10 Tips To Prepare Your Home For Fall

Let’s face it—summertime is not the best time of the year to work on projects around the house. Not only does the sweltering heat make it miserable outside, but you’d probably rather be spending your time with your grandchildren while they’re out of school and maybe even taking a vacation (or two).

Now that fall is approaching, it’s time to turn your focus to the home maintenance checklist that may have been on your back burner this summer. Be sure your home is ready for cooler weather with this checklist.

  • Check windows and doors for gaps or cracks, and seal any leaks with weather stripping and/or caulk. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, sealing leaks around your home can save up to 10 percent on your heating and cooling bill.
  • Check your heating system to make sure it will be in tip-top shape when it’s time to turn it on. Whether your heater is gas or electric, it’s a good idea to have it checked by a professional once a year. 
  • Schedule a chimney sweep to come clean out your fireplace and chimney of any soot or creosote build-up. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, any build-up is dangerous, as it can be flammable and cause serious problems. Birds also like to nest in chimneys, so be sure it’s all clean and clear in there before you light the first logs this winter.
  • Inspect sidewalks, outdoor steps and your driveway for any cracks or hazards that may need to be repaired. Small cracks can be a DIY repair, but larger cracks may require professional repairs. 
  • Check your roof for damaged shingles, leaky vents or corroded flashing. Do this from the ground using binoculars, or call in a pro to climb on your roof and give it a thorough inspection. 
  • Replace air filters in your vents and clean plates or pads in your humidifier. 
  • Clean out gutters. Clogged gutters can cause big problems when it rains, so be sure yours are clear of debris and take some time to cover them with mesh guard to keep the leaves out this fall. 
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries. 
  • Check the indicator on the pressure gauge of your fire extinguisher to be sure it’s charged. Inspect the nozzle for any dents, scratches or corrosion, and make sure the lock pin is firmly in place. 
  • Make time for some fall cleaning and clear out any clutter that may have accumulated over the summer. Be sure the space around your heater or furnace is clear of papers and other potential flammables.

Home maintenance projects aren’t always fun, but they are necessary to be sure your home remains a safe, inviting environment for yourself and your loved ones. If you are uncomfortable performing any of these maintenance tasks on your own, call in a professional to help ensure they are done right.

Tips To Throwing A Memorable Labor Day Party

For more than 120 years, Labor Day has been celebrated as a U.S. holiday—a day to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. Although some municipalities were celebrating Labor Day as early as 1885, Congress did not declare it a legal holiday until 1894. Labor Day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Labor Day is a day to gather with family and friends. Celebrate Labor Day this year with these tips and ideas.

Potluck Dinner: Invite guests to bring a favorite side dish to share. Make things a little bit more fun by incorporating recipe-sharing into your potluck. To do this, ask guests to bring a recipe card with the recipe on it and place it on the table next to their dish. Provide blank recipe cards and pens for guests to write down recipes they’d like to take home.

Farmers Market Dinner: Prepare a dinner made with foods from your local farmers market. Not only will you have a meal full of fresh, seasonal foods, but you’ll also be supporting local farmers. Pick up some fresh blackberries and treat guests to this delicious blackberry crisp

Host an Outdoor Movie Night: All you need is a white sheet and a projector, and you can set up your own movie theater under the stars. Outdoor movies are especially fun for the kids.

Visit a Local Park: Pack a picnic for you and a friend and go for a walk or hike at a nearby park. Take in the sights and breathe in the fresh air. Do you enjoy bird watching? Don’t forget to pack your binoculars!

Take in a Baseball Game: Baseball is, after all, our nation’s favorite pastime, so why not celebrate Labor Day at the ballpark? If you are spending the day with your grandchildren, a baseball game makes a fun Labor Day celebration. Tickets to minor league games are less expensive than major league games, so going to a baseball game doesn’t have to break the bank. Food and drinks are also more affordable at minor league games, so grab an all-American hotdog and enjoy the game.

No matter how you choose to celebrate this year, be sure to take some time to reflect on the hard work it took to make our country great.

5 Tips For Late Summer Gardening

We’re in the midst of the hottest month of the year, and if you love gardening, you’re probably focused simply on keeping your plants watered in this extreme heat. But gardeners should always be looking forward to what’s next for their plants. What should you do for your plants today to ensure they thrive the coming months?

