8 Delicious Vegetables for Fall Gardening

cabbage garden

As the summer months draw to a close and temperatures start to decline, out natural tendency is to spend more time indoors and less out in the garden. However, this means that we are limiting ourselves from growing some delicious fall crops in our very own backyards! This fall, make the effort to stay outdoors a little longer and cultivate your very own garden of fresh salad ingredients.

There are some wonderful greens and root vegetables that grow happily in the cooler months and even taste better when they come to maturity in colder temperatures. Most fall vegetables are nutrient-dense, which is exactly what your body craves when the cooler months arrive.

The first thing you need to do when fall planting is have a general idea of when your first frost will be, then you can count backwards from there to determine when to plant. Below are some of the best vegetables you can plant for delicious fall eating.


1. Pumpkin

pumpkin

When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 75 to 120 days after planting
Soil type: Any

Pumpkins might be the quintessential fall vegetable. Not only are they a staple of any fall holiday meal, but they are also a significant element of Halloween decor. They do take a lot of effort to grow, though, as they require a whopping 75 to 120 days to mature. Pumpkins thrive off lots of water, lots of space, and a healthy amount of high-nitrogen fertilizer. Pumpkin is packed with Vitamins A, C, E and B-6, stuffed with carotenes, and rich in minerals including calcium and potassium.

Not just for pumpkin pie and jack-o-lanterns, this plant makes delicious soups and can also be baked or steamed. Pumpkin seeds are dense with fiber and iron and some cultures will even eat the greens. There are dozens of varieties with adorable monikers like Cinderella, Baby Bear, Fairytale, and Aladdin, just to name a few. Choose your pumpkin based on what you are going to be using it for–some are better for carving, others are perfect for the fall tradition of baking a casserole or stew in individual little pumpkin bowls.


2. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 90 days after planting
Soil type: Any; Neutral

Healthy and versatile, Brussels sprouts are cropping up in menus across the country with unique and tasty preparations that have made them one of the most popular vegetables on the market. Halved and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper they are a delicious side dish, or sliced thin and tossed with walnuts, pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice make for an amazing salad.

Brussels sprouts don’t hit peak growth until the weather starts to cool off, so don’t panic if your plants appear dormant. They’ll take off once the weather cools. They need to be planted in full sun but can withstand temperatures down to 20°. Brussels sprouts take 90 days to reach maturity.


3. Cabbage

cabbage

When to plant: Summer (indoors), transplant to outdoors once temperature cools
When to harvest: 70 to 100 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Napa, savoy, bok choy, green and red–there are dozens of varieties of cabbages, most of which are ideal for fall gardening and all of which are delicious given the right preparation. With a little bit of extra care, you can maintain your cabbages well into the winter.

Cabbages dislike hot weather and sun, so if you hit a sudden hot spell, be sure to protect them, and keep your soil moist and cool with compost or bark. Most cabbages mature in about 70 days, although some take as many as 100. With this many varieties of cabbage, it would be wise for you to do your research or check your seed packet for more specific estimates.


4. Broccoli

broccoli

When to plant: Mid to late summer
When to harvest: 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral to slightly acidic

Nothing beats the taste of fresh, home-grown broccoli from your garden. This versatile health food can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, or pureed into soups. Their dense heads soak up flavor and are especially good in a stir-fry.

It takes about 70 days for broccoli to reach maturity, and it’s important to harvest them before the buds start to flower or else they’ll turn bitter. After harvesting the large head, broccoli will continue to produce smaller offshoots, giving you delicious flavor throughout the fall months. Interestingly enough, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. Use mulch to suffocate weeds and keep temperatures down around the shallow roots.


5. Beets

beet

When to plant: Beginning to mid summer
When to harvest: 50 to 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Beets are known for their distinctive purple-red color but also come in golden yellow and pink varieties. Try them with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar for a wonderful combination of flavors. The dense flesh also holds up well to canning, freezing or pickling. These qualities make beets a sturdy plant to work with, which is great for beginners.

Beet greens have a higher nutrition value than the bulb and are delicious in a salad or cooked like kale and chard. They prefer neutral soil but need a high phosphorous level to germinate. Beets can tolerate temperatures as low as 30° F and mature in 50 to 70 days, depending on the variety.


6. Kale

When to plant: Early to mid summer
When to harvest: 60 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral to slightly Alkaline

Kale is yet another vegetable that has developed a cult following over the last few years, and with good reason. Kale is a wonderful leafy green that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s perfect for marinated salads, where its firm structure stands up to the marinade without wilting, and it’s delicious stirred into soups in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Kale also works well in smoothies and can even be misted with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and baked until crispy for a delicious and healthy snack.

Kale reaches maturity in about 60 days, and requires neutral or slightly Alkaline soil.


7. Spinach

spinach

When to plant: Late summer to early fall
When to harvest: 45 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral

Spinach, which is known for being high in iron, is easy to cook and is also delicious raw. It is higher in nutrition than most garden greens, rich in Vitamins A, B and C and high in iron and calcium.

Spinach takes about 45 days to reach maturity, but large leaves can be bitter, so pinch off tender young leaves as soon as they ready, letting the inner leaves continue to mature. Be sure to plant your spinach seeds when your soil temperature is below 70° or they won’t germinate. Spinach can overwinter for a delightful spring crop.


