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Blogs by Jennifer Whipple

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Plan a Halloween Party for Grownups
By Jennifer Whipple
10/12/2016 2:40:00 PM  

Pumpkin Holder


Why should kids have all the fun? With its nostalgic memories and opportunity to play dress-up, grownups love Halloween, too! Check out these tips for throwing a monster bash adults will enjoy:

 

Invitations. Make sure to get them out in plenty of time (no sooner than a month in advance). Make it clear whether or not guests are to wear costumes and, if so, if there’s a theme (classic movie monsters, historical figures, etc.).

 

Helpful Hint: Online invitations are a great way to send themed invites, and make it easy for your guests to RSVP.

 

Décor. Create a festive mood with orange-and-black crepe paper and balloons, and decorate with fake spiders, cobwebs, and creepy displays. Stock up on paper plates, cups and napkins with a fall or Halloween theme.

 

Helpful Hint: Load your video player with a classic thriller (skip the gore – think old, black-and-white versions of Frankenstein or Dracula) to play with the sound off as a great way to add atmosphere to your spook fest!

 

Music. Include a collection of upbeat, Halloween-themed songs like “Monster Mash,” “Love Potion #9” and “Thriller.”

 

Helpful Hint: While guests are still arriving, play a CD made up of creepy or funny sound effects, like creaking doors, lonely howls, and witches’ cackles.

 

Games. You can leave bobbing for apples to the kids, but games are a great way to keep everyone involved. Pool and Ping-Pong tables always keep the conversation lively, while many people enjoy darts or karaoke.

 

Helpful Hint: Most adults like to have some time to visit and talk, so try not to fill the night with planned activities.

Mini Beanbag Throw Game

 

Costumes. Costumes are a must for Halloween parties! Plan to hand out prizes for the funniest, scariest, most original and “best couple” costumes.

 

Helpful Hint: Have inexpensive masks on hand for guests who may have forgotten to wear a costume.

 

Food. Finger-food favorites are perfect for a fun and relaxed atmosphere! Offer your guests a cheese, cracker and fruit plate, mini-quiches, sausages, meatballs, raw veggies with dip and snacks such as popcorn and pretzels. Warm up a chilly fall night with bowls of soup or chili that you can keep warm on a buffet table in a slow cooker. For dessert, offer pumpkin- or apple- based cakes, cookies, brownies or pies.

 

Helpful Hint: Brew up a Halloween punch in a witch’s cauldron with dry ice at the bottom for a spooky fog effect (see below for a sample recipe).

Color-Changing LED Ice Bucket

 

Halloween Punch

 

Ingredients:

46-oz. can pineapple juice, divided

3 oz. pkg. orange or lime gelatin

64-oz. carton orange juice

1-liter ginger ale, chilled

1 qt. orange or rainbow sherbet

 

Directions:

Bring 1 cup of pineapple juice to a boil in saucepan. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Allow to cool. Transfer to a large pitcher. Add orange juice and remaining pineapple juice. Chill. Just before serving, pour into a punch bowl; add ginger ale and mix well. Top with scoops of sherbet. Serves approx. 24.


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Tags: Halloween, party
Categories: Holiday
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10 Steps for Putting Your Garden to Bed
By Jennifer Whipple
9/21/2016 9:30:00 AM  

Winter is coming…follow these timely tips for preparing your yard and garden for the cold months ahead – and for making spring cleanup easier!

 

  1. Dig up annuals and summer bulbs. If you haven’t done so yet, dig up summer annuals and use them to nourish the compost heap. You should also dig up your summer bulbs and store them in peat moss for the winter.

    EZ Digger Handmade Metal Hand Plow With Wooden Handle

  2. Clean the vegetable patch. Done harvesting? To keep pests from using your vegetable garden as a hibernation hot spot, make sure to weed and remove all debris before winter sets in.

    Vertical Cherry Tomato Garden


  3. Cut back and divide perennials. Now is a good time to rearrange plants if they haven’t been flourishing in their current location.

    Kneeler/Seat

  4. Bring container plants indoors. Nurse cherished plants through the winter in the garage or basement. Remove dead leaves and break up any hardened soil before bringing them inside.



    Incredible Plant Stand

  5. Provide protection for plants that are sensitive to cold. Shrubs, roses, and perennials that might succumb to blasts of cold should be protected with mulches or screens. Place these protective barriers after the first freeze.

    All-Weather Outdoor Furniture Covers


  6. Rake fallen leaves. Don’t let fallen leaves stay on your lawn all winter – left unattended, they’ll suffocate grass and other plants. You don’t need to let them go to waste, either – shredded leaves make great mulch.

    EZ Leaf Hauler


  7. Plant spring bulbs. To ensure colorful springtime blooms, it’s best to plant bulbs in the fall. It’s best to get your planting done before the earth freezes.

