil you have, what your climate or weather is like, and the types of plants you are growing.

When to Water Gardens

“When and how often should I water a garden?” While the general rule of thumb is about an inch or two of water each week with deep, infrequent watering as opposed to the more frequent shallow watering, this really depends on a number of factors.

First, consider your soil. Sandy soil is going to hold less water than heavier clay soil. Therefore, it’s going to dry out faster while the clay-like soil will hold moisture longer (and is more susceptible to over watering). This is why amending the soil with compost is so important. Healthier soil drains better but allows for some water retention too. Applying mulch is also a good idea, reducing watering needs.

Weather conditions determine when to water garden plants as well. If it is hot and dry, for example, you’ll have to water more often. Of course, in rainy conditions, little watering is needed.

Plants, too, dictate when and how often to water. Different plants have different watering needs. Larger plants need more water as do newly planted ones. Vegetables, bedding plants and many perennials have more shallow roots systems and also require more frequent watering, some daily–especially in temps over 85 F. (29 C.). Most container plants need watering on a daily basis in hot, dry conditions — sometimes twice or even three times a day.

When to water gardens also includes the time of day. The most suitable time for watering is morning, which reduces evaporation, but late afternoon is okay as well provided you keep the foliage from getting wet, which can lead to fungal issues.

How Much Water Should I Give My Garden Plants?

Deep watering encourages deeper and stronger root growth. Therefore, watering gardens about 2 inches or so once a week is preferable. Watering more often, but less deep, only leads to weaker root growth and evaporation.

Overhead sprinklers are often frowned upon, with exception to lawns, as these also lose more water to evaporation. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation is always better, going straight to the roots while keeping foliage dry. Of course, there’s also the old standby—hand watering—but since this is more time consuming, its best left for smaller garden areas and container plants.

Knowing when and how to water a garden correctly can ensure a healthy growing season with lush plants.

Cleaning Tip

If you don’t need or like something in your house, give it away, dispose of it, or recycle it rather than having it around the house.

How to Make a Fairy Garden

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fairy garden

Step by Step: How to Make a Fairy Garden in a Pot

‘Fairy Garden, fairy garden…fairy garden…’, it’s all you can hear now….the enchanted realm is calling, the fairies are itching for you to get started and your children keep asking for one. Now is the time!

At Garden Sparkle HQ, I regularly receive messages from fans with requests for information on how to get started. Such a very good question indeed! In this tutorial I will show you how to make a fairy garden in a pot. Of course you are welcome to free-style it however if you’d like a step by step guide, here you go.

Ready to get started?

The most important thing to remember when embarking on this journey is that with fairy gardening there are no rules (yes NO RULES…you can sigh with relief now!). Of course there are more traditional approaches to miniature fairy gardening, however through my eyes and experience it is a joyful, creative, exploratory and almost meditative process that is sure to fire up the imagination of all involved. It is a chance to be swept up in the magic of childhood, enchanted miniature worlds and fanciful fairy tales – no matter your age!

Step 1: Prepare

First up there are a few things you need to consider?

What sized pot/container will you use? 

Fairy gardens can be created in pretty much any sort of container (traditional gardening pot, wheel barrow, old roasting dishes, old sink, plastic sandpit container, bath tub etc.). Just make sure that there are drainage holes. Remember the larger the surface area the more room you will have to create your fairy garden landscape. The pot I used in this project has a diameter of 55cm.

Location, location, location?

Where do you plan to position your fairy garden? Indoors or outdoors? For an outdoor fairy garden a sheltered area is recommended e.g. on your veranda, patio or under some sort of roof which will help to protect your accessories from the harsh elements. The best location will also depend on the plants you choose and their growing requirements (sun/shade & water). For indoors you will need to make sure you position your pot where there is adequate sunlight. I intend to place my garden in a sheltered area on our patio which receives morning sun and shade for the rest of the day.

Fairy garden accessories

Rest assured that I have handpicked the very best for you in the Garden Sparkle range so your task of choosing accessories will be so much easier!  TIP:  If you still feel swamped for choice, sometimes it can help if you choose a theme (like you would for a birthday party!) e.g. enchanted woodland, rainbow, country garden, tea party or a certain color etc. This can help to fire up your imagination and narrow down what you want. It can also help to dream up what you think the fairies will need in their new home and the activities they’d enjoy. An eating area with a table setting, mini playground, mail box for letter writing, wheel barrow and watering can for gardening or a water feature etc.