8. Radishes

Radishes

When to plant: Early to mid fall
When to harvest: 25 to 50 days after planting
Soil type: Any; lots of moisture

Last but not least, consider planting a radish crop. Radishes are ready to be harvested in only 25 to 50 days.

Radishes come in several varieties and add a distinctive, peppery zing to salads. If you’ve only eaten spicy, woody radishes, growing your own will allow you to harvest them early when they are still fresh, crisp and peppery. They need plenty of moisture in well-drained soil, but are extremely tolerant to different types of soil.


Whatever you choose to grow, fall gardening is a delicious and fun way to enjoy the bounty of your hard work through the autumn months. Be sure to start your planning now in order to allow your plants enough time to grow to be enjoyed this fall.

8 Tips for Planning the Perfect Garden

Perfect Garden Planning

Whether you have just bought your first home or are excited to spend your retirement developing a green thumb, designing a garden can be an exciting but intimidating prospect. If you’re looking to infuse new life into your existing landscaping, you’ll have to decide what elements you want to alter and replace and how to plan around those that you wish to keep. If you’re starting with a clean slate, you are blessed with the freedom to do almost anything. However, that blank space can leave you paralyzed with indecision and fear of getting it wrong. These 8 tips can help you create the perfect efficient garden you didn’t even know you were dreaming of.

1. Consider Your Space

The first thing you must do is understand the potential of the land you are working with. Take a look at the area your garden will occupy. Using grid paper or a drafting program, you can create a blueprint of the space. Make copies so you can sketch in several different ideas.

When deciding what features you want to include in your perfect garden, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much space do you have to work with?
  • Are there existing features you’d like to highlight, downplay or remove altogether?
  • How will the layout influence your design?

Consider the elevation at various points–it will influence how the landscape looks, but also which plants will thrive, as some need more or less drainage and shade. Think about the view from your windows, both upstairs and down, and from your porch and other locations where you might sit and view the garden. Choose eye-catching trees, bushes or flowers for the most visible locations, then build around those anchor pieces.

2. Understand Your Climate

Do your research or visit your local garden center to learn which plants thrive in your climate, which ones will require some work, and which ones will simply not survive. If you already have certain species in mind, ask about their hardiness rating and how much sunshine and moisture they require. If you are open to suggestions, the staff can make recommendations specific to your area.

While careful watering and strategic covering can enable some selections to survive in warmer or cooler weather than they would normally be able to, this might be more work than you are willing to do. It’s best to know as much as you can about your climate zone, especially if you are new to gardening.

3. Utility

strawberry garden

It is important that you have an idea of the purpose your garden will serve. Will you grow fruits and vegetables for your family’s consumption? If so, you might consider raised beds or square-foot gardening. Are you hoping to create a beautiful backdrop for summer barbecues and family get-togethers? Incorporate insect repelling plants for beautiful, all-natural pest control. Do you have pets or animals that will live or play in the yard, and if so, how do you incorporate their needs into the plan? Some vegetables and flowers are poisonous to dogs or cats, while others can contaminate the flavor of free-range eggs. You may also need to protect your yard from your pets, so consider a fence or especially hardy flora. Do you want a lot of grassy space for playing or laying in the sunshine, or do you prefer a lot of vegetation? These questions will help you narrow your focus as you plan.

4. Choose a Theme

Think about scenery that you really love, and identify why it appealed to you so much. Try to figure out how you can incorporate those elements into your own landscaping.

For example, if you’ve always loved the clean lines of an English garden, aim for symmetry, strong geometry and monochromatic florals. If you prefer a cottage garden, fill your beds with fragrant, old-fashioned blooms and a quaint touch like a picket fence, bird bath or wind chimes. For a tropical look find bold, leafy plants with bright colors, dynamic water features and hand-crafted décor.

By focusing on a theme you ensure that the elements of your garden come together in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

5. Size Matters

When designing a garden, consider incorporating a variety of different sized elements to create a more interesting design. For example, if you want to have decorative stones in your yard, pick a couple large stones, mostly medium sized ones, and a few smaller ones. You can also do this with trees, flowers, and decorative grasses. Keep in mind that smaller features should be places in front of the taller pieces.

Think about variety in the height and circumference of your plants, as well as in their shapes, colors and textures. Try to repeat certain elements at regular intervals to keep the selection from looking too haphazard, but don’t be afraid to mix things up in between.

6. Think of a House

There’s another way to think about varying the elements of your garden: think of it like a house. The floor might be grass, ground cover, pavers or planting soil. The walls include vertical elements such as fences, trellises and even the outer walls of your home. The ceiling may be purely sky, but can also include awnings, an umbrella or the branches of a tall tree. Furnish your garden with patio furniture, potted plants, a bench, an umbrella or even a whimsical garden gnome.

7. Color Outside the Lines

Rose"

The right combination of colors can create the effect of a fine painting, but a hodge-podge keeps the eye from perceiving the garden as a beautiful, unified and whole. Most flowers are easy to move if you don’t like their placement, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

If you want to play things safe, there are a few tried and true combinations that look great every time. If you like bold blooms, try a selection of bright primary colors or hot shades of pink, red, orange and yellow. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel look great together–think orange and blue, purple and yellow or red and green. For a more romantic look, use soothing pastels and creams instead of white.

