• Summer Fun for Kids

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    Summer may be a time to relax, but tell that to kids who are bouncing off the walls or shrieking “I’m bored.” As parents, we want each summer to be more memorable than the next, and with that comes the need for a few new ideas. Take advantage of those bright sunny days and warm summer nights and plan something new a couple of times a week. Here are 101 ideas for your summer bucket list — to keep kids from being bored and create memories they’ll have for a lifetime (or at least for that first day of school when they’re asked “what did you do this summer?”).

    1. Bake cookies for ice cream sandwiches.
    2. Volunteer at a nature center.
    3. Make a photo journal or a family yearbook.
    4. Have a luau in the backyard.
    5. Visit the beach and collect shells.
    6. Make a fort out of cardboard boxes.
    7. Visit a farmer’s market.
    8. Stage an A to Z scavenger hunt, where you have to find something that starts with every letter.
    9. Pick berries.
    10. Have a picnic at a state park.
    11. Make ice cream.
    12. Go canoeing at a local lake.
    13. Build a sandcastle.
    14. Write and illustrate your own book and have it published into an actual hardcover book.
    15. Forget cooking — set up an ice cream sundae buffet for dinner.
    16. Clean up trash at a local park.
    17. Have a backyard campfire…or just use the grill! Roast hot dogs on sticks, pop popcorn and finish off with s’mores.
    18. Make homemade pizza.
    19. Go for a walk and then make a collage from nature objects you find along the way.
    20. Head to a creek and look at the ducks.
    21. Set up a lemonade stand.
    22. Have a water balloon fight.
    23. Practice your origami skills and make objects to hang from the ceiling.
    24. Go biking on a trail
    25. Interview an older relative about what life was like when they were young.
    26. Plan a picnic at a local park — or in your backyard.
    27. Print out a list of children’s books that have won Caldecott Medals. Visit the local library throughout the summer and try to read as many as you can.
    28. Create salad spinner art: Place circles of paper inside a cheap salad spinner, dab tempera paints on top, cover and spin away.
    29. Practice making interesting shadow puppets and then put on a show with your characters.
    30. Plant a garden of herbs and veggies.
    31. Make a sidewalk chalk mural.
    32. Go ice blocking (sledding) in the grass with a towel-covered block of ice.
    33. Have an outdoor painting party using huge canvases or cardboard.
    34. Visit a fish hatchery.
    35. Plant a butterfly garden with flowers.
    36. Pretend to be pirates for a day — dress up in costumes, plan a treasure hunt and talk like a pirate.
    37. Make an indoor sandbox using colored rice: mix 4 cups of rice with 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring and let dry overnight.
    38. Turn the backyard into a carnival — set up a face painting area and games like ring toss.
    39. Make totem poles out of paper towel rolls and decorate them.
    40. Visit a museum you’ve never been to.
    41. Make a giant hopscotch or Twister game on the lawn (with spray paint) or driveway (with chalk).
    42. String beads into jewelry.
    43. Make a bird house out of Popsicle sticks.
    44. Learn about stargazing and identify as many constellations as possible — see if there are any local astronomy groups for kids.
    45. Create leis with wildflowers.
    46. Go fossil hunting near a lake.
    47. Break out your baseball gloves and start a game, sandlot style.
    48. Make paper boats and race them in a kiddie pool using straws to propel them.
    49. Play mini-golf — or set up a course in your driveway by laying different size containers on their sides.
    50. Make your own colored sand and create sand art.
    51. Get a map of the United States and mark off all the exciting places you want to visit — create the ultimate road trip.
    52. Set up a net and play badminton and volleyball.
    53. Visit an amusement park or water park.
    54. Wade through a stream and search for minnows or tadpoles.
    55. Go zip-lining.
    56. Have a tricycle race at the park.
    57. Investigate an ethnic grocery store and make lunch using interesting spices.
    58. Visit a fire station.
    59. Collect rocks and paint them to use as paperweights or pet rocks.
    60. Go roller skating.
    61. Visit a zoo or aquarium to learn about animals.
    62. Run through the sprinklers.
    63. Blend your own smoothie.
    64. Set up a bike wash and raise money for a local charity.
    65. Batter up at a batting cage.
    66. Let kids paint the sidewalk or patio with plain old water and sponge brushes. When their creation dries, they can begin again.
    67. Bake cupcakes in ice cream cones and then decorate them.
    68. Assemble a family cookbook with all your favorite recipes.
    69. Go horseback riding.
    70. Make popsicles in Dixie cups using fruit juices.
    71. Catch fireflies in a jar (and let them go at the end of the night).
    72. Stage your own Summer Olympics with races, hurdles and relays.
    73. Create a backyard circus — kids can pretend to be animals and dress up as clowns.
    74. Decorate bikes and have a neighborhood Fourth of July parade.
    75. Take a sewing/crochet/knitting class.
    76. Make Mexican paper flowers using different colored tissue paper.
    77. Go to a flea market.
    78. Volunteer at an animal adoption organization.
    79. Visit a retirement home and read stories to residents.
    80. Attend an outdoor festival or concert.
    81. Pick a nearby town to visit for the day.
    82. Visit a cave.
    83. Get a map of your area, mark off all the local parks — then visit them, take pictures and vote for your favorite.
    84. Take in a fireworks exhibit.
    85. Make crafts with recyclable items like stickers using old photos, magazines and repositionable glue.
    86. Make your own hard-to-pop bubbles with 1 cup of distilled water, 2 tablespoons of Dawn dish soap and 1 tablespoon of glycerin.
    87. Paint canvas sneakers with fabric paint pens or acrylic paint.
    88. Create three dimensional buildings using toothpicks and mini marshmallows.
    89. Make bird feeders by covering pine cones with peanut butter and rolling in birdseed.
    90. Paint with ice by freezing ice cube trays with washable tempera paint.
    91. Create unusual s’mores by experimenting with ingredients like cookies, bananas, flavored marshmallows and white chocolate.
    92. Have a fancy tea party.
    93. Make a giant slip-n-slide with a painter’s tarp and shaving cream.
    94. Go camping in the backyard or at a campsite.
    95. Let kids paint each other with washable tempera paint, then wash it off in the sprinklers.
    96. Visit a national park and help the kids earn a junior ranger badge.
    97. Go to a ballgame and teach your kids (and yourself!) how to keep a scorecard.
    98. Set up a tent in the backyard to use as a summer playhouse.
    99. Take a free kid’s workshop at stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot or Pottery Barn.
    100. Have a game night with charades, Pictionary and bingo.
    101. Take a boring brown paper bag and have kids brainstorm creative things to do with it — you’ll be surprised at how many things you can come up with.

