• 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


  • 4th of July

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    The Birth of Independence Day

    When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.

    By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in the bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published by Thomas Paine in early 1776.

    On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.

    Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee—including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York—to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.

    On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

    On July 4th, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.

    Early Fourth of July Celebrations

    In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III, as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty.

    Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war.

    George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.

    After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. By the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties—Federalists and Democratic-Republicans—that had arisen began holding separate Fourth of July celebrations in many large cities.

    Fourth of July Becomes a National Holiday

    The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812, in which the United States again faced Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees.

    Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remained an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.

    Falling in mid-summer, the Fourth of July has since the late 19th century become a major focus of leisure activities and a common occasion for family get-togethers, often involving fireworks and outdoor barbecues. The most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.

    Cleaning Tip – Warning

    Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. When using wear rubber gloves or other non-porous boots, glove and eye protection. Try not to breathe in product fumes. If using products indoors, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter.


  • Summer Punch Recipes

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    With Summer here, comes gatherings and parties. Here are some good punch recipes to keep you cooled and refreshed.

    Pretty Pink Punch

    Pretty Pink Punch Recipe

    TOTAL TIME: Prep/Total Time: 15 min.

    MAKES: 50 servings


    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 3 cups cold water
    • 2 bottles (64 ounces each) cranberry-raspberry juice, chilled
    • 1 can (46 ounces) DOLE® Canned 100% Pineapple Juice, chilled
    • 1 can (12 ounces) frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
    • 1 liter ginger ale, chilled
    • Decorative ice mold & lemon slices, optional

    Nutritional Facts

    1/2 cup: 76 calories, trace fat (trace saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 5mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate (18g sugars, trace fiber), trace protein


    1. In a punch bowl, dissolve sugar in water. Add juices and lemonade; mix well. Stir in ginger ale. If desired, top with a decorative ice mold and lemon slices. Serve immediately. Yield: 50 servings (7-1/2 quarts).

    Lemon Ice Tea Mix

    Lemon Ice Tea Mix Recipe

    TOTAL TIME: Prep/Total Time: 5 min.

    MAKES: 80 servings


    • 7-1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 cups unsweetened instant tea
    • 5 envelopes (.23 ounce each) unsweetened lemonade soft drink mix
    • 1 cup warm water
    • Cold water

    Nutritional Facts

    1 cup: 75 calories, trace fat (0g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 2mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate (18g sugars, trace fiber), trace protein


    1. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, tea and drink mix. Divide into five equal batches; store in airtight containers in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. Yield: 5 batches (8-1/2 cups total).
    2. To prepare tea: Dissolve about 1-2/3 cups tea mix in 1 cup warm water. Place in a gallon container. Add cold water to measure 1 gallon. Cover and refrigerate. Yield: about 16 (1-cup) servings per batch.

    Banana Brunch Punch

    Banana Brunch Punch Recipe

    TOTAL TIME: Prep: 10 min. + freezing

    MAKES: 60-70 servings


    • 6 medium ripe bananas
    • 1 can (12 ounces) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
    • 3/4 cup thawed lemonade concentrate
    • 3 cups warm water, divided
    • 2 cups sugar, divided
    • 1 can (46 ounces) DOLE® Canned 100% Pineapple Juice, chilled
    • 3 bottles (2 liters each) lemon-lime soda, chilled
    • Orange slices, optional

    Nutritional Facts

    3/4 cup: 68 calories, trace fat (trace saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 4mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate (16g sugars, trace fiber), trace protein


    1. In a blender, cover and process the bananas, orange juice and lemonade until smooth. Remove half of the mixture and set aside. Add 1-1/2 cups warm water and 1 cup sugar to blender; blend until smooth.
    2. Place in a large freezer container. Repeat with remaining banana mixture, water and sugar; add to container. Cover and freeze until solid.
    3. One hour before serving, remove punch base from freezer. Just before serving, place in a large punch bowl. Add pineapple juice and soda; stir until well blended. Garnish with orange slices if desired. Yield: 60-70 servings (10 quarts).

    Orange Lemonade Recipe

    Orange Lemonade Recipe

    TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. + cooling

    MAKES: 12 servings


    • 1-3/4 cups sugar
    • 2-1/2 cups water
    • 1-1/2 cups lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
    • 1-1/2 cups orange juice (about 5 oranges)
    • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
    • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
    • Water

    Nutritional Facts

    1 cup: 136 calories, trace fat (trace saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 1mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate (32g sugars, trace fiber), trace protein


    1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool.
    2. Add juices and peels to cooled sugar syrup. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Strain syrup; cover and refrigerate.
    3. To serve, fill glasses or pitcher with equal amounts of fruit syrup and water. Add ice and serve. Yield: 12 servings.

    Cleaning Tip

    Do not use dishwashing liquid in a dishwasher, it will oversud.




  • 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.


  • 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.




  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.



  • 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.





  • Living Green – Cleaning Recipes

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    When it comes to cleaning and household chores in general, you can work greener by making your own cleaners from some basic ingredients, and these products will save you money. Listed below you will find several different recipes for cleaning supplies to use throughout your home.

    Freshen up

    For a bathroom freshener, make your own air freshener using 1 teaspoon of baking soda , 1 teaspoon of vinegar (or lemon juice), and 2 cups of hot water. Pour mixture into a spray bottle and spritz away. White vinegar has a slight scent while wet, but leaves no odor after drying.

    All-purpose cleaner

    Dish soap is enough for most cleaning jobs. For extra power, soapy ammonia is a versatile cleaning agent. You can use it in place of a commercial all-purpose cleaner for everyday kitchen and bathr0om cleaning. Dilute according to the instructions on the container od ammonia.

    Mild abrasive scrub and stain remover

    Baking soda can be used for a variety od purposes, such as removing stains from tile, glass, oven doors, china, cleaning inside of the refrigerator, helping to absorb orders and removing baked-on food from pans. It also acts as a stain remover for fruit juices and mild acids. It is also a mild abrasive for scouring delicate surfaces.

    Window and glass cleaner

    Just add 3 tablespoons of vinegar per 1 quart of water in a spray bottle and you have a safe, eco-friendly window cleaner. Some recommend using half vinegar and half water. For extra-dirty windows, try 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, and 2 cups of water. Shake well.

    Furniture polish

    Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of mineral or vegetable oil, and wipe furniture. Microfiber cloths work best to polish and dust furniture.

    Rug deodorizer

    Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. repeat if needed.

    Silver polish

    Boil 2 to 3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2 to 3 more minutes. Wipe away tarnish. Repeat if necessary. Another alternative is to use nonabrasive toothpaste.