8. Friendly Flora

Variety not only looks great in the garden, but it can help your plants thrive as well. Many plants are natural allies and placing them near one another will help your blooms thrive.

Trees, bushes and anything tall with wide leaves can provide necessary shade for smaller vegetation. Marigolds are known to repel aphids and can protect your vegetable patch from being eaten up. Clover and nasturtiums can even protect cabbage from harm. Rue protects roses and raspberries. There are many beautiful and mutually beneficial combinations that can be incorporated into your landscaping.

The most important thing to remember when designing a garden is to be creative and to trust your instincts. Choose elements that speak to you and your garden will always feel like home.

7 Ways to Prevent Weeds From Growing in Your Yard

Weeds in sidewalk

Weeds are a dreaded sight for anyone who takes pride in his or her yard. Like many people, you may feel like the only way to keep these invasive plants at bay is to invest in professional garden care. However, there are several do-it-yourself tactics for driving off or killing weeds that are easy and economical. If you’re struggling to keep your yard free of weeds, try the following measures to get those intruders under control once and for all.

1. Leave Your Soil Alone

There most likely are already weed seeds in your soil, lying dormant and waiting for the right conditions to support growth. By leaving your soil as undisturbed as possible, you can lower the likelihood that these seeds will receive enough sunlight to begin sprouting. Instead of tilling your soil with a machine, do it by hand to limit the amount of dirt that gets churned up.

Rather than planting your flowers and vegetables directly in the soil, consider planting them in an overlying layer of compost or bagged soil. This can further reduce the risk of weeds growing in.

2. Suppress Weed Growth

In addition to minimizing soil disturbances, you should proactively stop seeds from developing into pesky weeds by covering your soil with materials that block sunlight. For the best effects, you will need to create a layer that is two to four inches deep to ensure that stubborn weeds don’t poke through. The following items are all affordable, easily accessible and highly effective as mulches or sun blockers:

  • Store-bought mulch. Beneficially, any kind of mulch will hold in moisture and add nutrients to your soil.
  • Grass clippings. These clippings, which smother weeds and fertilize the soil, act as a natural and readily available mulch.
  • Newspapers. When layered with other types of mulch, newspapers ensure that sunlight and even oxygen can’t reach the soil.
  • Carpet swatches, wallpaper or shower curtains. These items help block sunlight when they are placed underneath a layer of mulch.

Many kinds of plants can make effective mulches, but one type of dried grass that you will want to avoid using is hay. Hay can contain seeds, which could leave you dealing with other unwanted plants growing in your yard.

3. Crowd Out New Growth

Another measure that can inhibit weed growth is a crowded planting design. The key is to eliminate barren or empty spots that allow weeds to take root. If you have a lawn, make sure to reseed it in areas where the grass has died.

You should also make aeration and fertilization regular yearly practices. If you grow vegetables or flowers, consider planting them in a diamond pattern, which leaves fewer gaps than conventional rows do. If you loosen the underlying soil down to a depth of 24 inches, you can plant your flowers or vegetables very close together without worrying about the roots crowding each other, since the roots will be able to grow downward.

4. Try Natural Measures

Pulled weed

If you prefer natural garden care, you’ll be glad to know that you can usually prevent weeds from growing in your yard by using a simple home remedy. Treating your soil with corn gluten meal can stop weed seeds from germinating. This treatment has the same effect on virtually any seed, though, so make sure that you only apply it once your vegetables and flowers are well-established.

If weeds have already grown into your yard, you can kill them by applying vinegar, vodka or salt. Vinegar is a natural herbicide. Vodka can be mixed with water and a little soap to act as a desiccant. Like vodka, salt dries weeds out, and it additionally stops them from taking in nutrients. It’s important to use these three treatments with caution, however. All of them can kill the plants that you are deliberately growing, and salt will render any soil that it comes into contact with unusable in the short term.

5. Apply Herbicides

The use of chemical herbicides can also help prevent weed growth. Spraying a store-bought herbicide before weeds begin sprouting can halt unwanted growth without causing any harm to established plants. Make sure to use a pre-emergent herbicide about three weeks before you normally start seeing weeds appear in your yard.

To deal with weeds that grow even with this treatment, you can make your own homemade herbicidal soap. However, make sure to use it carefully, since it can kill plants that you aren’t trying to eradicate as well as weeds. To make the soap, combine equal quantities of dish soap, vinegar and water, and then spray it directly onto the weeds.

6. Remove Them by Hand

Removing weeds by hand is an effective option if you want to avoid the use of harsh chemicals and ensure that no harm comes to your flowers or vegetables. You’ll need a trowel or small shovel so that you can dig down and access the roots. Protect your hands and limit the spread of seeds by wearing a pair of gardening gloves.

Make sure to fully remove the weeds, including the entire root system, or they will grow back later. To improve efficiency, try weeding when the soil is damp. Many people find that pulling weeds is easiest early in the morning or after a storm.

7. Heat Things Up

Heat can be a great tool for removing established weeds. One easy approach is to simply pour boiling water directly onto weeds. This should kill even the toughest plants after just a few applications. You also can invest in a weed torch, which heats the water present inside weeds to kill them. Once you get used to this approach, it can be very effective, although it isn’t safe to use on poisonous weeds. When using either method, remember to take precautions to protect yourself, such as wearing close-toed shoes and clothing that covers your limbs.