Here are some pro gardening tips to transition your plants out of summer and into fall.

Keep plants watered, but not too much. Be sure to point your water hose at the base of your plants, rather than watering all of the ground around them. Surface watering will encourage the roots to stay shallow and close to the surface rather than rooting deep below the plant. Look for signs of stress from lack of water in potted plants. Any plants grown in pots may require more frequent watering. Hanging baskets will dry out even faster than potted plants.

Trim back your plants for more growth. Pruning can be hard to do when you simply want to enjoy the fruits of your labor, but by keeping your plants pruned and trimmed, you’ll actually encourage more growth. Stalk tall flowers and remove dead flower stalks.

Clean out any dead or fallen leaves or blooms. Keep the soil around your plants clear of any dead leaves or blooms, as these can harbor disease that will quickly consume your live plants. Pick up and discard fallen fruit to prevent pests on your fruit trees. Thinning out thick, full plants to allow for more circulation can also discourage disease from spreading among your plants.

Pick your produce regularly to encourage more production. Summer squash, zucchini, basil and many other herbs, fruits and vegetables will produce more if you keep your bounty picked.

Use fertilizers high in potassium. Look for fertilizers that contain high amounts of potassium, which will encourage your plants to grow even larger fruits and vegetables. For an inexpensive and organic fertilizer, try rabbit food. It is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. Sprinkle rabbit pellets around your plants as fertilizer.

You’ve worked hard all summer to grow your garden, and with these simple tips, you can keep your garden blossoming for months to come. If you want to enjoy the beauty of your garden indoors, try gathering and tying herbs and flowers upside-down for drying. 

Scrapbooking For Beginners

Why scrapbook? Whether you’re the crafty type or not, scrapbooking has its benefits for anyone willing to give it a try. Thinking about scrapbooking but not sure where to start, or if scrapbooking is even for you?

Let’s tackle some of the most common questions (and hesitations) about scrapbooking.

Why you should start scrapbooking

It is certainly convenient to be able to store all of your photos on your phone or digital device, but let’s face it—some memories deserve more. Creating a scrapbook of your travels, hobbies and faces of the ones you love most is truly a special way to remember some of the best moments in life. Here are a few of the reasons you should start scrapbooking:

  • Scrapbooking not only creates a nice “home” for some of your favorite photos and memories, but it allows you to be more organized, which means you’ll actually be able to find those pictures next time you’re looking for them, rather than having to scroll through hundreds (or thousands!) of images on your digital device.
  • Scrapbooking allows you to express your creativity and unique taste. One of the first rules of scrapbooking is that there are no rules! They are your memories and you can make your scrapbook look however you want. No matter how “crafty” you think you are, there’s just something special about sitting down and creating something.
  • Scrapbooking is relaxing. For some, scrapbooking is an activity they enjoy with friends, while others prefer to scrapbook in solitude. However you do it, scrapbooking is a great way to release stress and simply relax.
  • Most importantly, scrapbooking encourages reflection and gratitude. When you look back over the scrapbook you’ve created, you’ll remember places, people, conversations and experiences you may have forgotten. Scrapbooking is a great way to reflect on the happy times and the moments in life that shaped you.

If you’re ready to give scrapbooking a try, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Select your photos. This can be the most time-consuming part of scrapbooking, especially if you have a lot of photos to sort through. Take some time to sift through your pictures and organize them as much as possible by date or event. Now’s also the time to toss any photos you don’t want (or need) to keep.  If the pictures you choose are on a digital device, print them at home or send them to your nearest photo center to be printed.

2. Choose your paper. If you don’t have scrapbooking paper on hand, you’ll need to pick some up at a craft store. Choose a mix of patterned papers and solid colors. You can go with one theme for your whole scrapbook, or choose different themes for the different pages or sections of your scrapbook. The solid paper you choose will work well as a mat, or frame, for each individual photo on a page. Matting your photos will help them stand out on the page.

3. Arrange your page. Play with different arrangements of photos, text or embellishments (which can also be found in the scrapbooking aisle of any craft store) on your page. As a rule of thumb, stick to two to four pictures per page.

4. Write your memories. Your scrapbook should tell a story, so take some time to journal your memories with a few sentences—or even a short paragraph or two—to include on the page. The “journal” portion of your scrapbook can be handwritten or typed. It’s simply a matter of preference.

