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  • How to Freeze Summer Vegetables

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    veggies

    At this point in the season the farmers market tables are a riot of color, piled precariously with mountains of perfect produce – succulent heirloom tomatoes in their misfit beauty, corn fit to burst at the touch, luminous summer squash lined up in flirty nonchalance. But you know what will happen. The abundance will slowly dwindle as the apples start taking over, and all of a sudden, it’s roots and kale until spring.

    With the canning revival in full swing, sterilized jars and water baths are covering the counters of many a kitchen. But if you shy away from canning or have ample freezer space to supplement the pantry, freezing produce is an excellent way to preserve the local harvest for the bleaker months. Although frozen vegetables have taken a bad rap in the past, I’d take frozen produce in a heartbeat over old produce, commercially canned products, or produce imported from afar. Nutrients aren’t lost, and if frozen properly, neither is texture nor flavor.

    The Basics

    • Use the freshest produce you can find, and freeze it as soon as you can – the quicker the better. Make sure to avoid the 12 most toxic fruits and vegetables.
    • Wash and dry everything thoroughly. Remove pits and cut into uniform sized pieces.
    • Use containers, freezer bags or a vacuum seal system – and remember to leave headroom for expansion.
    • If you are watching your use of plastic, the ever-popular Ball makes freezer safe glass jars—yay! Label with contents and date.

    Blanching

    Although freezing slows enzyme action, it doesn’t completely stop it – therefore, most produce requires some method of heat treatment, generally blanching, to inactivate the ripening enzymes and to preserve color, texture, and flavor. To blanch vegetables, place the washed, prepared vegetables in a pot of boiling water. Roughly use a gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables. Boil water, and time the blanching as soon as the water returns to a boil after submerging the produce. After the recommended time has elapsed, remove the vegetables and plunge them into very cold (you can add ice) water for the same amount of time that you blanched them for.

    Most frozen produce should be good stored for nine to 12 months. These are the basic methods for summer’s most popular produce.

    Beans

    beans

    Wash and trim ends, cut if desired. For whole beans, blanch for three minutes, for cut beans, blanch for two minutes. Dry, pack, seal and label.

    Corn

    corn

    For kernels: Remove husks and silks and trim ends. Blanch medium-sized ears, 3-4 ears at a time for five minutes. After blanching, remove kernels from cob, pack, seal, and label. For corn on the cob: Remove husks and silks and trim ends. Blanch medium-sized ears for eight minutes. Wrap each individually, and store in bags. Seal and label.

    Eggplant

    eggplant

    Cut into slices, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Pat dry and sauté gently in olive oil until just tender. Cool, pack, seal, and label.

    Herbs

    herbs

    For basil only, water or steam blanch 1 minute. For other herbs, blanching is not necessary. Freeze in a single layer on cookie sheet. Freezing pesto in ice cube trays and then popping the pesto cubes into a bag for easy dispersion is a handy and popular trick, but Jacques Pepin has a different take on this. He prefers not to freeze finished pesto and opts instead for freezing a basil puree that he then transforms into pesto after defrosting.

    Peas

    peas

    Shell garden peas, there’s no need to shell snow or sugar peas. Blanch for one and a half minutes, dry, pack, seal and label.

    Peppers

    peppers

    Peppers, from bell peppers to all types of chili peppers, are one of the vegetables that don’t require heat treatment. Freeze them whole or sliced.

    Tomatoes

    tomatoes

    Method 1: Wash, cut into halves, quarters or leave whole. Pat dry and pack into freezer bags. Remove air, label and seal.
    Method 2: Dip into boiling water 1 minute. Remove and peel. Place on a tray and freeze for 30 minutes. Place in plastic bags, remove air, seal and label.
    Method 3: Simmer chopped tomatoes in a pan for 5 minutes or until soft. Push through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. Cool and pack in plastic containers, leaving headspace.

    Zucchini and summer squash

    zucchini

    Wash, trim ends, cut into slices or strips and water blanch for three minutes. Pat dry, pack, seal, and label.

    Cleaning Tip

    Do not use nail polish remover or other cleaners that contain acetone fro removing stains from triacetate. Acetone will dissolve it. Perfumes containing organic solvents may also harm it.

