Tag: spring

Transition Your Wardrobes From One Season to the Next

People who put a lot of thought into their wardrobes know that one of the challenges presented by the changing seasons is figuring out what to wear and when. For example, as spring transitions into summer, the occasional chilly day is to be expected, removing summertime attire like shorts and sleeveless shirts from consideration.

Such sudden changes can be problematic, as not everyone has the room to store multiple seasons’ worth of clothing in their closets and drawers. Yet, with a little ingenuity, men and women can make their seasonal wardrobe transitions a little easier.

· Layering: Layering is the key to keeping comfortable no matter the weather. Layering enables you to take off layers or put them on as needed. Lightweight sweaters or blazers can be worn over short sleeves or sleeveless ensembles when temperatures have yet to reach their midday highs. Layers also can prove invaluable in office settings where the air conditioning may make working environments especially chilly. Leggings can be worn under skirts or dresses and then removed as temperatures rise.

· Long-sleeved shirts: Keep a few long-sleeved shirts at the ready. Simple sleeve length can mean the difference between comfort and discomfort. Covering shoulders and/or arms with a lightweight top also can protect against the rays of the sun. Choose among your most versatile long-sleeved shirts, meaning basic colors that will blend well with any outfit.

· Bright colors: Bright colors go hand in hand with warm weather. Keep bright-colored items you typically wear during other seasons so they can be paired, if necessary, with summer staples. This may include a thick sweater for cooler nights on the beach or trousers for formal evenings out on the town.

· Maxidresses: When shopping, invest in maxidresses. They’re easy and cool for hot days and nights, but they also can be refashioned if you wear them with long sleeves or knit sweaters. When covering up, use a waist-cinching belt or scarf to add structure to the look.

· Vary shoes: While flip-flops and other sandals may be summer staples, have a few other pairs of more traditional shoes at the ready as well. One can get away with boots with a maxi-dress. Ballet-style slippers are delicate enough for the season and provide extra foot coverage for comfort. If you walk a lot, look for shoes with structure, as summer footwear tends to provide less support than footwear worn during other times of the year.

Transitioning clothing from one season to the next takes a little ingenuity. While it may not require a person to keep all of his or her clothing out of storage, transitioning from one season to the next may require reserving a couple of versatile items that can be worn throughout the year.


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Begin Planning Kids’ Summer Recreation Now

Many families spend winter figuring out how to chase away cabin fever and endure frigid temperatures until spring and summer mercifully return. Parents thinking ahead to swimming pools and days lounging on the beach can put their daydreams to practical use by planning ahead for their youngsters’ summer vacations.

Youth recreational programs and summer camps can bridge the gap in care between the end of school and the day when classes resume. Due in part to high demand, parents who want to place their kids in summer rec programs or summer camps should being vetting such programs and camps well in advance of summer. The following are a handful of tips for moms and dads who want their kids to have fun and fulfilling summers.

· Ask for recommendations. Speak with fellow parents and trusted friends about where they send their children. Personal recommendations can be very helpful, providing firsthand insight into a particular camp or program. Schedule appointments to visit camps that fall within your budget. Take your son or daughter along so he or she can get a sense of what camp will be like.

· Explore all options. Camps come in more flavors than ever before. Certain camps may be faith-based ministries while others may focus on particular sports. Band camps and art camps may appeal to creative kids. Also, there are plenty of general-interest camps that offer various activities without narrowing in on any particular one. Parents may need to choose between a sleepaway camp or day camps, depending on which camp experience they want for their children.

· Inquire about camp schedules. While many camps are flexible, day camps do not have the same level of flexibility as after-school programs. Arrangements will need to be made if care is required after regular camp hours. Speak with camp staff to see which types of after-hours programs, if any, are available.

· Determine your camp budget. As varied as program offerings may be, camps also can vary greatly with regard to cost. Government-run camps may be less expensive than those offered by private companies. Day camps typically cost less than those that provide room and board. Find out if a particular organization subsidizes a portion of camp costs. Scouting programs often have a dedicated camp and may offer affordable options for scouts. Martial arts schools and dance centers frequently offer camp schedules.

If camp seems out of reach, look into local summer recreation programs at parks or schools. Such programs may not be as extensive as those offered by camps, but they can quell kids’ boredom and keep children occupied during the day.

In addition to camp, remember to plan for some free days so children can just enjoy some downtime. Such days can break up the monotony of a routine and provide kids and families time to relax together.