Need some ideas or inspiration for your scrapbook? Search Pinterest for scrapbooking ideas, or take some tips from Martha Stewart.

Remember: Your scrapbook is your own, so let your creativity come to life!

Fun Ideas For Camp Care Packages

Summer camp season is in full swing! Are your grandchildren off on camp adventures, making new friends, exploring new skills and enjoying some time away from home?

While camp is something most kids look forward to, being away from home—whether for a few days or a few weeks—can cause a little homesickness for kids, whether they’ll admit it or not. Why not take some time to let your grandchildren know you’re thinking of them while they’re away at camp by sending a little care package?

First, here are a few tips before you send your grandchild a care package.

• Check with the camp admin to find out if you can purchase a care package directly through them, which camp staff will assemble and deliver to your grandchild. If so, this is a convenient option, and you’ll know that everything in the care package meets camp rules and regulations.

• If not sending a care package directly through the camp, check into any guidelines for what can and cannot be included in care packages to campers. Some camps will allow parents and grandparents to send food items while other camps have strict rules against food in cabins (you wouldn’t want your care package to attract any bears, after all!)

Care Package Ideas

If you’re sending a care package to a granddaughter, here are a few things to consider:

• A book
• A coloring book and colored pencils/crayons/markers (depending on her age)
• A new towel and washcloth
• A journal and pen
• A package of new socks
• Personal care items like lotion, chapstick, etc.
• A small puzzle or deck of cards

If you’re sending a care package to a grandson, he might enjoy some of these items:

* A small foam ball or Frisbee
• A new t-shirt
• A new pair of underwear and/or socks
• Personal care items like deodorant, toothpaste, chapstick, etc.
• A small game or deck of cards
• A book or magazine

A few other ideas that any child will enjoy:

• A new memory card for his/her digital camera (or a disposable camera)
• A water bottle
• Homemade treats (if allowed)
• A handwritten letter letting him/her know they are missed
• A new set of pajamas
• A piece of home, such as a favorite stuffed animal or a family photo

Keep in mind that whatever you send should be intended to lift the child’s spirits—for some children, a family photo, for example, may make them even more homesick. When in doubt, confer with your grandchild’s parents before shipping a care package off to camp.

7 Ways To Decorate Your Door For Summer

Need some creative ideas to decorate your front door as you await the fall and winter holiday seasons? Why not celebrate summer with some bright and cheerful door decorations?

Here are seven of our favorite ways you can decorate your door this summer:

Repurpose an old watering can into a flowerpot. Place floral foam inside the can and create an arrangement with your favorite summer blooms. If you don’t want to mess with real flowers, pick up some artificial stems at an area craft store, and they’ll stay bright and colorful all summer long!

Find a twig wreath at a craft store and add some color by hot-gluing the blooms of artificial flowers to it. Tiny, vibrant blooms will work best for this project.

Burlap wreaths are all the rage right now, and they’re easy enough to make on your own. (Click here to watch a quick tutorial video.) Once the burlap is threaded through the wreath, add some bright ribbon bows to add a little cheer to your wreath. If you aren’t feeling all that crafty, pre-made burlap wreaths are easy to find at local craft fairs and trade days.

A hand-painted wooden mason jar-shaped door hanger is sweet, summery and oh-so-southern. Decorate it how you like with a monogram or a cute summer saying, like the one on this door hanger: “Southern Living… Where the tea is sweet, our words are long, the days are warm and our faith is strong.”

Take your summer door wreath to the next level with a playful flip flop wreath. Here is a tutorial video on just how it’s done. You can pick up cheap flip flops for this project at stores like Dollar Tree, Five Below and Family Dollar.

Turn your seashell collection into a creative door decoration. Pick up a large wooden letter (in your last initial) and simply cover the letter in shells with hot glue. In the end, it should look something like this.

Is gardening your thing? How about a garden hose wreath as an ode to your green thumb? This adorable wreath is definitely unique, and pretty simple too! Here are instructions to guide you.

Whether you’re crafty or not, decorating your front door can be fun and easy, so give it a try!

 

5 quick and easy treats to serve last-minute visitors

14504304_lEvery grandparent knows the thrill of having your grandchildren stop by on short notice—or no notice at all. And every grandchild knows that visits to Grandma and Grandpa are sweet for many reasons, including the sweet treats grandma offers.

