Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Harvesting and Storing Herbs

I am not going to pretend to know the proper technique for every herb out there - there are far too many! But, over the years I have gathered many harvest and storage tips that have worked for me and many other gardeners.

My first tip is to be brave! So many people that write me are afraid to cut back their herb plants. Herbs are very tough with the right conditions. It's often what you least expect that hurts them-such as overwatering, too much fertilizer or too rich of a soil. Many herbs, such as lemon balm, mint, chives, sage and oregano maybe cut within two or three inches of the ground and will grow back within no time for another harvest! If you are in doubt, you can cut back by half to be cautious.

Gather your herbs, using sharp kitchen or gardening shears, in the morning after the dew has dried. You will also catch the peak flavor if you harvest just BEFORE flowering, but don't let this deter you from harvesting if you have missed that time frame. You can dry the flowers for wreaths and dried arrangements and use the leaves for cooking. If you live in a zone that freezes be sure to allow your herbs a month and 1/2 or so before frost to grow after you harvest and before the first frost.

For more on freezing, drying and storing your herbs go to

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cut Your Future Holiday Bills in Half

Most of us have a certain number of holidays that we celebrate each and every year. That means quite a number of extra "gifts" will need to be purchased for family and friends.

Here's how you can get the best bargains on holiday merchandise, and how you can save quite a bit off your "gift" bills.

Here's What Happens

Every single year, about a month and a half prior to any "major" (popular) holiday, most retail and department stores offer holiday related merchandise. For example, you'll probably find:

Halloween Costumes - October
Santa related decorations - December
Autumn and turkey decor - November
Hearts/Candy assortments - February

As each holiday approaches, the majority of the general public rush to buy these high priced "holiday" gifts a few weeks or days before the celebration. Stores expect this. They love the holidays.


Simple. Hundreds and thousands of eager shoppers will come through their door and spend, spend, spend.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Cardboard Tube Scarecrow

This fun recycled craft made from a paper towel roll and scrap fabrics and felts is an adorable project for Fall. Gather the kids around, pull out the craft supplies and get cracking on your own scarecrows!

You will need

cardboard tube from paper towel or wrapping paper
straw doll hat
felt: tan, peach or cream, light blue, orange, and brown
3 buttons
2 pink sequins
2 small wiggle eyes
2" piece of skinny black chenille
1" foam flower
1/2" brown pom pom
white craft glue or hot glue gun

Editor's Note: We used hot glue as it adheres so much quicker than white craft glue. However, if you are making this project with small children, you may want to use white glue or even a glue stick. You may also do the gluing for them if using the hot glue gun.

To get the instructions and a printable version, visit the Cardboard Tube Scarecrow craft on

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting Organized for Halloween: 10 Spooktacular Tips

Ghosts, witches, goblins and black cats... yes, it's Halloween once again. Here are 10 tips to ensure this holiday is a fun one for your and your family.

Make a checklist of everything you'd like to do for Halloween--such as making/getting costumes, having a party, attending a festival, carving a pumpkin, getting some scary books or videos at the library and taking the kids trick-or-treating, safety precautions, and baking pumpkin pie.

It's time to pull out your tried-and-true Halloween decorations from year's past. If they're not in one organized place this year, be sure you put them all in one organized place for next year when you're done with them.

Using the Web and your local newspapers, find out what Halloween festivities are happening in your area. Schedule some outings for your family and enjoy the season. Apple picking, pumpkin picking and hay rides are popular this time of the year.

Search through your TV listing and make a schedule of all Halloween programs and cartoons you wish to watch. If the family can't be together when a particular program is airing, video tape it and watch it together later on.

To see the rest of these tips, visit Getting Organized for Halloween: 10 Spooktacular Tips on

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fall Crafts: Plastic Cup Crow

So many scarecrow crafts, but what about the crows? As autumn rolls in and farmers work on their harvest, the crows will be looking for free goodies. Make this cute little crow to celebrate fall!

Plastic Cup Crow

What you need

2 small plastic cups (bathroom size)
2 cotton balls
2 medium wiggle eyes
1 red button
scrap of orange craft foam
scrap of orange construction paper
Acrylic craft paint: black and goldenrod
white craft glue

Go to for instructions and a printable version of this Plastic Cup Crow craft!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fall Fun for Kids

Looking to make some sweet fall memories with your little ones? Here are some great ideas to get your family laughing, smiling and enjoying each other's company during these crisp autumn days.

Hit the trail. Kids love to be outside. The out-of-doors is a huge playground and children are naturally attracted to it. Exploring some of the hiking trails in and around your community is a great way to spend time together.

While you're walking...

Collect leaves. Take them home and arrange them on a piece of poster board measuring approximately 17 inches by 12 inches. Smooth a piece of clear contact paper over the poster board on both sides, laminating the board and leaves. Now you have a special placemat to use for the remainder of the season.

Contact your local library to ask where you can find a guidebook on local flora and fauna. Take it on your hike and try to identify as many different trees, plants, and critters as possible.

To see the rest of this article, visit Fall Fun for Kids on

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clay Pot Scarecrow

Clay pots are probably one of the most versatile mediums for crafts. This adorable little scarecrow proves that statement without a doubt! This is an absolutely charming Fall craft that looks great in your kitchen, dining room, or even on the porch!

You will need:

3 1/2" clay pot
Acrylic paint: White, Brite Red, Liberty Blue, Midnight Blue
Brushes: #8 flat and #2 long liner
Strip of thin denim fabric: 9 1/2" x 2"
Strip of red checked fabric: 7 1/2" x 2"
1" button
Jute twine: about 3 yards
Raffia: about 100 pieces, 2" long
Polyfil: fist size piece
Ultimate Craft marker: Black, fine
Pink chalk, rouge, or lipstick to rosy cheeks
Glue gun and glue sticks
Osnaberg fabric (or use muslin) - 10" circle, cut with pinking shears if possible

Use any size clay pot and adjust accordingly!