    Tree Ring Garden Planter


  8. Mow the lawn and feed it. It grows more slowly in the fall, but do cut the grass before winter sets in. Be sure to lower the lawn mower and cut it short to help it dry out more quickly in the spring. Follow up that last cutting with a feeding – the extra nutrients will help it to survive the winter. After the last cutting, drain the gas from your gas mower.

  9. Clean your gardening tools. Wash off caked dirt, and coat both metal parts to prevent rusting, and add linseed oil to wooden handles to keep them from drying out and cracking. Drain your garden hose before putting it away.

    Smart Trak Hideaway™ Hose Reel


  10. Decorate for Autumn. Your outdoors needn’t be dull just because the growing season is over! Add fall color with pumpkins, potted mums, and a seasonal wreath on your door.

    Spooky Spider Pumpkin Holders


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Tags: Fall prep, gardening, yard & garden, lawn care, outdoor storage, garden tools
Categories: Outdoor Solutions
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In the Garden: Succulent Squash
By Jennifer Whipple
9/14/2016 8:31:00 AM  

When the leaves start to fall and temperatures drop, it’s the perfect time for serving healthy squash seasoned with delicious spices to warm the heart and soul.



 

Squash isn’t just about a weekend trip to the pumpkin patch for that perfect jack-o-lantern. This fruit, packed with nutrition and a combination of both sweet and savory flavors, will surprise you when you bake, steam, roast or even turn it into a favorite seasonal dessert, pumpkin pie! And that’s just one of the delicious varieties – there are many interesting types of squash to choose from besides the popular pumpkin.

 

Discover delicious winter squash

Winter squash differs from summer squash because it is harvested after the fruit has fully matured and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, it can be stored for use during the winter months.

 

Buying winter squash

Select squash that’s heavier than it looks. There’s no standard size, so you’ll have to eyeball a squash to estimate the amount you need. Choose fruit that has at least part of its stem attached, and make sure the stem appears hard, dull, solid, and dry (a missing stem means there might be mold or bacterial growth inside). Avoid squash that’s at all discolored, moist, or cracked.


 

Some squash varieties:


Acorn
. Popular for its small size, one acorn squash can be cut in half to make two heaping servings. Choose one with a deep, dark green ring. Keep in mind that the hard rind can be difficult to cut.





Butternut
. Popular for its ease of use, butternut squash is small enough to serve a family of four without leftovers. It’s known for its sweet, moist and nutty flavor. The rind is thin enough to peel. Choose one with a dull, tan rind.



 

Banana. This one is so large that grocery stores often sell it pre-cut into smaller chunks. The tasty variety is best known for its beautiful, golden-colored flesh.



 

Buttercup. A favorite winter variety, buttercup squash is sweet and creamy with an orange flesh. It tends to be dry, so take that into account when using it in recipes.

 



Delicata. One of the tastier winter squashes with a creamy pulp that tastes like sweet potatoes.

 


Turban. This squash has a colorful rind that makes a wonderful centerpiece. You can even hollow it out and use it as a decorative soup tureen!

 


Spaghetti. After cooking it, you can spoon out the flesh of spaghetti squash and pull out long yellow strands resembling spaghetti. These “noodles” can serve as a low-calorie substitute for pasta.

 


Pumpkin. Use the smaller “sugar pumpkin” for pies (the larger “jack-o-lantern” style is too watery). Canned pumpkin puree is easy to use in a recipe and makes a good substitute for fresh fruit.

 


Nutritional value

Winter squash is a good source of complex carbs (which give you energy) and fiber (which fills you up). It’s also loaded with potassium, niacin to maintain healthy skin, iron and beta carotene, which studies suggest aids in preventing both cancer and heart disease. The darker the skin, the higher the beta carotene content. One cup of cooked winter squash contains just 80 calories, is high in vitamins A and C, and a good source of vitamins B, K and folate.

 


Storing winter squash

Store squash in a cool, dry place (50° to 60° F), where it will last for several months. Once sliced, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to five days. Freeze cooked squash for up to one year.



 

Be creative!

Try stuffing squash halves with a mixture of nuts, raisins, apples and/or onions spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup or even fruit juice. Bake upright in an oven at 400° F until tender.

 


Use squash for holiday decorating! Carved, hollowed out, or left intact, squash can inspire many decorative ideas for in and around the home. Pumpkins, of course, make great Halloween décor, and all types of squash make festive – and inexpensive – tabletop centerpieces for Thanksgiving.



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Tags: Garden, Squash, Gardening, Fall, Fall Decor
Categories: Easy Gardening
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10 Ways to Make Your Vacation More Affordable
By Jennifer Whipple
8/23/2016 9:43:00 AM  

Summer’s the perfect time to take a vacation, but worrying about the expense can make it more stressful than refreshing. Here are some cost-trimming tips that will let you spend less time worrying about money and more time relaxing!