Keeping weeds out of your yard can feel like an overwhelming task, but it’s important to remember that even a small amount of regular work can go a long way. Practicing smart preventative measures and treating any weeds that do appear quickly can keep your garden looking beautiful and leave you with more time to focus on the plants that you actually want to grow.

10 Tips to Help You Stay Cool During the Summer Heat

Summer sprinkler

Staying cool in the summertime can be a real chore. Not only can the heat make you generally uncomfortable, you can also suffer heat-related illnesses if you’re not careful. These 10 tips can help you learn how to survive the summer heat while still having fun.

1. Air Conditioning

Air conditioners can be lifesavers in areas with high humidity, where fans often just can’t cut through the mugginess to provide proper cooling. To help you save on energy costs, set your thermostat to a higher setting when no one will be home. When you are home, choosing to set the thermostat just a few degrees higher than your desired temperature can have huge positive effects on your energy bill. Also remember to properly maintain your cooling system and replace filters monthly for superior performance and top cooling power.

2. Dress Appropriately and Protect Your Skin

Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing is going to help you stay cool and dry when the weather is hot. Loose clothes will help air circulate on your body to keep you cool, and clothing in light colors will reflect heat and sunlight. Cotton clothing tends to be the best choice for summer weather, as the natural fibers allow for better air flow and they help wick sweat away from the body to increase cooling.

Don’t forget to protect your head, eyes and skin. Wear a large hat that will provide shade and sunglasses to protect your eyes. Don’t forget to use lots of sunscreen for skin protection, and reapply it often!

3. Eat Right

When the weather heats up, the right food choices can help keep you cool. Colder foods, such as salads, fruits and fresh raw vegetables can all help keep your body temperature from rising after a meal, as they require little energy to metabolize. Cucumbers and watermelons, for example, are both well known for being high in water content, so snacking on them can provide heat relief as well as some much-needed hydration.

watermelon slice

On the other hand, protein-rich foods, such as meats, fish and cheese, require higher energy levels to metabolize, which can increase your body temperature as you digest them. Try to avoid these foods when you are feeling overheated.

4. Fan Yourself

Using fans, whether electric, battery powered, or hand-propelled, will all help circulate the air around you and reduce the mugginess of a hot summer’s day. Ceiling fans work well in homes without air conditioning to create a breeze and increase cooling, and smaller fans can be moved from room to room to circulate the air wherever you may be. Create a cross-breeze by positioning a fan across from a window, so that the wind outside and the fan can combine to cool you down. Small, battery-powered fans can be brought with you outdoors and can even be attached to stroller trays to keep babies cool in the heat.

5. Go Swimming

Many times the only way to cool down is to get wet. Take a dive into your pool, put your sprinklers on and run through them with your kids, or take a cool shower or bath and let your body air-dry. A small plastic kiddie pool can be the perfect place to splash and cool down, both for little ones and grown-ups alike. Swimming is a fun summer tradition that can help protect you from the dangerous heat, but be sure to always follow our pool safety tips.

6. Home Tips

If you are without air conditioning, there are other ways you can reduce the temperature of your home in the summer. Keeping your curtains closed during the day will help reduce the heat coming through your windows, and you can even invest in specialized “thermal drapes” that can reduce the amount of light and heat that come in through your windows. Light bulbs and even small electronic gadgets give off heat, so keep the lights off as much as possible and unplug your devices. Do your laundry and cleaning during the cooler times of the day if possible, as running the dishwasher and doing your laundry will also generate indoor heat.

Consider purchasing a portable air conditioner if you are without a built-in A/C system. Portable air conditioners allow you to cool individual rooms efficiently. By only cooling the rooms that you need to cool, you can save a lot of money on energy.

7. Schedule Activities Carefully

Stay out of the sun when it is at its highest and hottest points during the day, typically between 10am and 4pm. You should avoid activities in the afternoon sun as much as possible, which means that you’ll need to schedule your outdoor activities carefully so you can avoid being outside when the day will be the hottest. The morning is a great time for outdoor activities, especially for younger kids.

8. Stay Hydrated

Water glass

Drink plenty of water when the weather is hot even if you aren’t feeling thirsty, as it is essential to help your body regulate your core temperature. It is important to stay hydrated, especially if you are participating in any outdoor activities or if you are in the sun. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks, as they might increase dehydration. Alcoholic beverages should also be avoided, as they might increase your chances of falling victim to heat illness and impair your balance, coordination and judgment, leading to possible accidents and injuries.

9. Stay Inside

Take advantage of any the public libraries, aquariums, museums and other public buildings or commercial venues that are near you when the days get too hot. And since they’re always freezing, the summer is a great time to enjoy that local indoor ice-skating rink or cool movie theater. These public venues are always air-conditioned, protected from the sun and a fun way to spend the day when you just can’t handle the heat at home.

10. Try A DIY Cooler

If your home doesn’t have air conditioning and fans just aren’t cutting it, try some do-it-yourself cooling techniques to bring the temperature down in your home. You can create a small cooler by placing a bowl of ice in front of a fan, thus blowing cooled and moisturized air where you need it most. Moist towels or sheets can also be hung in front of fans for the same effect. You can also soak towels in water or even freeze them and place them directly on your head or the back of your neck for instant cooling, which can be especially useful when nights are oppressively hot and you need something to help you cool down and fall asleep.

