Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

October Holiday Decorating

These days, there’s some conjecture about whether or not Halloween has become the second-most decorated holiday. Who really cares? It gives us opportunities to be creative and maybe also a bit outrageous.

Here’s a fun and incredibly inexpensive idea, from Amy Sedaris’s book
I like you: hospitality under the influence. The book is funny, creative and “spicy.” (Read: over-the-top and sassy.)

To make the Nosey Tissue Ghost, you’ll need two sheets of facial tissue. Lay one out flat, then ball up the other one and place it in the center of the flattened sheet. Use monofilament (clear fishing) line to tie the head off at the neck. Dot with a felt tipped pen to mark eyes. Using clear tape, attach some more line to the top of the head.

Where to hang it? From a tree, from a front porch ceiling, anywhere where it could cause a stir. Clear fishing line is especially good, because it’s strong and will help to make the ghost look like it’s flying through the air. The local hardware store sells 500 yards for $3.00. (Once added to your craft supplies stash, it’s likely to come in handy for other uses, too.)

A few hung together could be even better. Boo!

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Posted in Suggestions, Timely Tips

Set Boundaries to Control Clutter

Leafing through a magazine while getting the car’s oil changed recently, I read some interesting tips. A few are worth sharing.

Set boundaries to control clutter.

  • If you can, consider open storage. Closed cabinets and lidded boxes make it temptingly easy to stash new stuff.
  • Limit collections, like craft supplies or memorabilia, to one drawer or bin. Once full, purge. If you can, resist the temptation to fill another bin.
  • Unsure about how much you really use an item? Place a removable dot sticker on it, with the date. If not used for several months, it might be time to donate or give it away, as long as you’re not adding to someone else’s clutter.
Posted in gardening, Seasons, Timely Tips

Season Transition Plant Care

This Timely Tip first appeared in late September of last year. It’s that time again!

Now that summer’s officially over, you’ll want to care for outdoor plants. Here are some suggestions found online.

1. You’ll want to move your plants indoors when temperatures regularly drop below 60, and definitely before they get as low as 45 degrees F. If you can, plan to gradually transition your plants indoors, putting them in a shady spot for a few weeks before bringing them inside.

2. Decide where the plants will go in advance. Try to match the conditions outdoors, putting plants that were in bright sunlight in south-facing windows. If not possible, at least try to gradually move plants to lower-light areas over a few days or weeks. They may still lose leaves in response to the reduced light, but you can try to minimize the loss.

Note: Without any windows in the way, plants get more sun outdoors than they do inside. Use this as inspiration to wash your windows (both inside and out, if possible). Your plants will appreciate it and, if it’s been a long time since their last cleaning, so will you!

3. Inspect your plants to see if any have outgrown their pots and need to be repotted. If they do, be sure to choose a pot with drainage holes, and the appropriate new potting soil. Lightly prune plants that have gotten leggy while outside.

4. It’s really important to inspect your plants for pests and problems before you bring them indoors. Soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for 15 minutes to force any pests out in search of air. Drain thoroughly before bringing indoors. If you want to be extra sure that you’re not bringing in any uninvited guests with your plants, you may even want to quarantine them in a room separate from other plants for a few days.

5. Once you’ve got your plants transitioned indoors for the season, be sure not to overwater. For most plants, that means letting the soil dry to the touch before watering. You may find that the dry indoor air from your heat source(s) means that plants need nearly as much water in the winter as they do in the summer. Since they’ll grow less in response to less light, fertilizing monthly or bi-monthly during the winter should be sufficient.

Happy gardening and transition from summer to fall!

Posted in Timely Tips

School Year Sanity – for Parents and the Students in their Lives

Now that the school year is well underway, are you getting stuck and/or frustrated by some of its organizational aspects? From the archives, here are some suggestions for school year sanity.

• Paper, paper, paper. To manage health forms, reports and other papers from school, use an app to snap a photo with your phone. It becomes a PDF. Possibilities – ScanSnap or Tiny Scanner.

If you’d rather not use technology, a bin for each student might help. Clear plastic, a foot or so long and a foot high, should do it. Check it daily for tasks; empty as needed. Be disciplined!

Another option – a cardboard sorter, with a slot for each member of the family. Assign each student the task of placing in it any papers with needed parental action, and ask him/her to always tell you about them.

• Phone notices and apps. Enter into its calendar school days off, early dismissals, and events (games, concerts, etc.); into its contacts the main office, nurse and guidance counselor. Add to the contacts list the names of parents and their linked activities. It could help if you have to send texts.

Posted in Timely Tips

To Welcome Fall with Taste and Smell

Sometimes, September seems to be the nicest month here in Vermont. This year is a prime example. It’s been warm and sunny, with more of the same predicted. Even so, the season is changing to fall. Among other signs, leaves are turning, and some valleys are blanketed with morning fog.

If, like me, you’re always sad about the end of summer, here are some suggestions from a local food coop which, to my mind, might ease the seasonal transition. If you drink coffee, you might add a shake or two of pumpkin pie spice to your cup. Mine, from a national discount grocer, includes cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Sure to tickle your taste buds, it’s yummy!