    Cleaning Tip – Diaper Pail

    Add 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of warm water. Wear rubber gloves and scrub the pail with the solution. rinse under cold running water. Wait for the pail to completely air-dry before putting in a new plastic liner.

  • Father’s Day

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    The nation’s first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington. However, it was not until 1972–58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official–that the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday in the United States.

    The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not meet with the same enthusiasm–perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”

    On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers, a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, but it was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday.

    The next year, a Spokane, Washington, woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.

    Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day.

    Today, the day honoring fathers is celebrated in the United States on the third Sunday of June: Father’s Day 2017 occurs on June 18; the following year, Father’s Day 2018 falls on June 17.

    In other countries–especially in Europe and Latin America–fathers are honored on St. Joseph’s Day, a traditional Catholic holiday that falls on March 19.

    Many men, however, continued to disdain the day. As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.”

    During the 1920s and 1930s, a movement arose to scrap Mother’s Day and Father’s Day altogether in favor of a single holiday, Parents’ Day. Every year on Mother’s Day, pro-Parents’ Day groups rallied in New York City’s Central Park–a public reminder, said Parents’ Day activist and radio performer Robert Spere, “that both parents should be loved and respected together.”

    Paradoxically, however, the Great Depression derailed this effort to combine and de-commercialize the holidays. Struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” for men, promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards.

    When World War II began, advertisers began to argue that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution.

    In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday at last. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

    Cleaning Tip

    Maximize lighting when cleaning or attempting to remove a stain. That way you won’t miss an important area that requires your attention.


  • The History of Flag Day

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    On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned appropriate ceremonies for the children of his school, and his idea of observing Flag Day was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.

    Following the suggestion of Colonel J Granville Leach (at the time historian of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution), the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America on April 25, 1893 adopted a resolution requesting the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that thereafter the day be known as ‘Flag Day’, and on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small Flag.

    Two weeks later on May 8th, the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution unanimously endorsed the action of the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames. As a result of the resolution, Dr. Edward Brooks, then Superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893 in Independence Square. School children were assembled, each carrying a small Flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered.