Summer recreation may be far off, but it is never too early to start making summer plans, including finding camps and other activities for kids. TF162873

Spring Cleaning Projects You Don’t Want to Forget

Spring cleaning is an annual tradition in many households. After a winter spent cooped up indoors, spring cleaning can rejuvenate a household and provide a great chance to rid a home of a season’s worth of clutter.

Donating old clothes and cleaning out the garage are popular spring cleaning projects, but there are a host of additional tasks homeowners can tackle to freshen up their homes this spring.

Floors

Simply vacuuming or sweeping the floors might not be enough to banish some of winter’s most uninvited guests. Dust has a way of settling into a home over the course of a typical winter, and it’s easy for a home’s inhabitants to track dirt and debris inside as well. After vacuuming or sweeping floors, go over them with a mop. Doing so can remove any lingering dust, dirt, debris, and allergens the vacuum or broom failed to pick up. Apply wood cleaner and polish to wood floors to make them look even cleaner.

Baseboards

Though baseboards might not seem all that dirty, upon closer inspection homeowners might notice substantial accumulations of dirt and dust. Such dirt and dust many not be removed so easily, so homeowners might need to use hot water and a sponge to remove any debris that is clinging.

Curtains

Curtains also may have absorbed substantial amounts of dust, dirt and debris over the winter. This might be more visible near the end of winter when more sunlight begins to shine through. Clean the curtains in adherence to the manufacturer instructions before you open windows for the season so any wind that blows in does not spread debris onto nearby furniture. Once the curtains have been washed, opening windows may help them dry more quickly.

Bathrooms

Bathrooms also tend to bear the brunt of winter weather, as mold and grime can accumulate throughout a season in which it’s too cold to open bathroom windows to let fresh air in after bathing. Inspect ceilings, tubs, shower stalls, and floors for any signs of mold growth or grime. Mold growth in a home can lead to respiratory problems and exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma, so it’s best to inspect bathrooms for any signs of mold growth throughout winter. If you have let that slip, prioritize such inspections come spring cleaning time.

Furniture

It’s easy to overlook furniture when tackling spring cleaning, but dust and dirt can quickly accumulate on couches and chairs over the course of winter. When possible, vacuum furniture to remove any debris that might have accumulated while windows and doors were kept shut, and shampoo any cushions or seat covers that don’t pass the smell test.

Spring cleaning encompasses a host of tasks, and homeowners who want a truly clean house should not overlook smaller tasks that can produce big results. SH162853

Freshen Up Your Home for the Spring Season

After a few months of chilly temperatures, come spring, many homeowners are eager to throw open their windows and doors and breathe new life into their homes. Simple changes made now – even before the weather begins to warm up – can improve interior spaces and brighten the atmosphere of a home.

· Go plant shopping. Research from NASA suggests adding at least one plant in your home per 100 square feet is efficient enough to clean air. Fresh foliage also makes a home feel warm and inviting. Watering and misting plants introduces moisture into indoor air, which can make rooms overcome with dry air from heating systems feel comfortable. Just be sure to avoid overwatering plants, which can lead to mold growth.

· Swap out throw pillows. Accent pillows on beds and sofas are quick and inexpensive ways to add new bursts of color to rooms. You may be able to make over a room’s entire color scheme with new pillows. Invest in pillows that you can switch with each season so your decor will never look tired or dull.

· Clean existing light fixtures. Another way to brighten the mood in a home is to periodically clean light fixtures to make sure they are working effectively. Spend time dusting them and cleaning off any accumulated debris. If need be, switch out old lamp shades for newer ones that let more light shine through. If inadequate lighting is a problem no matter how many lamps you have, consult with an electrician about installing more overhead and accent lighting.

· Give rugs and floors a deep cleaning. Recirculated air may be full of dust and other microscopic particles that end up blowing throughout your home. Also, it’s easy to track in dirt and other materials on your shoes that become imbedded in carpeting. At least once a year, rent or enlist the surfaces of carpet and upholstery cleaners to give floors a thorough cleaning. You may be surprised at how clean and fresh a home looks and smells once rugs and carpets are deep-cleaned. You also can make a dry carpet cleaner using baking soda, corn starch and desired fresh herbs for fragrance. Sprinkle and then vacuum up after a few hours.

· Color-coordinate bookshelves. Group all books with similarly colored covers together for an instant and eye-appealing look.

· Simmer some homemade home deodorizer. In a large pot, boil water and some scented herbs, such as rosemary, citrus rinds, vanilla, or lavender. The aroma will waft through the home, creating a pleasing scent.

