Tag: diy

Inspiration and Ideas for Summer Gardening and Home Improvement

With longer days and shorter nights come warm weather opportunities to make home and garden improvements. Become inspired to start working on projects, both indoors and out, with these new seasonal books.

Caring for Cacti

There’s much more to your little green plants than just keeping them alive, according to “Happy Cactus: Cacti, Succulents, and More.” Unearth the secrets of different cacti and succulents with profiles of more than 50 popular varieties — from the cute, flowering pincushion cactus to the wacky prickly pear. Discover what makes your plant unique and find out where to put it, when to water it, what to feed it, what to look out for, and how to encourage its distinctive traits, from flower stalks to fast growth.

Simplify Your Life

Living simply can mean living better, according to “Less: A Visual Guide to Minimalism.” Using, flow charts, icons and other graphics, the book demonstrates how to apply minimalism to your home, wardrobe, decor, cooking, cleaning and finances, to give you more time, space, money, clarity and overall enjoyment of your experiences.

Understanding Tools

Are you a DIYer or aspire to be one? Get a better handle on tools with “The Tool Book: A Tool Lover’s Guide to Over 200 Hand Tools.” This visual guide highlights how to use, understand and properly care for over 200 hand tools, and includes a foreword by Nick Offerman, host of NBC’s “Making It.” Discover why each tool is perfect for the job, through step-by-step illustrations and scientific explanations, and why it deserves a prominent spot in your shed, workshop, studio or makerspace.

Gardening Indoors

Learn where to place houseplants for the best effect in your home and how to properly care for them, with the trusted advice, creative inspiration, strong visual aesthetic and step-by-step detail found in “Practical Houseplant Book.” Two-hundred plant profiles provide information and care instructions for a variety of plants, including ferns, orchids and succulents, while a dozen photographic projects offer ideas for using plants to decorate your home or greenhouse — from eye-catching terrariums to a living succulent wall. With information on plant care, propagation, pests and diseases, pruning, and problem-solving, this is a useful guide for any indoor gardener.

Growing Food

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned grower, “Grow Something Different to Eat: Weird and wonderful heirloom fruits and vegetables for your garden,” can give you confidence to grow, cook and preserve some unusually tasty crops. Learn to grow unique fruits, vegetables and grains, such as orange eggplants, quinoa, chia, and white strawberries. All plants can be started indoors and kept as houseplants, or grown outdoors in the garden.

This summer, discover creative ideas for improving your indoor and outdoor spaces with gardening, DIY projects, and more. (StatePoint)

The Secrets to Being an Organized Family

Modern families seem to be juggling more than ever before. When time seems to be a luxury, an ability to stay organized can help families manage the hustle and bustle of daily life more effectively. An online survey conducted by an internal research team on behalf of The Huffington Post polled more than 1,000 American adults in 2013, revealing 84 percent of recently stressed Americans say they worry that their home isn’t clean or organized enough.

Within that group, 55 percent cited disorganization at home as a source of recent stress. Disorganization does not occur overnight, and neither will getting re-organized. But with some motivation, all families can become more orderly.

Manage mornings

Families can usually use more help getting out of the house each morning in a timely manner. Each member of the household should have a designated area where they keep the items they will need for the next morning. Backpacks and briefcases should be prepacked, and lunches made the night before. In addition, sort the next day’s clothes before going to bed. Such efforts should make it easier to get out of the house on time each morning.

Sort the entryway

Home entryways are usually hubs of traffic. Such areas are the first and last place family members go when entering or leaving the house. As a result, these areas are in need of some routine organizational attention. Use sorting bins for shoes, hooks for coats, trays for mail or homework, and other sorting equipment to keep things tidy and orderly.

Embrace the purge

Take a hard look at what you use and what you don’t use around the house. Holding on to items you rarely use can contribute to clutter and create a disorganized home. Save only a few sentimental items, donating, recycling or discarding the others. Many organizational experts suggest going through items one by one and asking oneself if this is something that has been used recently. If it’s been collecting dust for a year or more, it can go.