Banjees™ Touch Mesh Phone Wallet


1. Take advantage of coupons. Look online, in the newspaper, in stores and motels or to your travel provider for coupons that will save you money on food, lodging, events and attractions.

2. Be flexible with your travel times. You can sometimes save on the cost of a plane ticket by departing or arriving on a different day than you originally planned or even at a different time of day. And do sign up for rewards programs, even if you don’t travel frequently – the services are free, and you may qualify at some point.


3. Travel in groups. Plan a vacation with a few friends or family members to take advantage of group discounts. Book your airline and hotel reservations at the same time to take advantage of package deals.

4. Go light. Many airlines are now charging you to check even one bag – plan to check only one suitcase per person, and avoid using oversized bags. Better yet, travel light with carryon bags only!



5. Rent a car. Believe it or not, this can actually save you money – particularly when compared with the cost of an airport shuttle. You’ll also have the advantage of being able to carry your bags more easily, avoid the cost of a cab, and save wear and tear on your own car. Keep in mind that smaller vehicles are not only cheaper – they generally use less gas, too. Fill the tank yourself before turning in the car – the agency will charge you for a full tank of gas (at their high prices) even if it just needs to be topped off.


6. Stay in a nearby town instead of the town or city you’re visiting. Staying in a small town just a 15- or 20-minute car or train ride away could save a lot of money on hotel rates.

7. Use public transportation. Taxis may be the easiest way to get from point A to point B, but the cost can add up fast. When not using a rental car, rely on trains and buses instead – public transit is much cheaper, and often easier, too.



8. Look for discounts at your destination. Theme parks, museums and other attractions often offer discounts to senior citizens, students, auto club members and children. Make sure to bring your ID and membership cards with you to prove you qualify.

9. Skip the attractions for a day. If you’re spending several days at a vacation destination, take some time away from the attractions. Relax by the hotel swimming pool – your body will thank you for the break and you’ll have more energy for later. After all, you’re paying for it!


10. Stay close to home. Flying off to an exotic location can be exciting, but sticking close to home can be fun and interesting, too – not to mention more affordable! It will also be less of a hassle to get there.



Glare Vis'r Sun Shield

 

With a little planning, you’ll be able to travel affordably – and less stressfully. Bon voyage!

 

Note: Looking for ways to make your next trip easier? Check out our complete line of smart Travel Problem Solvers!

Have a travel cost-saving tip of your own? Share it in the comments section below.


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Tags: travel, vacations, saving money
Categories: Travel
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Mosquito Control: Take Back Your Patio!
By Jennifer Whipple
7/6/2016 11:17:00 AM  


While the bite of a mosquito comes with an annoying itch, it can also come with the risk of Zika virus and West Nile virus. That makes reducing mosquitoes (or at least keeping them from biting you) as important for your health as it is for your comfort.

Here are some tips for keeping mosquitoes from bugging you and your family here:

Prevent Them




Leaf Shifter Gutter Guard


• Eliminate places where water collects in your yard (i.e. buckets, rain barrels, tarps, patio furniture and grill covers, birdbaths, rain gutters, pet water bowls, etc.)

• Eliminate mosquito larvae in ponds, pools and birdbaths
• If you have a pond, install a fountain and stock it with fish (goldfish, guppies and other small fish are better than koi for eating mosquito larvae)
• Keep your swimming pool clean, aerated and chlorinated
• Rinse and refill birdbaths at least every other day
• Keep your lawn, shrubs and trees well trimmed – mosquitoes roost in shady, while well-trimmed landscape decreases moisture and increases wind and sun (both of which deter discourage mosquitoes)
• Encourage bats by putting a bat house in your yard, and they’ll dine on the mosquitoes and other insect pests



Bat House

    
Deter Them

• Use bug lights, LED lights and sodium lamps along a pathway or patio, and around doors and windows so you don’t attract mosquitoes. What are bug lights? They have yellow bulbs, but also LED lights and sodium lamps can be considered bug lights because they don’t attract mosquitoes the way ordinary lights do.
• Because carbon dioxide attracts mosquitoes, candles can attract them: use battery-powered or solar-powered lights instead
• Avoid floral or fruity fragrances, including those in candles and perfume
• Wear light colored clothing (and remember, the more skin you cover, the smaller the target)
• Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid, so you become a more attractive meal to them when you eat foods high in salt or potassium, or are exercising—be sure to use a repellent or cover your skin