    In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the Flag be displayed on all public buildings. With BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. On June 14th, 1894, under the auspices of this association, the first general public school children’s celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, with more than 300,000 children participating.

    Adults, too, participated in patriotic programs. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: “I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself.”

    Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day – the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 – was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson’s proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

    Cleaning Tip

    Store all household cleaning products in their original containers, with original labels intact so you’ll be able to refresh your memory with regard to directions for use, suggested precautions, and possible antidotes. Before using any new cleaning product, be sure to read the product’s label carefully. Product formulations can change, so it is also prudent to read the labels on your old standby products before using a new container.




  • 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

    • Bring a reusable water bottle to work- and continuously fill it up throughout the day.
    • Stay away from energy drinks- energy drinks contain large quantities of sugar and stimulants that can be counterproductive and dangerous especially when trying to stay hydrated.
    • Look for a 2-pound weight loss – weigh yourself after using the bathroom in the morning. If you are two pounds less than normal and not actively trying to lose weight, you’re likely dehydrated and should drink before doing anything strenuous.
    • 20-30 minutes before exercise- drink at least 8 oz. of water if exercising indoors and at least 12 oz. if exercising outdoors.
    • During exercise- consume 8-12 oz. of water every 15-30 minutes
    • Turn to fruit- when looking to snack, choose a fruit to enjoy. Most fruits are a great source of electrolytes and fluids.

    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:

    •  Dark yellow or amber-colored urine (urine that is clear or very light in color is an indicator that you are hydrated)
    • Constipation
    • Feeling thirsty
    • Constant fatigue or sleepiness
    • Headache or lightheadedness
    • For infants, no wet diapers for three hours

    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.

    •  Good quality potting mix
    •  Gardening gloves and a mask (remember to use whilst handling the potting  mix)
    •  Gardening trowel/or substitute
    •  Watering Can
    •  Natural found objects can also help to create that special themed setting. Have fun collecting interesting rocks, pebbles, shells, seed pods, pine cones, driftwood etc.
    • Natural and or colored pebbles
    • Faux moss rocks or faux moss (if you like!)
    • Step 2. Dream & Plan
    • Once you have chosen your accessories it can be fun to brain storm and map out your ideas of where they will be positioned in your fairy garden. The whole family can get involved! You don’t have to follow your plan exactly but it can be a great way to spark up your imagination and help to generate ideas. You might even end up creating something completely different but whatever happens just let it flow….

    Step 3. Planting

    • It’s GO time! Fill your pot/container with potting mix and plant your plants. I prefer to plant the tallest plant (miniature tree) towards the back of the pot, shrubs to the side and ground cover at the front. TIP: You might like to play around with the arrangement of your plants while they are still in their pots. If necessary add your fairy house or door at this time to work out the right placement for your plants.

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

    • Add your center piece fairy house or door and the key features. Then use pebbles to fill in areas. I like to use a mix of colored and natural pebbles to create contrast. Whole areas can be blocked in with pebbles, it depends how much soil you want showing. Pathways can also be marked out with pebbles. Extra natural materials can be added to create interesting areas in the landscape e.g. a dry river bed, a mini cliff top or cave etc.

    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

    • Water your plants to help them settle in. Add special touches by collecting flowers to decorate window boxes, water features and other areas. My fairies regularly leave little gifts in the miniature mail box for me…fresh flowers, little letters and treasures. Bless your fairy garden with a sprinkling of magic dust and sparkles.

    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


    • Prep Time 45 min
    • Total Time 45 min
    • Servings 4


    • boneless skinless chicken breasts (4 to 5 oz each)
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt-free garlic-herb blend
    • 1/2 cup reduced-fat ranch dressing
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 2 cups quartered small red potatoes
    • 1 cup ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots, cut in half lengthwise
    • 1/4 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
    • 1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese


    • 1.  Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18×12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil; spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with garlic-herb blend; place 1 breast on each sheet of foil. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the dressing over each breast.
    • 2. In medium bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup dressing and the water. Stir in potatoes, carrots and green beans. Divide vegetables among chicken breasts. Sprinkle with cheese.
    • 3. Bring up 2 sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.
    • 4. Place packets on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 10 minutes. Rotate packets 1/2 turn; cook 5 to 15 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender and juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F).
    • 5. To serve, cut large X across top of each packet; carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.