  • Health Benefits of Cucumbers

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    Cucumbers belong to the same plant family as squash, pumpkin, and watermelon (the Cucurbitaceae family). Like watermelon, cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 percent) water, which means eating them on a hot summer day can help you stay hydrated.

    However, there’s reason to eat cucumbers all year long. With vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese, cucumbers can help you to avoid nutrient deficiencies that are widespread among those eating a typical American diet.

    Plus, cucumbers contain unique polyphenols and other compounds that may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and much, much more.

    9 Reasons to Eat Cucumbers

    1. Protect Your Brain

    Cucumbers contain an anti-inflammatory flavonol called fisetin that appears to play an important role in brain health. In addition to improving your memory and protecting your nerve cells from age-related decline,  fisetin has been found to prevent progressive memory and learning impairments in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.

    2. Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

    Cucumbers contain polyphenols called lignans (pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol), which may help to lower your risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. They also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which also have anti-cancer properties. According to the George Mateljan Foundation:

    “Scientists have already determined that several different signaling pathways (for example, the JAK-STAT and MAPK pathways) required for cancer cell development and survival can be blocked by activity of cucurbitacins.”

    3. Fight Inflammation

    Cucumbers may help to “cool” the inflammatory response in your body, and animal studies suggest that cucumber extract helps reduce unwanted inflammation, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes (including cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2).

    4. Antioxidant Properties

    Cucumbers contain numerous antioxidants, including the well-known vitamin C and beta-carotene. They also contain antioxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol,  which provide additional benefits.

    For instance, quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” Kaempferol, meanwhile, may help fight cancer and lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.

    5. Freshen Your Breath

    Placing a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth may help to rid your mouth of odor-causing bacteria. According to the principles of Ayurveda, eating cucumbers may also help to release excess heat in your stomach, which is said to be a primary cause of bad breath.

    6. Manage Stress

    Cucumbers contain multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.

    7. Support Your Digestive Health

    Cucumbers are rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber. Adding cucumbers to your juice or salad can help you meet the ideal of amount of fiber your body needs — 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. If you struggle with acid reflux, you should know that drinking water can help suppress acute symptoms of acid reflux by temporarily raising stomach pH; it’s possible that water-rich cucumbers may have a similar effect.

    Cucumber skins contain insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.

    8. Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Cucumbers are very low in calories, yet they make a filling snack (one cup of sliced cucumber contains just 16 calories). The soluble fiber in cucumbers dissolves into a gel-like texture in your gut, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber-rich foods may help with weight control.

    9. Support Heart Health

    Cucumbers contain potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure levels. A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly.

    As an electrolyte, potassium is a positive charged ion that must maintain a certain concentration (about 30 times higher inside than outside your cells) in order to carry out its functions, which includes interacting with sodium to help control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.

    Cucumbers Make a Great Base for Vegetable Juice

    There are many ways to enjoy cucumbers, such as fermented or raw in vinegar-based salads. If you’re looking for something different, cucumbers make an ideal base for your vegetable juice due to their mild flavor and high water content. In fact, a simple juice of cucumber and celery is ideal for those new to juicing.

    From there you can work your way up to red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, and escarole, along with parsley and cilantro. Juicing is actually an ideal way to consume cucumbers.

    When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without having to be broken down. When your body has an abundance of the nutrients it needs, and your pH is optimally balanced, you will feel energized and your immune system will get a boost.

    Organic Cucumbers Are Worth It

    If you’re wondering whether you should choose organic cucumbers over conventionally grown varieties, I’d suggest organic. Cucumbers were ranked the 12th most contaminated food and the second in cancer risk due to their pesticide content, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

    Further, cucumbers are often waxed after harvest to withstand the long journey to market unscarred and to protect against the many hands that touch it. While the wax is supposed to be food-grade and safe, there are different types used:

    • Carnauba wax (from the carnauba palm tree)
    • Beeswax
    • Shellac (from the lac beetle)
    • Petroleum-based waxes

    The natural waxes are far preferable to the petroleum-based waxes, which may contain solvent residues or wood rosins. Produce coated with wax is not labeled as such, but organic produce will not contain petroleum-based wax coatings (although it may contain carnauba wax or insect shellac).