· Invest in new window treatments. Lightweight draperies or new blinds or shades can transform the look of a room. Be sure to keep curtains and blinds open during the day to maximize the hours of sunlight.

Homeowners can make some simple changes while they’re stuck indoors and reap the benefits when the weather warms up again. SH162843

How to Make Spring Projects More Eco-Friendly

The arrival of warmer weather means different things to different people. Some anticipate opportunities for outdoor fun, while others may be considering redecorating or remodeling their homes. For the latter group, home improvement season provides a great opportunity to make homes more eco-friendly.

When planning home improvement projects, it’s best to first choose a project and then look for ways to make the project more environmentally friendly. Such an approach may not only benefit the environment, but it also may benefit homeowners’ bottom lines.

Interior decorating

Longer days and warmer temperatures often translate into wanting to freshen up the interior of a home. Heavy draperies and comforters are put away, and lighter fabrics are taken out of storage. Whenever possible, reuse or repurpose items you already have rather than purchasing new items. Longer drapes can be cut and hemmed to be used as window treatments in other rooms. Making a patchwork blanket out of old T-shirts is a crafty project that makes use of items that would otherwise be destined for landfills.

When laundering linens, skip the energy-using dryer and let items line dry in the sun and fresh air.

If you decide to purchase some new items, look for products made from sustainable or organic fabrics. Hemp and bamboo textiles have grown in popularity. Hemp and bamboo plants grow quickly, and their durability makes these materials smart choices.

When replacing items around the house, donate older items to a charitable organization.

Flowers and plants

Spring and summer call to mind beautiful blooming plants. Relying on native, sustainable plants is practical, environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, sustainable plants are native plants. Native plants sustain local wildlife more effectively than non-native alternatives, so include native plants in your sustainable garden. Native plants also are less reliant on pesticides and herbicides to keep them healthy and viable.

Don’t forget to bring plants indoors as well. Even though you may be opening the windows more, indoor plants can filter and purify indoor air. The NASA Clean Air Study, led in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, found that certain common indoor plants naturally remove toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. Efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.

Proper disposal

Spring cleaning is another tradition for many families come the end of winter and dawn of spring. Many people use spring as a time to go through closets and garages to remove items they no longer use or need. In an effort to clean up fast, some people may dispose of chemical products, paints, treated lumber, and many other items in ways that can be damaging to the environment. Always learn local municipal guidelines for proper disposal of potentially harmful products. Area recycling centers may have drop-off areas for stains and paints, used motor oil and other potentially harmful products.

Before discarding something, see if it can be donated or sold. This will result in fewer items ending up in landfills.

Exercise caution outdoors as well. Runoff from cleaning products used on home siding or driveways can leach into the surrounding soil or find its way into sewage drains that ultimately direct fluids to public waterways. Choose environmentally responsible products whenever possible.

Springtime renovation and cleaning projects provide the perfect opportunity to adopt eco-friendly practices that pay dividends for years to come. TF164031

Swimming Pool Installation Tips

Now that the weather is warming up, many homeowners’ thoughts are drifting toward relaxing days spent soaking up some sun by the pool. Early spring is a great time to install a pool so the family has a go-to hangout by the time summer arrives.

pool1Installing a pool is a large financial investment, and homeowners considering adding a pool should not take that decision lightly. When attempting to determine if a pool is for them, homeowners may want to ask themselves the following questions.

Is my yard suitable for a pool?

Some yards may not be large enough for pools, while others may not meet the zoning requirements set forth by the town. Still other yards may have soil that’s not suitable for putting in an inground pool, or may have a high water table that can delay construction.

What is the average weather?

Will a pool be enjoyed enough to warrant the cost? Homeowners who live in areas that get many hot days will likely get their money’s worth. But if the climate suggests that a pool will sit unused more often than not, perhaps a pool is not the best investment.

Can we afford it?

A pool can range from a few hundred dollars for inflatable or self-installing models to many thousands for elaborate inground designs. You budget will dictate which type of pool you can afford to install.

How will we use the pool?

Decide if you’re putting in a pool for the kids, to entertain the family or to make an architectural statement in the yard. Having a clear sense of purpose will help to guide the decision-making process.

Who will maintain the pool?

Many homeowners tackle the day-to-day maintenance required to keep their pools clean and safe. Others hire pool cleaners to maintain their pools and ensure the water is properly balanced. Maintenance can cost additional money, so consider this potential cost when determining if a pool is for you.

Are there any safety concerns?