Sensible storage

Analyze what you have and then find sensible storage solutions. Store belongings in the same place each day so items are easy to find when needed. Frequently used items should be easily accessible. Seldom used items, such as holiday decorations, can be stored out of the way.

It takes commitment and time to get organized. However, life tends to move along much more smoothly in organized homes than homes marked by clutter.

Create an Inviting Outdoor Living Environment

Be ready to enjoy the warm days of spring and summer with an “updated” outdoor dining/living/garden area that is welcoming and efficient. Woodcraft has the tools and supplies you will need, along with helpful advice at your local store and free how-to articles on Woodcraft.com.

Projects

Take stock of your outdoor furniture — do you need more? Would colorful new Adirondack chairs, a new picnic table and maybe a garden bench and planters be more inviting? Or perhaps a cleanup and new paint would bring your existing furniture to life for another season? Does your porch/patio/deck area need to be resurfaced or enlarged? Streamline your dining by building mobile carts to transport food for prep and for serving. Add a butcher block top to the food prep cart and storage drawers to both, and improve the efficiency and pleasure of your dining experience. Gardeners may want to build a potting bench and wooden flatbed wagon to haul plants and supplies.

Tools, Supplies and How-Tos

“Make anywhere your workspace with the Kreg Mobile Project Center,” Woodcraft senior product manager Peter Collins said. “It’s a portable workbench, sawhorse, assembly table, and clamping station all in one that provides a versatile work space for DIY, repair, and woodworking projects.” The large 273⁄4″ x 311⁄2″ polypropylene work surface supports a 350-lb. load capacity, and two centers can be connected to double the work area. Collins also suggested adding the new Kreg In-line Bench Clamp and Bench Clamp System for Dog Holes to make almost every clamping task possible. Visit Woodcraft.com to see Building Plans for Outdoor Furniture, as well as Adirondack chair templates.

Woodcraft.com also offers a large number of how-to articles such as “Laid Back in a Classic Adirondack” that shows how to build with Adirondack chair templates, while “WoodSense: Spotlight on Outdoor Projects,” describes woods that work well outdoors. For building projects, the Freeman 11⁄4″ 18-Gauge Brad Nailer is a professional quality, innovative home improvement tool that is great for furniture. Its oil-free operation requires no regular maintenance and eliminates the risk of stains on project surfaces.

If your joinery choice requires screws, the Groz Insta Drive Screwdriver features a patented retractable, rotating bit cartridge that makes it easy to find, store and change driver bits. For hauling lumber or other large items to your project site, use the Xstrap Heavy Duty Ratchet Tie Down to hold up to 1,000 pounds in place on a truck bed. To finish new furniture or recolor existing pieces — and brighten your outdoor landscape — choose one of the 28 premixed General Finishes Milk Paint colors that can be mixed, lightened, glazed, layered, antiqued, or distressed.

Other good choices for outdoor surfaces include General Finishes Outdoor Oil Finish (use over exterior oil stain or exterior clear oil finishes for additional protection) and General Finishes 450 Varnish (minimizes fading, retards mold and fungus growth).

For painting guidance, watch “Hand Applied Milk Paint from General Finishes at Woodcraft” and read “Create a Milk Paint Masterpiece” on Woodcraft.com. HOMERIGHT’s Finish Max HVLP Sprayer will spray most solvent (except lacquer and conversion varnish) or water-based products — latex paint, milk paint, chalk paint, furniture paint, stains, and finishes. It’s easy to set up, use and clean. When painting furniture, consider using the HOMERIGHT Large Spray Shelter. When painting small accessories, opt for the Small Spray Shelter.

For furniture that needs some TLC, read “Restoring Outdoor Projects” on Woodcraft.com to learn how to determine what needs to be deep cleaned, repaired, rebuilt and repainted. Handy helpers for the TLC process include Blue Bear Paint and Urethane Stripper, Krud Kutter No-Rinse Prepaint Cleaner, Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, SculpWood Putty, and Briwax ChaiRX.