    The other potential issue is that wax seals in pesticide residues and debris, making them even more difficult to remove with just water. To reach the contaminants buried beneath the surface of your vegetables and fruits, you need a cleanser that also removes the wax, which is what my fruit and vegetable wash does. You could also peel the cucumber, but that is one of the most nutrient-dense parts of the cucumber (the other is the seeds), so it’s better to consume it if you can.

     

    What Else Are Cucumbers Good For?

    Flavonoids and tannins in cucumbers have been found to have both free-radical scavenging and pain-relieving effects, while it has a number of traditional folk uses as well. As written in the Journal of Young Pharmacists: Traditionally, this plant is used for headaches; the seeds are cooling and diuretic, the fruit juice of this plant is used as a nutritive and as a demulcent in anti-acne lotions.”

    As the fourth-most widely cultivated “vegetable” in the world (cucumbers are technically a fruit), cucumbers are widely available, but seek to get them from a local farmer’s market if you can. Even better, cucumbers are very easy to grow, even if you only have access to a patio. They thrive in containers (provide they have somewhere to climb on) and produce ample produce from a small number of plants, so you could try your hand at growing them yourself.

    Cleaning Tip – Washing Vegetables

    • Do not use soap or detergents when washing produce.
    • You need not seek out a special produce wash to clean fruits and vegetables. Cool, clean, running tap water is fine.
    • Wash all produce before using, even if you are going to peel it.
  • Aviation Day

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    The National Aviation Day (August 19) is a United States national observation that celebrates the development of aviation.

    The holiday was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued a presidential proclamation which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday to be National Aviation Day (Mr. Wright, born in 1871, was still alive when the proclamation was first issued, and would live another nine years). The proclamation was codified (USC 36:I:A:1:118), and it allows the sitting US President to proclaim August 19 as National Aviation Day each year, if desired. Their proclamation may direct all federal buildings and installations to fly the US flag on that day, and may encourage citizens to observe the day with activities that promote interest in aviation.

    Cleaning Tip – Vacuum Cleaners

    Clumps of dust or other debris can clog a vacuum cleaners’ hose. One way to dislodge dirt is with a broom or mop handle inserted into the hose, working carefully to prevent puncturing the hose cover. If you vacuum has a paper bag change it as soon as you notice a suction drop, even if the bag doesn’t seem full. If you have a canister vacuum, empty the canister. Also make sure all filters are clean.

     

  • Late Summer Gardening

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    10 Late-Summer Gardening Tips

    For avid gardeners, there’s no better way to enjoy the beauty and bounty of a summer garden than puttering around the yard attending to essential gardening tasks. These 10 late-summer gardening tips can help extend the summer season and ensure that your garden looks great year round.

    1. Water, water everywhere 

    Water evaporates quickly in the dog days of summer, especially during mid-day. Water lawns and flowers beds early in the morning to give the vital moisture time to reach thirsty roots.

    2. Grateful deadheads

    Extend the life of late-summer blooming perennials by deadheading flowers as soon as they fade. Instead of expending their energy into seeds, they’ll continue to send out buds as long as the weather permits.

    3. Mow lawns strategically

    Raise the cutting height on your lawnmower. Longer blades of grass help keep the roots cooler on hot summer days. Cut grass in the cool of the evening to give the lawn time to recover.

    4. Keep weeds at bay

    It’s much easier to control weeds by pulling them out as soon as they appear than by tugging at them later after they’ve establish a strong root system.

    5. Divide and conquer

    Late summer is a good time to divide plants like peonies, day lilies and iris once the flowers have stopped blooming. Divided plants are less likely to succumb to pests and diseases as well.

    6. Sharpen your pruning skills

    A little time spent making a few artful cuts to shape a rose bush, shrub or tree can reward you with more flowers and thicker foliage. Attack suckers that spring from the base of a plant with a vengeance to prevent them from stunting the plant’s growth.