This summer, beat the heat, don’t let the heat beat you!. By taking advantage of these tips to help you survive the heat, you can enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures without losing your cool.

5 Basics for Measuring Baking Ingredients

Baking Ingredients

When it comes to creating the perfect meal, it is imperative that you measure your ingredients correctly. Even when you’re just experimenting in the kitchen, finding the right amount of any ingredient is critical for creating a delicious end-product. There are many different options for tools to help you measure foods and spices. Here are five basic ways to measure common baking ingredients, including how to properly use tools such as cups, spoons and scales.

1. Measuring Cups

If you have a kitchen and you do any sort of cooking in it, then you probably already have a set of measuring cups on hand. There are a couple of different types of measuring cups available. Some are designed for measuring dry ingredients while others are designed specifically for measuring liquids. Dry measuring cups often come in nested sets that range in size from 1/4 cup to 1 cup. Liquid measuring cups typically come in a wider range of sizes with more precise readings. They may have notches located somewhere on the cup that indicate an amount in cups or by ounces.

An accurate measure of dry ingredients meets the rim of the dry measuring cup. You can usually take your finger and run it across the top of the cup to push off any excess ingredients. Make sure you do this away from your bowl or pot where you are combining the ingredients in order to avoid accidentally adding too much of the ingredient. Whether or not you need to pack the ingredient into the cup depends on the ingredient. Brown sugar, for example, should be packed down into the cup. Ingredients that are bulky, such as oats, coconut or shredded cheese, do not need to be packed down. Packing down these softer ingredients can damage them and ultimately create undesired results in your cooking.

Accurately measuring liquid ingredients usually just involves filling the liquid measuring cup to the indicated line. Use a clean, dry measuring cup before pouring the liquid in. If you are measuring a sticky ingredient, such as molasses, syrup or honey, you can lightly coat the measuring cup with vegetable or olive oil to help it slide out more easily.

2. Measuring Spoons

Teaspoons

Measuring spoons are another necessary tool to have stocked in your kitchen. Similar to dry measuring cups, most measuring spoons come in a nested set that ranges from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. Measuring spoons can be used for small amounts of dry or liquid ingredients.

If you can, it is useful to have two sets on hand, one for measuring dry ingredients and one for liquids.

3. Measuring Scales

Kitchen scales can be used for a wide variety of dry ingredients. If your recipe calls for an ingredient by weight, then a kitchen scale will come in handy. Kitchen scales are usually able to measure very light ingredients, which is particularly useful when measuring out portions of meat or chocolate. If you are more comfortable measuring out dry ingredients by weight rather than volume, then a scale is likely to be an asset in your kitchen.

When using the kitchen scale, be sure to zero the scale with any additional container you will be using already set on it. For example, if you are using a measuring cup to hold the ingredients that you plan on measuring on the scale, be sure that you calibrate the scale so that it does not measure the weight of the cup and the ingredients, but only the ingredients.

4. Unusual Ingredients

Some ingredients will simply not sit well in a measuring cup or spoon. At the same time, they are probably not suitable for measurement by weight. These are items that might not necessarily fall into either a liquid or dry ingredient category, or perhaps they are a chopped ingredient that sits awkwardly in a cup.

For ingredients with difficult or abnormal consistencies, such as butter, scoop it in the cup, pack it down and level it off, then add it to your ingredients. For chopped ingredients, chop them as best as you can and measure it out as directed. You do not necessarily need to level off these types of ingredients; rounding is usually just fine. For eggs, remember to crack them into a separate bowl to check for shell pieces before adding them to the rest of the ingredients.

5. Unusual Measurements

Sometimes a recipe has an unusual phrase that is not an exact measurement. If you have ever run across a pinch of this or a dash of that, you may have wondered how much it is in exact measurements. Believe it or not, a pinch and a dash are two different measurements. Here are some unusual measurements that you may come across with some of your recipes:

Dash of salt
  • Dash

    A little over 1/16 of a teaspoon for dry ingredients. If you are using a dash for liquid ingredients, use about three drops.

  • Jigger

    For dry ingredients, approximately three tablespoons. When measuring liquids, it equates to approximately 1.5 fluid ounces, or your standard shot glass.

  • Heaping

    A scoop that heaps up and over the edges of the cup or spoon. There is no need to level off ingredients that require a heaping.

  • Pinch

    An amount that you can pinch between your thumb and finger. It is about 1/16 of a teaspoon, but slightly less than a dash.

  • Scant

    This is a term that means to use slightly less than the specified measurement.

Additional Tips

Accurate measurements are important for the outcome of your recipe. The best way to learn how to accurately measure ingredients is to practice. Over time, you are more likely to become familiar with small measurements, saving you a lot of time during preparation.

You might also consider having two sets of each type of measuring device so that you have something to use with dry ingredients and something to use for liquids without having to clean and dry in between.

Keep in mind that fluid ounces measured in a liquid measuring cup and ounces measured on a kitchen scale are not the same thing. Fluid ounces measure volume while ounces are a measurement of weight. Once you have ingredient measuring down, you’ll quickly gain the confidence to create delicious meals.