2-in-1 Table Lamp & Mosquito Repeller


Chase Them

• Mosquitoes don't like breezes – use an outdoor fan to create one on your patio
• Place a chunk of dry ice in a bucket of water and place it at least 15 feet away from where people gather—the carbon dioxide released will draw mosquitoes away
• Fill a pie plate with water and add a few drops of lemon-scented liquid dish soap and place it away from your sitting area (mosquitoes will be attracted to the scent)
• Lemon-scented geraniums and marigolds tend to discourage mosquitoes, so plant them in pots on your deck or around the patio
• Make your own nontoxic repellents using lavender, eucalyptus, or coconut oil

Trap Them

Here are a couple of great ways to trap pesky mosquitoes and protecting your space:



DynaTrap™ Mosquito Trap



3-in-1 Lantern & Bug Zapper



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Tags: mosquitoes, bugs, bug control, insect control, pest control
Categories: Outdoor Solutions
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4th of July Facebook Quiz Answers
By Jennifer Whipple
7/2/2016 10:41:00 AM  

Tangle-Free Flag And Pole




We hope you’re having a great 4th of July weekend! Here are the answers to our Facebook quiz, along with the original questions:

 

Q. Can you name the original thirteen colonies?

A. The original thirteen colonies were:

Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia

 

Q. Which city hosted the first public 4th of July fireworks display?

A. The first public 4th of July fireworks display took place in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1805.

 

Q. When did Independence Day become a nationally recognized holiday?

A. Independence was recognized as a national holiday beginning in 1941.

 

Q. What countries besides the United States celebrate American Independence Day?

A. England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Guatemala, the Philippines and parts of Canada also recognize and celebrate America’s Independence Day.

 

Q. What patriotic poem was published on July 4, 1895?

A. The poem “America the Beautiful” was published on July 4, 1895. Written by Wellesley College professor Katharine Lee Bates, it later was set to music and become a popular patriotic song.

 

Q. The lyrics for the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” were written by Francis Scott Key. Who wrote the music?

A. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is set to the tune of an old English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven”. The composition of the music is attributed to a British composer named John Stafford Smith.

 

Q. What was the last state to be granted statehood?

A. In 1960, Hawaii was granted statehood; there have been no new states since.

 

Q. What Centennial gift arrived ten years late?

A. It was intended that the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States, be dedicated in 1876 in commemoration of America’s 100th birthday. Lack of funding slowed the project down, and the actual dedication of the statue took place on October 26, 1886.

 

Q. Which two original signers of the Declaration of Independence died on July 4th, 1826?

A. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on Independence Day in 1826.

 

Q. On July 4, 1848, President James Polk laid the cornerstone of which famous structure?

A. The cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid by President James Polk on July 4, 1848.


Have a Wonderful Independence Day!!!


Star-Spangled Cotton Table Linens


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Tags: Fun, Games, Quizzes, Trivia
Categories: Just for Fun
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Grow a Salad on Your Patio
By Jennifer Whipple
6/20/2016 9:56:00 AM  


Convinced your thumb is black instead of green? These five common veggies are so easy to grow, novice gardeners can even grow them in pots on a deck or patio! In no time at all, you’ll be enjoying enough fresh, homegrown veggies to make a respectable salad. Read on!

1. Tomatoes. Whether you’re using them for homemade sauce or fresh in a salad, nothing beats homegrown tomatoes. Large and small varieties can easily be grown in your garden or on a balcony or patio in a container. Start from seed indoors, moving them outside after risk of frost is past, or find at a nursery or garden home center. Popular varieties include Cherry, Beefsteak and Celebrity.



2. Carrots. Sow carrots seeds as soon as the frost is over, and replant every few weeks to enjoy all summer! So easy to grow, they’re ideal for beginning gardeners. They’ll do best in full sunlight and light, sandy soil: easy-to-grow varieties include Nelson, Imperator, Gold Pak, Lady Finger and Short ‘n’ Sweet.



3. Radishes. You’ll start seeing the results of your planting in as little as 4 days with radishes! So easy to grow, and their fresh, peppery flavor is a wonderful addition to salads. Sow them in early spring or fall and harvest in 4 to 5 weeks. Popular varieties include Cherry Belle, White Icicle, Scarlet Globe and Sparkler.



4. Lettuce. Lettuce can be planted any time during the growing season, but it does best during the spring and fall. Stay away from head varieties – the looseleaf or bunch varieties are easier to grow. Popular varieties include Salad Bowl, Lollo Bionda and Oakleaf.



5. Leafy greens. Even easier to grow than lettuce, leafy greens (such as kale, collards, spinach, mustard greens and chard) are even easier to grow and packed with nutrients. Like lettuce, leafy greens can be grown in a garden bed or container – they even do double duty as an attractive ornamental. Try several varieties so you can enjoy leafy greens throughout the growing season.





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Tags: easy gardening, container gardening
Categories: Easy Gardening
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