When you have little to no notice that you’re about to have company, what treats or snacks can you prepare without a headache? Here are a few favorite, delicious, quick recipes that are sure to please all visitors—grandchildren included.

Easy Blackberry Coffee Cake

You’ll need:
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ cups white sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2/3 cup margarine
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1 cup blackberries

This delicious coffee cake is ready in just 35 minutes.

For the full recipe and instructions, click here.

Butter Pecan Toffee

Combine 1 stick butter, ¾ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until brown (305º F on a candy thermometer). Arrange 20 tea biscuits side by side on a large buttered, foil-lined baking sheet; pour the sugar mixture on top and sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans. Chill until firm; break apart.

Greek Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts

You’ll need:
• 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
•  2 cups toasted walnuts
• ¾ cup honey

For the full recipe and instructions, click here.

Raspberry S’Mores

You’ll need:
• 8 graham crackers
• 32 large marshmallows, cut in half
• 2- 1 ½ ounce chocolate bars
• 1 cup fresh raspberries

For full recipe and instructions, click here.

Cinnamon and Sugar Tortilla Strips

You’ll need:
• 3 8-inch frozen flour tortillas
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Vanilla ice cream

For full recipe and instructions, click here.

Arm yourself with these simple recipes, and you’ll have a tasty treat to serve your grandkids or other guests next time they show up unannounced!

 

 

The importance of prayer for a healthy mind and body

21722010_lA majority of Americans believe prayer is an important part of daily life, according to a 2013 Pew Research Poll. Not only does prayer strengthen our faith and our relationship with God, but scientists have also begun to recognize that there are physical and psychological benefits of an active prayer life.

There are many reasons we pray, but what you may not know is that prayer:

Reduces stress and anxiety. Prayer has long been the center of scientific study. Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in the field of mind/body medicine, discovered that prayer induces the “relaxation response,” in which the body’s metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down and breathing becomes clear and steady. In fact, one National Institutes of Health study found that people who prayed daily were 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure. Stress is disease; spending time in prayer can lower your stress level, thus reducing your risk of heart-related and other illnesses.

Improves our positive outlook. Psychologically, prayer forces us to take a step back from life for a few minutes. It gives us time to gather ourselves mentally before facing a difficult situation and give those situations over to God. Prayer also allows us to spend time in gratitude for the good things in life. Researchers have found that prayer and meditation also increase levels of dopamine, which has been associated with wellbeing and joy.

Allows us to better cope with and recover from illness/surgery. Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients who held strong religious beliefs and who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than heart surgery patients who were less religious.

Another survey of 4,000 senior citizens reported in the Journal of Gerontology found that people who regularly participated in prayer or meditation coped better with illness and were more likely to live longer than those who do not.

Keeps us connected to our faith. Even many atheists admit they spend time in a state of prayer or meditation each day, but for a person of faith, prayer is one of the pillars that keep us connected to God. The act of prayer alone is a simple act of faith, as you are taking time to converse with a God you cannot see.

In addition to these benefits of an active prayer life, according to scripture, prayer strengthens the spirit, provides rest and renewal for the soul, comforts us in times of grief and imparts wisdom, insight and inspiration.

Prayer is the foundation of a life lived with joy and peace of mind. Scripture instructs us to pray, but science has also revealed benefits of prayer. Living a life of prayer does not require carving out hours of your day to pray, though at times life’s circumstances may call for that. Rather, keep a prayerful mindset and hold a continual conversation with the Lord about whatever is on your mind and you will reap the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of prayer.

3 steps for getting started on Facebook

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Do you want a simple way to stay up to date with family and friends? Would you like to be able to check in on your grandchildren, read the news or even connect with others who share similar interests?

Social networking is an online tool that allows users to do all of these things and so much more. Facebook is the largest and most popular social networking—or social media—platform, with more than a billion users worldwide. Individuals use Facebook to connect with friends and loved ones, and businesses use the platform to engage their customers.

Here are some simple steps to help you get started with Facebook.

Step 1: Set Up Your Profile

First, you’ll need to register for a Facebook account. Go to www.facebook.com to get started. Once you have entered your basic information (name, email address and password), click “sign up.” You will be sent a confirmation email. Open the email and click the link inside the email to verify that you are trying to set up an account.

