Christmas is so close you can practically smell the turkey. Fortunately, there are only a few details left to sort out. Here’s your final check¬list.
• Ask guests how they plan to get home or make arrangements for them to stay over.
• Buy fresh produce and any other last-minute items you need for your holiday feast.
• Shovel your driveway and walkways and sprinkle the surfaces with de-icing salt.
• Tidy up the house, and stock bathrooms with toilet paper and fresh hand towels.
• Clear a space in your front entrance for guests to leave their boots and coats.
And to get you in the holiday spirit…
Remember to pause and enjoy quality time with loved ones. This week, consider going for an evening stroll to admire the lights or spending the afternoon baking cookies.
Keep kids reading with these summer challenges
School’s out, but that doesn’t mean a break from learning. Books are the perfect screen-free activity when it’s rainy or too hot to play outside, and with a few incentives, kids will keep their brains busy all summer long.
Mega-bookseller Barnes & Noble offers extensive summer reading lists for all ages and preferences on their website and offers a free book incentive for kids who finish enough books and fill out a reading journal. Visit https://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/our-stores-communities/summer-reading-program/ for more information.
Scholastic’s Summer Reading program provides books, kid-friendly activities, and monitored online spaces so kids can safely connect with other readers. Visit https://www.scholastic.com/site/summer-reading.html for more information.
Showcase Cinemas’ Bookworm Wednesdays program lets kids earn free admission to a select children’s movie in exchange for book reports about their summer reading picks. With free admission for any accompanying parents or guardians and children under six, you can make it a family event.
Your local public library is also an excellent place to connect your favorite kid with a summer reading challenge or just give them a steady supply of free, age-appropriate books.
How much mulch?
Organic mulch is a powerful tool for gardeners. However, it’s not always easy to calculate how much you need to cover your flower beds. Here’s what you need to know.
Why you should use mulch
Mulch is a layer of organic material that covers the soil around trees, shrubs, and flowers. Whether it’s made of cedar, cocoa shells, hemlock or bark, it’s an essential element for beautiful, healthy flowerbeds. Mulch helps:
• Slow down weed germination
• Keep the soil cool
• Preserve soil moisture
• Reduce the number of insects and diseases
• Enrich the soil through decomposing
How much mulch do you need?
Most greenhouses and big-box stores sell mulch in two cubic feet bags. Moreover, horticulturists agree you should lay down at least three inches of mulch.
One cubic foot of mulch covers about four square feet of space to a thickness of three inches. Therefore, a standard bag would cover about eight-square feet of space. To calculate the total square feet to cover, divide it by eight to get the number of bags to buy.
For example, for a garden bed measuring 20 feet by six feet, the calculation would be 20’ x 6’ = 120 square feet to cover; 120 square feet ÷ 8 square feet = 15 bags.
Some nurseries carry mulch in bulk or sell it by the square yard, equivalent to 27 cubic feet. You would probably need about one square yard for an average-sized project: 27 cubic feet ÷ two cubic feet (one bag) = 14 bags; 14 bags x 8 square feet = 112 square feet covered.
Why use a rain gauge in the garden?
A rain gauge is a practical instrument that measures rainfall.
Using a rain gauge can help you adapt your watering schedule to avoid over or underwatering your plants. However, to make good use of the data you collect, you must first know how much water each type of plant requires.
You can use a rain gauge to compare the amount of rainfall from year to year, which can help you plan your future crops.
Visit your local garden store to find a rain gauge that will serve you well for years to come.
4 ways to create shade in your yard
Here are four ways to create a cool, shaded area in your yard to help you survive the hot, sun-drenched days of summer.
1. A canopy is an aesthetically pleasing option that provides shade and, depending on the model, can protect from UV rays. Remember to choose a triangular or rectangular canopy that’s light in color to avoid attracting more heat.
2. An umbrella is ideal for creating a shaded area exactly where you want it. Depending on where the sun shines during the day, you can move it around or adjust the angle. Moreover, choose a large enough model that has a stand to meet your needs.
3. A pergola is made of wooden slats or lattice and can be fixed or mobile. It has the advantage of being more durable than a canopy or umbrella. Additionally, you can install curtains or arrange climbing plants for more privacy.
4. Trees add coolness to your yard and are an excellent long-term solution. You can use a temporary shade source until the trees grow to sufficient size.
Contact a landscaping specialist to find the best option for your situation.
7 essential kitchen accessories for making your own pasta
Do you want to try making homemade pasta? Whether you’re making classic spaghetti and linguine or more creative pasta varieties, here are seven essential kitchen accessories.
1. Rolling pin. A wooden rolling pin will help you flatten your dough before passing it through a shaping machine.
2. Pasta machine. This gadget has rollers that can be hand-cranked or attached to an electric stand mixer. It allows you to get your pasta dough to the perfect thickness. It can also cut your pasta sheets into different noodle shapes like fettuccine and spaghetti.
3. Molds. It’s a good idea to invest in a few pasta molds or stamps so you can quickly make dishes like ravioli and tortellini.
4. Pasta wheel. This small cutting tool may come with a straight edge or a variety of fluted edges. Depending on the blade, you can make pasta in various shapes like mafaldine and pappardelle or create your own.
5. Colander. It’s important to drain your pasta properly using a colander. Look for a model with small holes, so your spaghettini doesn’t fall through.
6. Spaghetti spoon. This kitchen utensil allows you to pick up cooked pasta with ease. The forked edges prevent the noodles from slipping.
7. Drying rack. You can use this tool to spread your fresh noodles, allowing them to dry quickly and evenly without sticking together.
Visit your local kitchen-gadget store to stock up on useful pasta-making accessories.
How to grow a nut tree
Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only things you can grow at home. For example, you can grow one or more protein-packed nut trees in your yard.
Type of tree
There are several things to consider to help you determine which type of nut tree to grow in your yard. The first is the tree’s hardiness. In other words, how well it acclimatizes to the weather in your area. The tree’s hardiness depends on where its seeds were grown and indicates whether it will thrive on your land.
The next consideration is the species of tree. For instance, your yard must have the right type of soil for the tree to thrive. Moreover, some trees remain relatively small, while others can reach tens of feet in height and width. Therefore, look for a variety that’s a suitable size for your location.
You can maximize your chances of producing a good crop by ensuring your tree is located near pollinators like bees. You can harvest the nuts in early autumn by collecting those that have fallen to the ground and drying them out before storing them.
Visit your local nursery or garden center to purchase your nut tree.