9 Tips for Using a Chainsaw

Chainsaw Tips

Consumers, construction workers, and landscapers alike are realizing the benefits of owning a chainsaw. From tackling large tree-cutting jobs to home-improvement projects, there are many uses and benefits to owning this piece of equipment. Regardless of what type of home project you’re using it for, it’s important to understand how to use this powerful tool correctly and safely from the start. The following are nine helpful tips for using a chainsaw safely and effectively:

1. Read the Instructions

As with any new machinery you purchase, you should read the instruction manual completely and thoroughly to understand the specific functions, components, and modes of the product before you begin using it. While the basic operations of all chainsaws are essentially similar, there can be variations. If you’ve owned a chainsaw in the past, don’t assume that the one you’ve just purchased will operate in the exact same way. Again, reading the instruction manual that comes with the product is the only way to determine what the product can do. This should absolutely be done before using the product for the first time.

2. Take a Class

Because a chainsaw is a powerful piece of equipment–more so than most over-the-counter machinery sold today–having some initial in-person instruction as to its functions and operation can help you acclimate to the product more quickly. Many retailers offer one-on-one tutorials or even classes in properly using chainsaws when you purchase the equipment from them. It’s important to take advantage of these tutorials or classes if you can. Indeed, fully understanding how to use a chainsaw requires a bit of a learning curve–you need to get used to the nuances of holding the equipment and cutting through wood or other materials. In short, the more you correctly handle the equipment, the better you’ll get.

3. Pay Attention to Safety

Because chainsaws cut through things at a rapid speed, it is inevitable that they produce a lot of debris. As such, safety measures should be taken, including wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as goggles. Other PPE to consider, particularly if you’re using a chainsaw to cut down trees, are helmets and “chainsaw chaps”. Chainsaw chaps are made of several layers of Kevlar beneath a nylon outer shell to protect against both debris and potential accidental “kickback” from the chainsaw. Finally, ensuring that the chainsaw is not operated within close proximity to people or pets should be a standard safety measure.

4. Use a Work Station

Chainsaw

Setting up a work station goes hand in hand with tip number 3–that is, paying particular attention to safety–and is especially important when you’re working with lumber or other pre-fabricated construction materials. By giving yourself the proper radius to work, you’ll keep yourself and people around you safe from flying debris and potential accidents. A work station also provides a controlled space to put the chainsaw down safely as well as a place to hold the lumber or other materials that you’re cutting through. This step may seem simple or obvious, but it is often overlooked.

5. Know the Risks

If you’re planning on going into the woods and cutting trees with your chainsaw, knowing your surroundings and the trajectory that the tree will fall is paramount to both your safety and a successful operation. Just as setting up a work station is key to creating a safe environment for chainsaw use, so is ensuring the environmental safety of a specific situation when you’ll be using the machinery out in the woods. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there an escape route to take when the tree falls?
  • Is there a clear path for the tree to fall?
  • If the tree goes in an unintended direction, what would be the consequence?
  • Are there any other people or animals that could potentially be harmed by the falling tree?

6. Double-Check Before You Begin

Before starting up your chainsaw, make sure that everything is in working order to get the job done safely and effectively. A quick check of the controls, handles, bar, and chain sharpness and tension will help mitigate potential malfunctions. In addition, it’s important to make sure that the gas and oil reservoirs are properly filled before beginning a project. Aside from the obvious frustration of running out of oil mid-way through a job, this can also cause friction and heat that can seriously damage the chainsaw.

7. Startup and Operation

You should always start a chainsaw while it’s on a flat surface, especially if you are a first-time user of the machine. This protocol ensures the safest startup method for you and anyone around you. Know that it’s still important to consult the instruction manual, professionals, or both before trying this for yourself. Before you start your chainsaw, always make sure that the chain brake is engaged, that the choke is closed, and that the start switch is in the “on” position.

8. Proper Stance and Form

Often overlooked, a key aspect of operating a chainsaw effectively is proper body stance and form, which translates to better overall handling. For instance, no matter what you’re using a chainsaw for, it’s important to maintain good footing, to watch for tripping hazards, and to keep a good balance by not overreaching with the saw. It’s also important to employ common sense measures. For instance, know that you should never run with the chainsaw, even if it is off. Finally, when operating this piece of equipment, remember to keep your hand (including your thumb) firmly around the front handle to maximize performance.

9. Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Last, but not least, consider what you’re going to do with your chainsaw when it’s not in use. Storing the machinery safely and securely–away from curious children, for instance–not only brings peace of mind, but it’s the responsible thing to do. Keeping your chainsaw in an industrial storage locker or similar container will also protect it from dust, dirt, and other environmental conditions that could cause damage. This final tip, combined with the previous eight, will keep your chainsaw safe and operating to its fullest potential.

9 Pool Safety Tips to Keep Your Family Safe This Summer

Safe swimming

Swimming in a pool can be lots of fun for family members of all ages, but if you’re not careful, this recreational body of water can turn deadly. Between 2005 and 2010 there were more than 3,500 accidental drownings that were non-boating related. One in five of these victims were children under the age of 15, mostly in the age range of one to four years old. 80% of these individuals were male and most of them died in home swimming pools. Don’t let this happen to your loved ones. Be proactive and make your backyard a safe oasis to relax and swim. You can create a safer environment by making sure your pool is a danger-free zone and all swimmers are aware of safety rules. Here are nine pool safety tips to keep your family safe around the water:

1. Surround Your Pool With a Fence

Install a fence that’s at least four feet high around the outside of your swimming pool and spa. Some municipalities require homeowners to have fences around their pools, so be sure that you are aware of your local laws. If you are installing a new pool, check with your local planning and zoning authorities to find out the rules in your area.