    7. Convert clippings into mulch

    Give young plants a bit of tender loving care with a mulch made of grass clippings from your lawn. Just make sure that the clippings are free of weeds and seeds.

    8. Start composting

    An alternative use for lawn clippings is to start a compost heap. Layer the clippings with soil and leftover vegetative waste from your kitchen. After a few months of decomposition, the matter will be transformed into nutrient-rich compost.

    9. Stay on top of pest patrol

    Keep on the lookout for damaging aphids. The tiny pests are easy enough to spray off with a hose if you catch them while their populations are small.

    10. Shop for seeds

    What better way to laze away a summer afternoon than by perusing seed brochures to get inspiration for next spring’s blooms? Order seeds now so that you’ll have time to plant them before the first frost hits.

    You’ve no doubt earned your share of summer relaxation, so be sure to take time to sit back, breathe and take in the beautiful effects of your hard work. Just remember that investing a little time in pruning, planting and planning now can pay off later with a fall harvest and spring color.

    Helpful Hint: Liquid fabric softener builds up in clothes over time and can cause all-cotton clothing like fleece or kids’ sleepwear to become more flammable. If you want to use a fabric softener with your all-cotton clothes, use a dryer sheet if their labels say it’s ok.

  • Hot Weather Safety Tips for Pets

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    Hot Weather Safety Tips

    We all love spending the long, sunny days of summer outdoors with our furry companions, but being overeager in hot weather can spell danger. To prevent your pet from overheating, take these simple precautions provided by ASPCA experts:

    Visit the vet for a spring or early-summer checkup. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworm if they aren’t on year-round preventative medication.

    • Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot or humid outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful not to over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.
    • Know the symptoms of overheating in pets, which include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. Symptoms can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.
    • Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
    • Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. Not only can it lead to fatal heat stroke, it is illegal in several states!
    • Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool—not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals.
    • Open unscreened windows pose a real danger to pets, who often fall out of them. Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed, and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.
    • Feel free to trim longer hair on your dog, but never shave your dog: The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. And be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.
    • When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close to the ground, your pooch’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.
    • Commonly used rodenticides and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. Keep citronella candles, tiki torch products and insect coils of out pets’ reach as well. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance.
    • Remember that food and drink commonly found at barbeques can be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression and comas. Similarly, remember that the snacks enjoyed by your human friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol. Please visit our People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page for more information.
    • Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma, and even unused fireworks can contain hazardous materials. Many pets are also fearful of loud noises and can become lost, scared or disoriented, so it’s best to keep your little guys safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area of your home. Be prepared in the event that your pet does escape by downloading the ASPCA Mobile App. You’ll receive a personalized missing pet recovery kit, including step-by-step instructions on how to search for a lost animal in a variety of circumstances.

    Cleaning Tip – Pet Food Bowls

    Treat your pet to stainless steel or ceramic bowls, because plastic bowls scratch easily and can retain bacteria. Washy the bowls in hot water and dishwashing liquid every day.

  • 15 Ways to Stay Cool on Hot Summer Days

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    Keeping cool when temperatures reach record highs isn’t just about comfort. Dangerously high temperatures can result in heat-related illnesses ranging from heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The following tips can help you keep cool all summer long.

    1. Alter your pattern of outdoor exercise to take advantage of cooler times (early morning or late evening). If you can’t change the time of your workout, scale it down by doing fewer minutes, walking instead or running, or decreasing your level of exertion.
    2. Wear loose-fitting clothing, preferably of a light color.
    3. Cotton clothing will keep you cooler than many synthetics.
    4. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator for a quick refreshing spray to your face after being outdoors.
    5. Fans can help circulate air and make you feel cooler even in an air-conditioned house.
    6. Try storing lotions or cosmetic toners in the refrigerator to use on hot, overtired feet.
    7. Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer; grab one when you’re ready to go outside. As the ice melts, you’ll have a supply of cold water with you.
    8. Take frequent baths or showers with cool or tepid water.
    9. Combat dehydration by drinking plenty of water along with sports drinks or other sources of electrolytes.
    10. Some people swear by small, portable, battery-powered fans. At an outdoor event I even saw a version that attaches to a water bottle that sprays a cooling mist.
    11. I learned this trick from a tennis pro: if you’re wearing a cap or hat, remove it and pour a bit of ice cold water into the hat, then quickly invert it and place on your head.
    12. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these will promote dehydration.
    13. Instead of hot foods, try lighter summer fare including frequent small meals or snacks containing cold fruit or low fat dairy products. As an added benefit, you won’t have to cook next to a hot stove.
    14. If you don’t have air-conditioning, arrange to spend at least parts of the day in a shopping mall, public library, movie theater, or other public space that is cool. Many cities have cooling centers that are open to the public on sweltering days.
    15. Finally, use common sense. If the heat is intolerable, stay indoors when you can and avoid activities in direct sunlight or on hot asphalt surfaces. Pay special attention to the elderly, infants, and anyone with a chronic illness, as they may dehydrate easily and be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Don’t forget that pets also need protection from dehydration and heat-related illnesses too.