Parents of young children may be hesitant to install a pool, but today’s pool installation codes consider many of the potential hazards of a pool and attempt to eliminate them. Fences surrounding inground pools with self-locking gates, as well as locking ladders for above-ground pools can eliminate accidental falls into unattended pools. Your municipality will have a list of requirements for pools, so peruse the list prior to making your final decision.

If the decision has been made to move ahead with a pool, it can be helpful to understand a few facts about the process of installing a pool.

Always work with a pool-installation company that has earned positive reviews and has a stellar record of service. While this does not guarantee that the job will not encounter problems, contractors with glowing reviews tend to have earned those reviews. Read reviews from unbiased, online customers as well as any friends or family members who have used a particular pool company.

It’s important that homeowners recognize that the installation of a pool may require some heavy machinery, which can damagelawns. Fence panels may have to be removed to let in excavation equipment. Sand, soil backfill or gravel may be needed to level out a landscape, and things may get noisy and messy when the installation hits full swing.

Some homeowners can handle installing above-ground pools on their own, but less DIY-savvy homeowners may want to leave the installation to a professional installer to ensure the job is done right.

Always secure the proper permits and inspections prior to using the pool. This not only ensures the safety of swimmers, but also guarantees the pool is legal.

Backyard swimming pools make for an enjoyable place to congregate when the weather is hot. Follow a few guidelines and ask the necessary questions to make a pool installation go more smoothly.


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Teaching Kids to Swim

Swimming is a popular activity once temperatures heat up. Millions of people flock to beaches to dip their toes in the water, and scores more spend afternoons exploring the depths of backyard pools.

Upon being introduced to the water, younger children may be somewhat apprehensive, as swimming in pools or oceans can be intimidating to youngsters. Parents should exercise extreme caution when teaching kids to swim, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children under the age of 14.

swim3Although swimming can be dangerous, experts in pediatric and adolescent medicine affirm that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning considerably.

Children whose parents swim may be eager to join mom and dad in the pool. The following are some tips for parents as they start to develop a plan to teach their kids to swim.


· Wait until the child is developmentally ready. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that parents wait until after a child’s fourth birthday to teach them how to swim. This is when children have developed enough to understand commands and have the motor skils required for swimming. At this point, parents can register children for swimming lessons with trained instructors.

· Introduce playing in the water early on. Parents should make sure their children grow accustomed to playing in the water. Many kids start to like the water around the time they become toddlers, when bathing introduces them to splashing and bobbing toys. Use these opportunities to take your child into the water, so he or she acclimates to feeling the water on his or her body and face. Kids can sit with adults on pool steps or retrieve toys from within reach. An adult always should be nearby.

· Wait before submerging kids. The American Red Cross says to wait until a child is around age three before submerging him or her under the water. Young kids can swallow a lot of water, which can be dangerous. Sputtering water also may turn a child off to swimming completely.

· Begin in calm water. The open ocean can be daunting, even to adults. So it might be better to begin swimming lessons in a calm body of water, such as a lake or pool. swim2

· Invest in formal swimming lessons. Parental perceptions and anxieties may interfere with parents’ abilities to properly teach their children how to swim. Therefore, hire third-party professional instructors to teach kids to swim. The Red Cross can put you in touch with certified swimming instructors who also are knowledgeable in first aid.

As children become more confident in the water, they can practice swimming strokes and submerging themselves for underwater swimming.


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Maintain Bird Feeders & Bird Baths for Avian Health

Bird watching is a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages. While many people trek into the woods to see their favorite birds, homeowners can take steps to entice these fascinating and feathered friends right to their backyards.

bird3Homeowners who want to attract birds to their properties can do so by providing the birds food, shelter and places to wash up or cool off. Installing a bird feeder and a bird bath in your yard is one way to attract a bevy of winged creatures that can provide hours of enjoyment.

Establishing a bird-friendly environment may seem as simple as hanging a feeder on a pole or tree and erecting a bird bath nearby. But a certain level of maintenance is needed to keep birds healthy and happy.

According to the experts at the Bird Watcher’s Digest, recent research indicates feeders can sometimes be a source of disease for the birds visiting them. The Audubon Society echoes that warning, saying that bird feeders and baths can serve as transmission stations for diseases such as aspergillosis, avian pox and salmonellosis. Recently, scientists noted that the spread of trichomonad protozoan parasites is on the rise, especially among mourning dove and band-tailed pigeon populations.