Next, here’s a way to delight your nose. Suggested by a local food coop, it’s about “brewing” a batch of stovetop potpourri to make your home smell like a fresh fall harvest. Mix water, a spice and slices of one or two fruits in a saucepan, simmer, and the scents will fill your home. Apple slices and cinnamon sticks will be fall-like. To remind you of the woods, use limes and pine. For the holidays, you might try oranges, cloves and vanilla. The bulk spice bins at your local coop might have what you want, and you can get the exact amounts needed for stovetop magic.

Posted in Clever Re-Uses, Clothing, Suggestions, Timely Tips

How to Solve the Dilemma of Unmatched Socks

It happens to most of us. Somehow, a pair of socks isn’t a pair anymore. Does the washer eat one? Does the dryer hide one? It’s a mystery, but we sometimes end up with unmatched socks.

Now that summer is transitioning to fall and some of us are wearing socks again for the first time in months, the dilemma of unmatched socks is back. Some suggestions –
• Wear them with others whose “mates” have disappeared
• Use them as padding in packages
• Use them as storage for delicate holiday decorations
• Use them as dust rags
• Use them for craft projects, including as hand puppets
• Turn them into pet toys, like filled with catnip

Posted in Taming Clutter, Timely Tips

Night Stand Serenity

From the archives…It can be a constant temptation – your night stand becomes a default home for odds and ends. Results – you have to look at clutter constantly, which actually can compromise your serenity. To stop the habit of dropping unnecessary stuff there, think of its surface as only for of-the-moment needs – the book you’re currently reading, the mug you’re drinking from, a pen and pad of paper for writing a note in the middle of the night. (BTW, that small action actually helps you “trick” your brain, so you can get back to sleep. Writing something down relaxes you.) Move mugs you’re done with to the kitchen, magazines to their real home (wherever that is), receipts to wherever you read mail and pay bills. Resist the temptation to drop something there, to deal with it later. This is a slippery slope! Remember – it always takes less time to put something in its rightful “home” the first time around, rather than to find homes for a pile of stuff later.

Posted in Clever Re-Uses, Suggestions, Timely Tips

Fun Uses for Mason Jar Lids

From the archives, here are some clever suggestions for using mason jar lids. As canning season is about to start and with jars available in many stores, these could be both timely and fun.

While you might use a jar to hold flowers or other contents,
• Use the ring of a lid to press circles for biscuits or sugar cookies.
• Make a quick fridge photo frame. Trim a photo, using the flat lid piece as a template. Glue the photo to the inside of the flat plate and place it inside the ring. Glue a small magnet to the back of the plate. Ba-da-bing!
• Is your muffin tin MIA? If so, place six jar rings (wide side down) on a cookie sheet. Set a paper baking cup in each, fill it with batter, then bake according to the recipe.
• For a different votive candle holder, apply glue to the edge of the flat piece and place inside the ring. Let dry and enjoy candle light!

Posted in Clever Re-Uses, Suggestions, Timely Tips

Clever Re-uses

From the archives, here are two clever ways to reuse items. A plastic squeeze water bottle can double as a salad dressing shaker. If you mix your own vinaigrette, this is a handy way to bring it along to work or on a picnic. Also, the spout can prevent over pouring. Another use – for picnicking, to bring along cut carrots and celery sticks. Yet another use – store your sunglasses. This could be especially useful in the car, placed in a cup holder. No more crushed shades!

Reluctant to toss or recycle a smoothie container? It could store a ball of string, with the end coming out the end. Another use – turned upside-down, its lid can serve as a funnel for pouring homemade salad dressing into a bottle. Next, two uses for when painting. For kids, pour paint into smoothie cups. A brush can rest securely through the hole without tipping, and the lid minimizes spills. You might tape the lid to the bottom, “just in case.” For grownups, if painting overhead on ceilings or trim, place a smoothie lid over a brush handle to protect your hand from any drips or dribbles.

Posted in Clever Re-Uses, Suggestions, Timely Tips

A Way to Keep Foods Cold, With a Cool Additional Use

Here’s one that’s good for picnics and other outdoor events, especially timely with the upcoming July Fourth holiday in mind.

Need a way to keep foods cold in a cooler? Instead of using ice, consider this cool alternative. (Oh – bad pun!) Wet a sponge, put it in a plastic sandwich bag (or two), then place it in the freezer. You might want two or three.

Benefits: once placed in the bottom of a cooler, it’s flat, which could keep food containers upright. Also, since it’s relatively “skinny,” it also can be slid down the side of the cooler, to further help in keeping food chilled.

Bonus points – if you need a wet sponge for clean-up at the end of your event, you’ll have one ready. Once back home, repeat the process. Wet the sponge, replace in the sandwich bag, then freeze it for the next time.

Also, unrelated, but fun to think about with this particular holiday – “he who drinks a fifth on the Fourth will not go forth on the fifth.” Ha!