Garden & Game Projects

Turn a unique transplanter, cultivator and weeder with the three-piece WoodRiver Garden Tool Turning Kit constructed of durable, cast aluminum. Turning blanks for the handle, sold separately, may be made from wood, acrylic or another man-made material. Build a wooden croquet set with help from “Picnic Perfect Croquet Set” in Issue 65 of Woodcraft Magazine. Subscribers can download the article free, or the issue can be purchased at Woodcraft.com.

To learn more about these and other products, visit your local Woodcraft store, call (800) 535-4482 or visit www.Woodcraft.com.

Early-Blooming Spring Flowers

The arrival of spring is a welcome occurrence for many people. Budding flowers are among the harbingers of spring. Spring flowers can revitalize winter-weary people just when they need it most — and provide reassurance that brighter, warmer and longer hours of sunlight are just around the corner. Cold-tolerant flowers are hardy enough to start blooming before the last frosts have dissipated. Other flowers will begin to fill in as days warm a little bit more, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Home gardeners looking to warm up their gardens with early blooms can use these flowers in their early-season containers, window boxes and planting beds.

Pansy

Pansies prefer cool weather, which can make them one of the best flowers to plant in early spring and late fall. Pansies come in a variety of colors, so there’s bound to be an offering that will blend with any homeowners’ landscape design.

Creeping phlox

Also known “moss phlox,” creeping phlox is a short ground-cover that is a herbaceous perennial. Phlox produces small, fragrant flowers in dense clusters, which can attract wildlife, such as butterflies, to their mats across the soil surface.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops can peek out even when there is snow still on the ground — sometimes as early as January and February. But their name is actually a reference to their appearance, as snowdrops have three white petals that hang down like drops dripping off the stem.

Violets

These flowers are closely related to pansies and, as a result, prefer cool seasons. Violets are generally slightly smaller than pansy blooms, but they can be just as beautiful. But as with pansies, violets will start to fade when the heat arrives.

Crocus

Crocus plants are relatively small, only reaching three to six inches in height. However, their grass-like leaves are some of the first sprouts that can be seen among bulb and corm plantings. Preferring full to partial sun, these gold, purple, lavender, white, or yellow flowers can be enjoyed during the earliest days of spring.

Daffodil

Daffodil bulbs produce cheerful, yellow flowers in early spring. They’re one of the most recognizable flowers thanks to their familiar shape and fragrant aroma.

Lenten rose

Hellebores, also called the Lenten rose or Christmas rose, can tolerate light frosts. These blooms get their name from the time of year when they bloom, which is typically around the Christian Lenten season. Despite their name, these delicate flowers are not actually related to roses, however.

Early-blooming flowers give winter-weary gardeners hope that spring has arrived.

8 Tips for Maximizing Garage Storage

Most people are pressed for garage space, regardless of the size of their house, from DIYers overwhelmed with tools to moms searching for places to store holiday decorations.

Toter, a leading manufacturer of carts, cans and containers for use in a wide range of home and work waste management and storage solutions, is offering the following tips for making more of precious garage space.

Keep trash in its place.

To keep trash and odors contained, select a mobile trash cart with a tight-fitting lid that’s compatible with your haulers’ pickup requirements and comes with a warranty. Some manufacturers also offer cart and can liners and deodorizers to keep your garage smelling fresh.

Invest in a multi-purpose job box.

Most people tend to have the wrong size toolbox for their needs. Consider the shape, capacity and compartments needed for your tools. Rolling options are great for work done only at home, while a job box may be better for those who do work elsewhere. If portability is important, look at lighter-weight options. New plastic job boxes, such as the Toter HardHead, combine the strength, durability and security of a large metal box with enhanced maneuverability.

Build up, not out.

Ceiling storage racks are an excellent way to use what would otherwise be dead space. Many racks are designed to fit directly above the area where an automatic door goes up and down. Peg boards for tools and stackable totes are also good choices.

Choose multipurpose storage.

Needs can change over time, so invest in storage that can be used for a variety of items in multiple ways. For example, large, durable totes can hold lawn gear, tools or camping equipment.

Think mobility.