Click here to print the pattern. Resize on your printer to fit your project.

Visit to get the instructions and a printable version of this craft.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Caramel Apple

This craft is quick and easy. Elementary aged children will enjoy this project, with a little help from a grown up!

You will need

Artificial apple
Craft stick
Acrylic paint: Honey Brown
Glue Pot with glue sticks
Gloss finishing spray

What you do

Spray the apple lightly with gloss finishing spray to give it a shiny finish.

Insert a craft stick in the apple. Dip into a hot pot of melted glue. Quickly tip it upside down and let the glue run down the sides a bit. Not too much.

Let the glue cool and harden completely. Paint the glue area with the Honey Brown acrylic paint.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pumpkin Cake Balls

Dressed in bright orange and green, these little pumpkins will look charming decorating a party table. Add an icing face to them and they'll turn into jack o' lanterns, making them a irresistible favors for your Halloween party guests.

What You Need

1 box white cake mix
2 container vanilla frosting
1 package of orange candy melts
1 package of green candy melts
black paste food coloring
mini pretzel sticks

To get the instructions visit Pumpkin Cake Balls on

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dress Your Child For Less

Summer is winding down and school will be starting in a couple of weeks. Our children have outgrown most of their fall and winter clothes and sometimes they can look too worn. Trying on old clothes is a hassle, especially if you have younger children and buying a new wardrobe each year can hurt the wallet. Try these helpful tips on for size.

1. Find the Forgotten - As the need for warmer clothes arrives, try on the least worn clothing items first. You know the ones. They are the forgotten at the back of the drawer or closet. Dig these out to wear first. They will probably be the best looking ones. Put them in the dryer for a few minutes to get the dust off and wrinkles out. As you put these clothes on, look for little things that could easily be fixed like loose buttons or dangly strings. Check the hems for any unraveling. Ask yourself if you can get a few more wears out of the clothing.

2. Spuce Them Up - Do some of their jeans look a little shabby? Spruce them up by adding cute iron on patches to any worn spots. Your local fabric or craft store will have an abundant supply or various patches that children adore from dinosaurs and airplanes for boys to ladybugs and sparkly flowers for girls. My favorite is adding cute butterflies to the back pockets or making a scene down one pant leg with bugs, ants and caterpillars.

3. Lengthen Them - Are the jeans not quite long enough but otherwise in good condition? Add on fabric at the bottom to make it flare or my favorite, add a vintage looking fabric at the bottom to give it a whole new look.

4. Do some of the shirts have stains? Don't worry! The layered look is in style. Another fabulous solution is to dye the shirt to the color of the stain. You will have a new shirt for just pennies! If you don't want to fuss with messy dyes, give your child an iron on the he can design himself with crayons or markers and iron it on for him. Children love to wear clothing they "design" themselves.

5. Swap Clothes - Make sure the items you receive will not be wanted back. This keeps bad feelings at bay if an article of clothing gets ruined from rough play or stained. Organize a "swap". Meet in a centralized location with several families and friends. Keep clothing separated by family and let the swapping begin!

6. Consignment! Consignment! Consignment! Do I really need to say anymore? Consignment stores are a great place to find gently used clothing for cheap and makes this a very frugal option.

7. Sell Them - Consign your own gently used items that can no longer be worn! Check with your local consignment store for requirements and rules. I have found the best ones are the ones that give you 60% of the profit! Beware of the consignment stores that pay you upfront. Look for the consignment stores that pay you as your clothes sell. You get more money for your clothing if you ride out the season.

8. Budget it Right - Try to use only the money you make from consigning to buy new clothes. If you use this as your budget guide you won't spend unnecessarily on items not really needed.

9. Shop for school clothes on tax free days. What you can buy on these days varies from state to state so check with your city's Chamber of Commerce to find out the regulations.

10. Shop Bargain Stores - I have found many name brand clothes with minute problems like an upside down tag, that can't be sold in retail stores for little cost. Shop here for great prices. However, keep your eyes open for stitching problems that can cause the fabric to unravel. This may not be worth buying.

More You Might Like:
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Teaching Your Child the ABC's of Money
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to School Allowance Advice for Parents

What do good schools and well thought out allowances have in common? Both teach your child a vitally important life skill: reflective thinking. Kids are naturally impulsive. Learning how to reflect before making a decision - learning to think in terms of choices, alternatives and consequences -- is a great life skill for kids to learn. Stanley Greenspan, M.D., one of the country's leading child psychiatrists, says that children who develop the ability to think in terms of choices and consequences are likely to grow into teenagers and adults who "can solve problems and assess and evaluate their own impulses and desires." Teens and adults who never develop this skill are "limited to their immediate and often impulsive reactions to events."

What do we mean by a "well thought out allowance?" It's been our experience that many parents simply haven't a clue when it comes to their kid's allowance. They don't know when to start, how much to give or what the purpose of the allowance is in the first place.

Since back to school time is rapidly approaching, here are answers to the four most common questions we get from parents about allowances.

Q: When do you start giving your kids an allowance?

A: There's no magic age. Start an allowance when your child becomes interested in money and using it to buy things. This is usually about age six. But if there are older children in the house already getting an allowance, don't be surprised if your five year old asks for an allowance. For your child's first allowance, look at the piggy bank recognized as a Parent's Choice Award Winner that has four transparent chambers and four slots, labeled Save, Spend, Invest and Donate.

See more of this article on