Next, enter your profile information. Your profile is your personal page on Facebook. Enter your basic information and any background information you’d like to share with others, including contact info, birthday, education and career information. Leave any field blank if you do not wish to share that information on your profile.

Upload a profile picture by clicking “upload profile picture.” Browse your computer and select the image you’d like to use. Upload a cover photo by clicking “upload cover photo.” Select a photo from your computer that you would like to use, and position it to fit in the cover photo box at the top of your profile.

Step 2: Find Your Friends

Using the search bar at the top of the page, search for your friends by entering their name or email address in the search bar. Be sure your friends can find you on Facebook by using your real name. Completing your profile information will also make it easier for friends to find you.

Once you locate your friends, click “Send Friend Request.” This request must be accepted by the other person before you will be able to interact with him or her on Facebook.

Step 3: Post and Share

Sharing on Facebook is known as posting a “Status Update.” You may do this from your own profile (known as your Timeline), or from your “News Feed” page, which is essentially your home page. When posting an update, you may also tag friends, choose a date for the story you’re sharing, add photos, videos and your location at the time of the post.

To share photos or videos on Facebook, click “Add Photos/Videos” at the top of your News Feed. Select from one of the following options: upload photos or video from your computer; add synced photos from your phone or tablet (you must have photo syncing on your device turned on); or create photo album. Next, choose the photos you want to add. Once you’ve uploaded photos or video, you may tag friends, write a caption for the photo and add a location to the photo. When ready, click “Post” to publish your photos and videos.

For more on how to post and share on Facebook, click here.

Facebook is a fun and relatively simple way to stay in touch with family and friends. If you have any trouble using Facebook, don’t hesitate to ask a friend—or even your grandchild—for help! You may also find more help at www.facebook.com/help.

How to start a stamp collection

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Stamp collecting is a popular hobby with people around the globe. The hobby got its start not long after the first stamps were issued. By the 1860s, stamp collecting as a hobby had quickly spread around the world. In 2013, the Wall Street Journal estimated that about 60 million people worldwide collect stamps.

If you’re looking for a new hobby, stamp collecting is inexpensive to start and can be great for those interested in learning about global history. If you’re considering starting a stamp collection, we’ve got a few tips to get you off on the right foot.

  1. Choose what kind of stamps to collect. This is entirely up to you and what you want your collection to look like, but many people collect stamps based on location or topic/category. For example, you may want to collect stamps from around the world or from a specific country. Or, you may choose to collect stamps based on topic, such as religion, animals or patriotism. To further narrow the types of stamps you collect, you might collect only mint (unused) or used stamps, or collect stamps based on shape or color. Sort and organize your stamps based on the type of collection you are putting together.
  2. Gather your tools. While no tools are absolutely necessary for stamp collecting, there are many that can help you handle, protect, identify and organize your stamps. Some common tools used by stamp collectors include: stamp tongs with which to handle stamps; a magnifying glass to identify text and marks on stamps; an album or book to store stamps; a stamp catalog to help identify stamps; and watermark fluid and a tray to help identify security patterns on stamps.
  3. Know where to get stamps. There are many sources from which you can find stamps for your collection. If you are collecting used stamps, your daily mail may serve as a source for your collection. You can also get stamps from the local post office, family and friends, local stamp clubs and even stamp shows.
  4. Learn to soak stamps. If you collect used stamps that are affixed to an envelope, soaking stamps is a skill you’ll need to learn to get the stamp off the envelope. First, cut out the corner of the envelope with the stamp and place it in a few inches of lukewarm water. After a few minutes, the stamp will begin to separate from the envelope paper. Once separated, place the stamp between two paper towels with a book on top to prevent curling and allow the stamp to dry overnight.
  5. Learn to identify stamps. Knowing how to identify stamps is especially important if you are collecting stamps from other countries. If you do not recognize the text on a stamp, it may be difficult to know the origination of that particular stamp. A Stamp Identifier lists various texts that appear on stamps and which country that text signifies. You can access the Worldwide Stamp Identifier here.

As with any hobby, stamp collecting should be about what you find most interesting and enjoyable. Your collection will be as unique as you are, so use these tips to get started, but keep in mind that there are no rules to stamp collecting.