Being able to move containers within the garage is important. However, the ability to move them into your vehicle and hit the road quickly also makes life a lot easier.

According to Jeniffer Coates, director of product development and warranty for Toter, “Heavy metal containers are difficult to move, and cheap plastic bins are often too flimsy to stand up to long-term or outdoor use. Consumers will get the most mileage from durable, impact-resistant plastic containers.” These can cost a bit more upfront, but will stand the test of time.

Protect items.

Moisture and pests cause problems in even the cleanest garage. Look for durable storage containers with tight-fitting, critter-resistant lids.

Categorize.

Assign and color-code dedicated areas for each type of item — tools, decorations, lawn equipment, etc. — to avoid the hassle of searching.

Allow room to grow.

While it can be tempting to stuff every square inch, try to leave room for future additions. To ensure everything deserves the space it’s occupying, do a yearly purge of unneeded or unused items.

For more information on finding the right storage solutions for your needs, visit toter.com/storage-solutions.

Keeping the garage in order is a necessary evil, but with a solid game plan and the right equipment, it’s easier than you think. (StatePoint)

Preserve Carved Pumpkins in Various Ways

Jack-o’-lanterns and other carved pumpkin designs are frequently the centerpieces of Halloween festivities. The twinkling lights and orange glow of jack-o’-lanterns can add ambiance to any autumn event. The trouble with carving pumpkins is that most people want to do it right away, only to discover their pumpkins wilt and decay long before Halloween.

Nothing ruins Halloween more than visiting a home to trick-or-treat and not getting candy. Equally disappointing is a sad pumpkin display withering away on a front porch. Even though all pumpkins will eventually rot, certain tips can keep carvings from collapsing too soon.

· Choose a sturdy pumpkin. Inspect the pumpkin of your choosing carefully, looking for gouges, spots and holes. Even a small blemish can quickly expand into a mushy mess. Select pumpkins with even color and firm flesh, and make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t feel tender when you push on the skin.

· Visit local pumpkin stands. Pumpkins that have been shipped miles and miles in hot cargo trucks may be overly ripened or battered. Pumpkins that were grown nearby may be fresher. Plus, buying pumpkins locally supports local farmers.

· Scrape the insides of the pumpkin thoroughly. Any moist bits inside the pumpkin will mold quickly. The pumpkin carving experts at Pumpkin Masters recommend scraping as much of the “guts” out as possible, leaving about a one-inch thickness of the wall of the pumpkin.

· Coat the pumpkin. Preservation methods may aim to keep the pumpkin hydrated and inhibit mold and other microbial growth. Commercially sold pumpkin preservation products, such as Pumpkin Fresh®, hold up well. Soaking and spraying carved pumpkins with a bleach-and-water solution also seems to preserve designs.

· Keep it out of the elements. Store carved pumpkins in a cool, dry place. This will help slow down the rotting process for pumpkins exposed to outdoor fungi, other microbes and warm sunlight.

· Use an artificial light source. Reduce the heat inside of the pumpkin and encourage hydration by selecting a battery-powered light instead of a lit candle to illuminate the carving.

· Skip the carving. Once pumpkin skin is compromised, microbes can enter. In lieu of carving, paint or decorate pumpkins in other ways if you want them to stay fresh for a long time. Glow in the dark paint can help pumpkins stand out at night.

Carved pumpkins may last a week or two, while uncut pumpkins can last for a month or more. Keeping pumpkins hydrated and mold-free will prolong your designs.

Satisfy With A Simple, Spicy Appetizer

Hosting often involves serving food, and the following recipe for “Spicy Cheese Balls” from A.J. Rathbun’s “Party Snacks!” (Harvard Common Press) is sure to please hosts who want to serve their guests an hors d’oeuvre that’s simple but spicy.

Spicy Cheese Balls (Makes 35 to 40 bite-size balls)

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1. Put the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic, parsley, cayenne, black pepper, and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 to 10 seconds, until well blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. Shape the cheese mixture into 35 to 40 small cheese balls, each about the size of a large marble. Roll each cheese ball in the walnuts, coating the outside (you may to press a little to ensure sticking).