Don’t think that a fence will ruin the look of your yard, though. Fences can be attractive and add to the ambiance. You can choose from many stylish options, including:

  • Wrought iron painted in a variety of colors
  • Wooden pickets for a homey look
  • Chain link in an array of hues
  • Block or brick walls

2. Have an Automatic Closer on Your Gate

Even if you have a fence, it won’t be truly safe unless you make sure the gate automatically clasps. Trying to remember to do this yourself or relying on others to close the gate can lead to trouble, so install an automatic closing device that self-latches. The gate should open outwards for optimum safety.

3. Install an Alarm System

Alarm systems are available for your backyard pool to add another layer of safekeeping. When an object that is 15 pounds or heavier breaks the surface of the water, an alarm blares, alerting homeowners and others that someone or something has entered the pool. You might also want to consider a gate alarm as well, which provides an extra layer of protection. More sophisticated alarm systems include video surveillance, which might better suit your needs. Some states require alarms to be installed for in-ground and above-ground pools, so check this out with your local municipality.

4. Keep Drains and Other Openings Covered

Accidental drowning is not the only danger involved in swimming pools. Children can become trapped by drain suction if the openings aren’t properly covered. There are horror stories of children who have died after being pulled under by such immense suction power that adults couldn’t even break them free. Make sure your grate covers are properly sized so they fit snugly.

5. Keep Chlorine and Other Pool Chemicals Locked Up

The chemicals used to keep your pool water sparking clear can be dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. Chlorine, muriatic acid, and other chemicals that are added to pool water to keep germs from spreading can be lethal if improperly handled. These chemicals can cause injuries to eyes, skin, and lungs. In 2012, nearly 5,000 individuals were treated for pool-chemical related injuries in emergency rooms in the United States. Some pool chemical safety tips include:

  • Use goggles and/or masks when handling swimming pool chemicals
  • Read directions on labels and follow directions carefully
  • Lock up chemicals to protect animals and people from accidental exposure
  • Keep children away from the area when you’re handling chemicals
  • Don’t combine chemicals; use separately and only as directed
  • Add chemicals to pool water, rather than vice versa, or you may get an unpleasant chemical reaction

6. Be Vigilant in Watching Children and Others Around the Pool

There’s a reason public pools hire lifeguards. It is not enough to casually monitor the safety of swimmers, young and old. A responsible adult should have eyes on everyone in the water at all times. This is especially true during parties or barbecues, because if no one is designated as “lifeguard” for a period of time, adults may assume someone else is watching the kids.

Life Preserver

Drownings occur during social gatherings because people are chatting and enjoying themselves and may not notice when someone has gone under the surface of the water. The drowning victim could be a baby, toddler, or even an adult. Even strong swimmers can drown if they fall, become ill, or have too much too drink. This is why it is important to schedule lifeguarding “shifts” between your guests during these social gatherings. It might not be fun, but it could save someone’s life. Vigilance is mandatory!

7. Become Certified in CPR

You and other adults in your family should learn CPR and keep your skills current. There are classes available through places such as the American Red Cross or your local fire department. In a CPR class, you will learn the steps to save children and adults and be able to practice them with classmates and instructors.

Being certified in CPR is not only useful around the pool. This skill is good for any parent to know. CPR can save a life in a number of situations–not just drowning.

8. Enroll Your Children in Swimming Lessons

One great way to ensure the safety of your kids is to teach them to swim. You can find private or public lessons at the YMCA, at public schools, through your city’s parks and recreation departments, or you can hire a certified instructor to teach lessons in your backyard pool. Some of the beginning skills children learn in early lessons include:

  • Kicking
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Playing on the steps
  • Getting their face wet
  • Riding on parent’s shoulders
  • Going underwater
  • Picking up a toy from steps or bottom of pool
  • Back float
  • Pushing off from the wall
  • Prone glide to wall or steps
  • Jumping into the water from the side of the pool

Learning the basics of swimming not only provides children with the skills to protect themselves better in the pool, but also gives them the confidence to remain calm in the face of a pool safety emergency.

9. Make Sure Everyone Knows Pool Rules

Make a list of rules for your backyard swimming pool and teach them to every swimmer who enters. Create a laminated, waterproof poster of these rules and review them with your children regularly. Some examples of ironclad rules and regulations are:

  • No one swims alone
  • No running around the pool
  • No diving off the side
  • Stay away from drain covers
  • No glass containers in fenced area
  • No food in the pool

You can keep everyone free from danger if you plan ahead. Your swimming pool can provide many happy times for your family members, friends, and neighbors if you make sure it’s safe. By being proactive and vigilant, they’ll be protected and you can rest assured that your family is safe.

14 Simple and Effective Home Cleaning Tips

We are well into spring–have you started your spring cleaning yet? Although tidying up your house is probably not as exciting of a spring activity as relaxing outdoors is, you can’t deny that a neat living space looks great and really does improve your mood. Here are some of the top tips for keeping your home clean this spring.