    Cleaning Tip – Air Conditioners

    Clean window units once a month when you are using them regularly. Turn off the power, remove the unit’s front panel, and vacuum any visible dirt from the interior coils. Remove the filter and use your vacuum upholstery brush to vacuum heavy dirt, then wash the filter at the kitchen sink using mild solution of dishwashing liquid and warm water. After the filter dries, put it back in the unit. If you have a central unit, you should also clean air filters once a month during heavy use. Keep the outside condenser unit clear of leaves, grass clippings, lint form the clothes dryer and scrubs.

  • Parent’s Day

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    Parental figures in the United States receive the recognition for the role they play in their children’s lives on Parents’ Day. The day aims to promote responsible parenting and to recognize positive parental role models. It celebrates the special bonds of love between parental figures and their children.

    What Do People Do?

    Parents’ Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of July each year. Citizens, organizations, and federal, state, and local governmental and legislative entities are encouraged to recognize Parents’ Day through proclamations, activities, and educational efforts to recognize, uplift and support the role of parents in bringing up their children.

    The Parents’ Day Council plays an active role in celebrating and promoting Parents’ Day through a range of events and activities.  For example, the council honors “Parents of the Year” at local, state and national levels. Those who have been nominated or selected are people who exemplify the standard and ideal of positive parenthood. Exemplary parents from each state are nominated for “National Parents of the Year”.

    Parents’ Day is a popular time for people to send cards and gifts, including flowers, cakes and food hampers, to those who play an important role as a positive parental figure in their lives. It is also a time for families to come together for lunches or dinners. Special tributes to parental figures who are seen as role models are made through local announcements, at church services, or at local community events. Parents’ Day proclamations and rallies have been held in recent times and involved organizations such as the United Civil Rights Councils of America.

    Public Life

    Parents’ Day is a national observance but it is not a public holiday in the United States.

    Background

    Parents’ Day promotes the message that the role of the parent is important in human development, which requires investment, focus, and commitment. In 1994 President Bill Clinton signed into law a resolution adopted by the US Congress to establish the fourth Sunday of every July as Parents’ Day. This day is similar to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. According to the Congressional Resolution, Parents’ Day is established for “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children” (cited in the National Parents’ Day Council website).

    Symbols

    Images of people engaged in active learning activities with their children are often used in photos, posters, paintings, stickers and sketches to promote Parents’ Day. Images of flowers are also used to promote the day. The messages that organizations try to portray through these images are that: commitment is a core family value; parental responsibilities are important to children’s growth and development; and that unconditional love is needed for a strong bond between parental figures and their children. Parental figures include biological, foster or step-parents.

    Cleaning Tip – Jewelry Cleaning

    Use chamois cloth to clean jewelry because it’s very soft and won’t scratch. If chamois cloth is not available, use facial tissue. Or purchase a special jewelry cleaning cloth.

     

  • 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

    Ingredients

    • 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

    Directions

    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

    Ingredients

    • 7-1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 cups unsweetened instant tea
    • 5 envelopes (.23 ounce each) unsweetened lemonade soft drink mix
    • ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS:
    • 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

    Directions

    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

    Ingredients

    • 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

    Directions

    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

    Ingredients

    • 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

    Directions

    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.