    Low Country Shrimp Foil Packs


    • Prep Time 25 min
    • Total Time 40 min
    • Servings 4


    • 1 lb small red potatoes, halved
    • 4 pieces frozen mini corn on the cob, thawed, cut in half
    • 2 teaspoons oil
    • 2 teaspoons Old Bay™ seasoning
    • 1 lb uncooked peeled deveined extra-large shrimp (16 to 20 count)
    • 12 oz fully cooked andouille sausage, sliced
    • 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves


    • 1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18×12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil. Spray with cooking spray.
    • 2. Place potatoes in microwavable bowl. Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Add corn to potatoes; drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the seasoning; mix until evenly coated. Place shrimp in medium bowl; toss with remaining 1 teaspoon oil and remaining 1 teaspoon seasoning; mix until evenly coated.
    • 3. Place equal amount of sausage on center of each sheet of foil. Dividing evenly, arrange potato and corn mixture around sausage. Divide shrimp evenly over sausage. Squeeze 1 wedge of lemon over each pack.
    • 4. Bring up 2 sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.
    • 5. Place packs on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 6 minutes. Rotate packs 1/2 turn; cook 5 to 7 minutes longer or until shrimp are pink and sausage is heated through. Remove packs from grill, cut large X across top of each pack. Carefully fold back foil; sprinkle with parsley, and top with remaining lemon wedges


    Grilled Meatloaf Dinner Foil Packs


    • Prep Time 15 min
    • Total Time 45 min
    • Servings 6


    • 1 1/2 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
    • 1 package (1 oz) onion recipe and dip soup mix (from 2-oz box)
    • 1 egg
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup Progresso™ plain bread crumbs
    • 1/3 cup ketchup
    • 1 bag (1 lb 4 oz) refrigerated new potato wedges
    • 3 cups ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots
    • Fresh parsley, if desired


    • 1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 6 (18×10-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil; spray with cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix beef, dry soup mix, egg, milk and bread crumbs. Shape into 6 loaves, 4×2 1/2×1 inch. Place 1 loaf on each foil sheet; top each with about 1 tablespoon of the ketchup. Place about 1/2 cup potatoes and 1/2 cup carrots around each loaf.
    • 2. Bring up 2 sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.
    • 3. Place packets on grill. Cover grill; cook over medium heat 25 to 30 minutes, rotating packets 1/2 turn after 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and meat thermometer inserted in center of loaves reads 160ºF. To serve, cut large X across top of each packet; carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape. Garnish with parsley.


    Grilled Beef Fajita Packs


    • Prep Time 20 min
    • Total Time 40 min
    • Servings 4


    • 1 lb boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
    • 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
    • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
    • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
    • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 package (1.25 oz) fajita seasoning mix
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 8 Old El Paso™ flour tortillas for soft tacos & fajitas (from 10.5-oz package)
    • 3/4 cup Old El Paso™ Thick ‘n Chunky salsa, if desired
    • 3/4 cup sour cream, if desired


    • 1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (20×18-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil. In large bowl, mix beef, bell peppers, onion, seasoning mix and water.
    • 2. Place 1/4 of beef mixture on center of each foil sheet. Bring up 2 sides of foil over beef mixture so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.
    • 3. Place packets on grill over low heat. Cover grill; cook 13 to 18 minutes, rotating packets 1/2 turn after about 6 minutes, until beef is cooked to desired doneness and peppers are tender.
    • 4. To serve, cut large X across top of each packet; carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape. Serve beef mixture with tortillas, salsa and sour cream.


    Grilled Lemon and Salmon Foil Packs


    • Prep Time 15 min
    • Total Time 29 min
    • Servings 4


    • 2 cups uncooked instant rice
    • 1 3/4 cups Progresso™ chicken broth (from 32-ounce carton)
    • 1 cup (from 10-ounce bag) matchstick-cut carrots
    • 4 (4 to 6 ounces each) salmon fillets
    • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
    • 1 medium lemon, cut lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices


    • 1. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Spray four 18×12-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil with cooking spray.
    • 2. Mix rice and broth in medium bowl. Let stand about 5 minutes or until most of broth is absorbed. Stir in carrots.
    • 3. Place salmon fillet on center of each foil piece. Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning salt and salt; top with chives. Arrange lemon slices over salmon. Spoon rice mixture around each fillet. Fold foil over salmon and rice so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again. Allow space on sides for circulation and expansion.
    • 4. Cover and grill packets 4 to 6 inches from low heat 11 to 14 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork. Place packets on plates. Cut large X across top of each packet; fold back foil.