Such warnings are not meant to deter budding birding hobbyists. Organizations like the Audobon Society hope that such warnings send the message that disinfection and maintenance is necessary to maintain sanitary environments for birds. Doing so is relatively easy and well worth the time for birding enthusiasts.

bird1· The Humane Society of the United States advises cleaning hanging feeders once every two weeks or more often if they’re heavily used. Ground-feeding designs should be cleaned every two days. Feeders can be immersed in a very-diluted solution of bleach to water (nine parts water to one part bleach). Let soak for a few minutes, and then scrub the feeder with a stiff brush or scouring pad before rinsing. Allow the feeder to dry completely before refilling it with seed.

· Bird baths should be emptied of water each day. Brush or wipe the bath clean, then rinse and refill with fresh water. Do not leave standing water overnight; otherwise bird baths can easily become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other parasites.

· Frequently collect discarded seed hulls and clean bird droppings from beneath feeders. If the area around the feeder has become especially soiled, relocate the feeder elsewhere and clean its initial location.

· Follow proper instructions with regard to seed and other bird food. For example, reduce the amount of suet offered in hot weather. Heat can cause suet to spoil, and sticky suet can become stuck in birds’ feathers and make it hard for them to keep clean.

· Try to provide more than one feeder and bird bath to prevent overcrowding. Crowding can contribute to the spread of disease.

· Do not situate feeders and bird baths under perches where they can be soiled by droppings.

· If you notice birds look sick or are not acting strangely, halt feeding and bathing to prevent healthy birds from becoming ill. Wait a week before resuming feeding and notify wildlife officials if you find dead or sick birds around your property.

· Locate feeders and baths at least 30 feet away from windows so birds do not get confused by reflections and collide with the glass.

· Store seed in a dry container with a tight-fitting lid to prevent mold from forming and moisture from getting in.

Creating a thriving habitat for bird watching is easier than one might think. But once birds begin visiting a yard, homeowners must diligently maintain clean feeders and bird baths to ensure the birds stay as healthy as possible. Any questions about wild-bird care can be directed to a local Audubon Society chapter or by visiting a pet store or bird hobby center. GT154046

Break Ground with the Right Tools

The right tools for the job can be the difference between an interminable landscaping project and one that goes smoothly and efficiently. Aspiring landscapers probably have a few shovels and rakes hanging in their garages and sheds for basic landscaping work. But while such tools are effective for certain projects, when it comes to churning soil for garden beds or digging holes for outdoor structures, additional tools come in handy. It may be well worth a trip to a nearby home center to purchase or rent one of these tools ideal for breaking ground.

Rototiller

A rototiller, sometimes called just a “tiller,” is a powered garden tool designed to loosen soil prior to planting. A rototiller also can help aerate soil during the growing season. Because they reduce the need for manual spade digging or hoeing, tillers can be useful landscaping tools, particularly for homeowners who want to work efficiently.

Rototillers will break through tough soil and any plant roots. They come in a variety of sizes, and it’s best to match the tool to the size of the job. Many homeowners can get by with smaller, less powerful models, especially if the tiller is only necessary at the beginning of planting season. Professional landscapers or those with large swatches of property may benefit from larger models.

Auger

Augers, both mechanical and manual, are essentially large drill bits that help move materials from one location to another. Augers are typically used to cut holes in landscapes, and they are good for post-hole drilling, which is part of the process of installing deck footings, fencing posts or other structures. Augers come in a variety of sizes, and homeowners can choose how much power they prefer. Augers can be heavy and cumbersome, and many do-it-yourselfers will find that one-person augers are more than adequate for their projects.

Augers dig deep holes, so it is always smart to have the property surveyed prior to use. This way pipes, gas lines, buried electrical lines, and any other obstructions are clearly identified prior to drilling.

Cultivatorshovel1

Cultivators are similar to tillers in that they loosen soil. Cultivators are effective during the growth period of plants, when they can be used to aerate the soil and remove weeds. Cultivators come in hand-held versions and push models, and some are even motorized. Cultivators get close to plants to remove weeds without disturbing the plant. They also are used to stir in compost or fertilizer.

While many people think cultivators and tillers are the same, that is not the case. The former is less powerful and will mix the soil or stir up the top layer, while the latter can break up moderately hard ground and loosen firm soil.

When using any tools around the garden, wear the proper protection. This includes devices to protect hearing when power tools are in use as well as gloves and safety goggles. Tillers, augers and cultivators have the potential to toss soil and rocks into the air, so make sure others keep their distance while work is in progress.


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