3. Serve the cheese balls on a large platter. You can put a toothpick in each ball, but you could also surround them with crackers and let guests use their hands. It all depends on what kind of party you’re having.

Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.

Make a Household Favorite More Healthy

Many beloved dishes might be enjoyed more often if they were only a little healthier. Author and former personal chef Michelle Dudash was once asked by a client if the she could make a healthier version of chicken parmesan. The result of that request is the following recipe for “Skinny Chicken Parmesan with Spinach,” which Dudash ultimately included in her book, “Clean Eating For Busy Families” (Fair Winds). The recipe was a hit with Dudash’s client and will surely be a hit at home cooks’ dinner tables as well.

Skinny Chicken Parmesan with Spinach (Makes 6 servings)

For the sauce:

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pinches salt
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon honey

For the chicken:

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
11/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 6 pieces, pounded to 1/4 inch
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cups baby spinach
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 6 medallions (or shredded)
6 cups cooked whole-grain thin spaghetti tossed in 2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F and coat the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan with olive oil spray.

To make the sauce: Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and garlic and cook gently for 30 seconds. Do not brown. With your hand, squeeze each tomato into the pan and add basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and honey. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes, lowering the heat as needed.

To make the chicken: Combine parmesan cheese, flour, salt, pepper, and basil in a medium dish and coach chicken with cheese mixture. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When oil is shimmering, add chicken, rounded-side down, and cook until golden on one side, about 5 minutes. Arrange chicken in a baking pan. Pour remaining 2 teaspoons of oil into skillet and add spinach. Cook spinach for 1 to 2 minutes until wilted and swirl in lemon juice. Gently press spinach to release water and divide spinach on top of chicken. Spoon sauce around and over the chicken, place mozzarella on top, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake for 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve over spaghetti.

How to Help Identify and Stop Cyberbullying

Today’s students have many new things to contend with as they navigate the school year. As a greater number of schools transition to providing lessons, homework and tests on digital devices, students spend much more time online. This connectivity can have many positive results. However, the same availability also opens up students of all ages to various dangers.

One of these dangers is a more invasive form of bullying called “cyberbullying.” The global organization DoSomething.org says nearly half of kids have been bullied online, with one in four saying it has happened more than once.

Cyberbullying has grown as access to computers and devices that offer an online connection has grown. Bullying is now just as likely to occur online as it is on the playground. Cyberbullies may bully classmates through email, social media, instant messaging, and other social applications. Since cyberbullying tends to target emotions and mental well-being, and reaches beyond the school campus into a student’s home, its impact can be even more serious.

According to the Megan Meier Foundation, which campaigns against bullying, peer victimization during adolescence is associated with higher rates of depression, suicide ideation and suicide attempts. In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, according to data compiled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Cyberbullying occurs in many different forms. Here are some types of cyberbullying educators and parents can look for if they suspect their students or children are being bullied.

  • Flaming: This is a type of bullying that occurs in an online forum or group conversation. It’s achieved by sending angry or insulting messages directly to the person. Flaming is similar to harassment, but harassment usually involves privately sent messages.
  • Outing: This type of bullying is a sharing of personal and private information about a person publicly. When information has been disseminated throughout the internet, one has been “outed.”
  • Fraping: Fraping occurs when someone logs into another’s social media account and impersonates him or her. This could be a child or an adult impersonating the person and posting inappropriate content in his or her name. Sometimes this type of bullying is also called “posing” or “catfishing.”
  • Masquerading: Masquerading occurs when bullies create fake profiles so they can harass someone anonymously. The bully is likely someone the person being targeted knows well.
  • Exclusion: Sometimes direct targeting is not necessary. Students can be bullied simply by being deliberately left out, such as not being invited to parties or encouraged to participate online conversations.

Securing privacy online is one way to prevent cyberbullying attacks. Students also can be selective about who they share personal information with or whose social media friendships they accept. Thinking before posting and paying attention to language and tone can help curb cyberbullying as well. Students should stick together and report instances of cyberbullying if it becomes an issue.