    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.





  • Administrative Professionals Day

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    Administrative Professionals Day highlights the important role of administrative professionals in all sectors of the modern economy worldwide. It is on the Wednesday of Administrative Professionals Week, which is on the last full week of April.

    Celebrate Administrative Professionals Day

    Administrative Professionals Day and Administrative Professionals Week are widely observed in many workplaces in the United States and other countries around the world. Many employers and supervisors arrange events to show their appreciation of the work carried out by administrative professionals, to highlight their importance to the organization and to enhance their work-related skills.

    Public Life

    Administrative Professionals Day is an observance but it is not a public holiday in the United States.

    About Administrative Professionals Day

    During World War II, there was an increased need for skilled administrative personnel, particularly in the United States. The National Secretaries Association was formed to recognize the contributions of secretaries and other administrative personnel to the economy, to support their personal development and to help attract people to administrative careers in the field. The association’s name was changed to Professional Secretaries International in 1981 and, finally, the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) in 1998.

    These changes in name reflected the changing nature of the tasks, qualifications and responsibilities of the members of the organization. IAAP now has an international orientation and continues to provide education and training and set standards of excellence recognized by the business community on a global perspective. The organization’s vision is “to inspire and equip all administrative professionals to attain excellence”.

    The first National Secretaries Week was organized in 1952 in conjunction with the United States Department of Commerce and various office supply and equipment manufacturers. The Wednesday of that week became known as National Secretaries Day. As the organization gained international recognition, the events became known as Professional Secretaries Week and Professional Secretaries Day. In 2000, IAAP announced that names of the week and the day were changed to Administrative Professionals Week and Administrative Professionals Day to keep pace with changing job titles and expanding responsibilities of the modern administrative workforce. Many work environments across the world observe this event.


  • Tax Day

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    Many United States residents mark Tax Day as the deadline to file their income tax details to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The date is usually on or around April 15. However, this deadline may be extended to accommodate holidays or extreme weather conditions.

    What Do People Do?

    A large proportion of residents of the USA have to inform the IRS of all income that they received in the previous fiscal year. Some groups, particularly veterans, pensioners and some low-income families, do not have to file a tax return unless they wish to qualify for certain types of income subsidy. Others may wait until the last moment to file their tax return and pay any money they owe. Some people may find that filing a tax return is complicated, while others may feel that they should not have to pay income tax. In the United States, income tax returns may be filed on paper or electronically. Now, people are encouraged to file a return via Internet as this is efficient and reduces the risk of mistakes being made or documents being lost in the mail.

    Public Life

    Tax Day is not a federal public holiday in the United States. Schools, post offices, stores and other businesses and organizations are open as usual. Public transport services run to their usual schedules and no extra congestion on highways is to be expected.


    Income tax was first introduced in the United States of America in 1861. A rate of three percent was levied on incomes above $800 per year and the resulting revenue was used to help fund the American Civil War effort. However, income tax was seen as unconstitutional and the law was repealed in 1872. The idea of a tax on personal income, at a rate of two percent, was reintroduced in the Revenue Act of 1894, but the legal status of this kind of tax was still unclear. In 1913, the “Sixteenth Amendment” to the Constitution of the United States was ratified. This cleared the way for the modern income tax system in the USA.

    The details of the income tax system have changed greatly since 1913. The top rates of tax have varied enormously and were particularly high during the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression. Individuals and families with very low levels of income do not have to pay income tax and may receive some subsidy via the tax system.

    In 1913 Tax Day, or the filing deadline, was fixed on March 1. However, it was moved to March 15 in 1918 and April 15 in 1955, where it has remained since then. If April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a civil holiday, such as Patriot’s Day, the deadline is extended to the next working day. An extension due to a holiday may only affect certain states. In 2007, the residents of some states were granted an extension due to the disruption to public life in many areas caused by a huge Nor’easter storm. In some years in Washington DC, Emancipation Day may be the reason to extend the deadline for filing an income tax return (Tax Day). In 2007, the observance Emancipation Day in Washington DC had the effect of nationally extending the 2006 income tax filing deadline from April 16 to April 17. This 2007 date change was not discovered until after many forms went to print.