I suggest you start off by choosing the following:

  1. Center piece + key features: Choose a center piece (focal point) for your fairy garden e.g. a fairy house or fairy door plus a few key features. I was keen to create a whimsical woodland fairyland so chose the Woodland Cottage as my center piece, a medium pond as a water feature, and a woodland arbor and cobblestone pathway for the magical entrance.
  2. Accessories & accents: Select extra accessories and accents depending on your budget and what you’d like to provide for your fairies. I chose a leafy table set, acorn tea set, opening mail box, acorn lamp, fairy garden ladder, a sunflower see-saw, and a set of fairy garden toadstools.
  3. Fairies & Friends: Then choose your fairies and friends. I absolutely adore Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairies so chose my favorite, the gorgeous Red Campion Fairy as well as a pet dragon and two garden elvesVisit your local nursery/gardening center to choose suitable plants and supplies. Keep in mind what grows well in your area and climate. Choose plants which have the same growing requirements (VERY IMPORTANT!). Because fairy garden accessories are the key focus of your garden, select plants that will set off the accessories and make them stand out. Choose plants of varying heights, shapes and colors that way you will be able to create an interesting fairy garden landscape with elements of contrast
  4. Fairy Garden Plants

Keep it simple when choosing plants:

  1. A tree for your fairy garden (miniature of course) to give height. I chose one of my favorites, a Cuphea hyssop folia ‘Compacta’.
  2. A couple of small shrubs (mid height) which can be used to create an element of repetition in your landscape and help tie it all together. I decided to choose a mix of different colored Hypo Estes. A decorative foliage plant with green leaves splashed with pink, rose and white. Great for a splash of color and contrast.
  3. Ground cover which can add patches of greenery either in the form of a low growing vines, succulents, live moss or grass. I absolutely love using Ficus Pumila which is a miniature creeping fig with crinkly, heart-shaped leaves. Vines can easily be woven into arbors (as pictured below), arches and other structures.
  4. Fairy folk also love flowers so you might like to choose a miniature tree or smaller shrubs which will flower (in this case I opted for a flowering Compact Cuphea with pretty pinky purple flowers).

TIP: Remember you don’t want to over crowd your pot so be selective and remember to give your plants room to grow.

 Gardening supplies

You’ll want to make sure you are kitted out with some basic supplies for fairy gardening. You might already have these at home or may need to purchase them from your local nursery/gardening center.

Step 3. Planting

Step 4. Add the main features, pebbles and extra natural materials.

Step 5. Add accessories, fairies and friends

Step 6. Add fairies and their friends

Step 7. Water your plants and add special touches + a fairy blessing

Remember fairy gardening is an ‘evolving’ process. It can be a real joy to watch your fairy garden change and develop over time especially with the creative input of the whole family. Enjoy the journey of fairy gardening!fairy garden 2

 

Foil Packet Dinners

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With the children back into school, everyone is looking for easy dinner options, with easy clean up. What’s easier than a foil packet dinner? Foil packet dinners have small prep times with little to no clean up. Foil packet dinners can be cooked in the oven or even on the grill. Here are some foil packet recipes to try.

 

Grilled Parmesan-Ranch Chicken Foil Packs

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Low Country Shrimp Foil Packs

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Grilled Meatloaf Dinner Foil Packs

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Grilled Beef Fajita Packs

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Grilled Lemon and Salmon Foil Packs

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Cleaning Tip – Ovens

For light soil on an oven door, use dishwashing liquid or a mild all-purpose detergent and hot water. Do not use an abrasive powder or an abrasive pad or steel wool. Oven shelves are usually too large to fit in the dishwasher; instead hand wash in the sink or the bathtub. Always check the manufacturer’s care manual before you begin. The type of oven you own will determine how you clean it.

Self-cleaning ovens – These ovens will turn spills into a powdery, gray-ash residue that you wipe off with a damp cloth at the end of the cycle. Ventilate the kitchen during the cleaning cycle to reduce smoke and fumes in the room. If vaporized soil leaks through, use the mildest nonabrasive cleaner to scrub the oven’s door seal. Avoid scrubbing the gasket itself. Never use commercial oven cleaners, harsh abrasives, or scouring pads. Porcelain- coated racks, a feature on some ranges, can be left in for cleaning during self-clean cycle. Metal oven racks can be left in but will discolor and become hard to slide, so it’s generally recommended to remove them. If you decide to leave them in, after the cycle completes try coating the side edges with a light coating of vegetable oil to ease sliding.

Non-self-cleaning ovens – Wipe up standard ovens after use with a hot, damp cloth or non-abrasive scouring pad. Clean up spills on the oven floor immediately so cooked-on food will not build up. Loosen grease by placing a cup of ammonia in a warm oven. Turn the oven off and close the oven door. Leave it sit for several hours or overnight, then wipe the interior out using a sponge dipped in hot water and detergent. For stubborn stains, use a commercial oven cleaner and a plastic scrub pad or brush. Wear gloves and be sure to have proper ventilation.