Appliance Care

Clean Kitchen Ice Maker

Instead of putting all of your cleaning off to do in a single day, remember that it’s easier to do small, daily maintenance tasks. By practicing this method of cleaning, you can avoid doing a major cleaning project every week or two–giving you more free time to enjoy the springtime. A good place to start is in the kitchen: try to wipe up spills and clear away stray crumbs as soon as you notice them. Also, make sure that your appliances are cleaned often: remember to wipe down your mixer, blender, ice maker or hot plate right after using to avoid stuck-on grime and streaks.

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How Effective Is a Ceiling Fan at Cooling Your Home?

Fan

Rather than depend solely on your HVAC system to keep you nice and cool during the summer, you may want to start using your ceiling fans more efficiently. While your ceiling fans can’t cool you off by themselves, they can most certainly help your fixed or portable air conditioner work more efficiently and make you at least feel cool without having to set your temperature to a lower setting. Keep reading to discover just how effective and efficient your ceiling fans are at keeping your home cool.

Ceiling Fan

The Importance of Air Circulation

Ceiling fan cooling allows you to set your thermostat four degrees higher than you normally do and still feel just as cool. If you live in an area with an especially temperate climate, you may be able to stay cool and comfortable with just your ceiling fans, allowing you to save money on energy costs. Make sure there’s a fan in every room in the house you’d like to cool, and only have fans running when someone is in the room.

Ceiling fans work most efficiently in rooms with ceilings that are at least eight feet high. The blades should be anywhere from seven to nine feet from the floor and 10 to 12 inches from the ceiling. You’ll also want to install your fans so the blades are no closer than eight inches from the ceiling and 18 inches from the walls.

To keep rooms as cool as possible, get a larger ceiling fan. Fans with a 36- to 44-inch diameter are powerful enough to cool rooms measuring up to 225-square feet. It’s best that you install at least two fans for expansive rooms that stretch more than 18 feet. You can also run a fan with larger blades slower than you can a fan with smaller blades, which is a good idea if you want to cool a room with lots of loose papers and other objects that might blow around.

How Ceiling Fans Work

The way ceiling fans are able to make you feel cooler is they move air over your skin and brush away heat from the boundary layer of your skin, which is the layer of warm air that encases you body at all times. A ceiling fan can work as much as 20 percent more efficiently if it has an Energy Star rating. While such fans may be a bit more expensive than non-rated fans, they’re well worth it in the long run.

Save on Energy

The amount of money you save on energy by using a ceiling fan depends on your climate, the size of your home, the cost of electricity in your specific area, and your basic heating and cooling costs. Some reports state you can reduce the cooling costs in a single room by as much as roughly eight percent simply by properly utilizing your ceiling fan.

The recommended temperature to keep your A/C running at is 78 degrees. This temperature will save you energy and money on cooling costs. If this is too warm for your comfort, a ceiling fan can certainly help cool you down without significantly spiking your energy bill.

Proper Rotation

If you already use your ceiling fan in the summer and think it doesn’t do you much good, your problem may be that you have the blades turning in the wrong direction. You’ll want the blades spinning counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. When spinning counterclockwise, the blades push air down, and when spinning clockwise they pull air up. To make things easier, stand beneath your fan while it’s operating. If you can feel a breeze, then the blades are spinning in the correct direction.

Shopping for the Right Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans are available in all kinds of colors, sizes, designs and prices. You can also find models with and without lights in addition to those that can be operated with a remote control. You might also prefer a model that allows you to alter to speed of the spinning blades.

Before you head out shopping for a new fan, take the measurements of the rooms you want to cool so you can get a fan that’s the perfect size. Just like choosing the right size air conditioner for your home is essential for maximum efficiency, the same is true of your ceiling fan. While you’re considering your options, bear in mind that a more expensive fan is more likely to operate quieter and not have as many mechanical problems when compared with a less expensive fan. In any case, you’ll want to check the noise ratings and possibly listen to your fan and see it in action before you buy.

Ceiling Fan Installation

While you can easily install a ceiling fan on your own, you may need the help of an experienced and trusted professional if you desire to put the fan in a room that doesn’t already have an overhead light fixture. If you want to install the fan in a room with cathedral ceilings, you’ll want to make sure you use a down rod for mounting.

Before you start the installation process, it’s important that you turn off the correct circuit at the breaker box to keep from accidentally shocking yourself. If you want to leave nothing to chance, you can flip the main breaker and cut the power to everything and every room in your home.

While you’re installing the fan according to the manufacturer’s directions, make sure the blades suspended at least seven feet from the floor. You’ll also want to take note of the fan’s position. Even if a person is six feet tall, there’s still a chance a hand can be clipped or bruised when the individual stretches or reaches up while dressing.

Otto Fan

A Fan for All Seasons

In addition to using your fan to keep cool in the summer, you can also use it to stay warmer in the winter. By changing the setting so the blades spin clockwise, you can pull air up into the ceiling to better circulate warm air and keep from having to use your HVAC system more than absolutely necessary. Some studies have found that using a fan in the winter can lower your heating costs by as much as 20 percent.

Try using ceiling and house fans this summer rather than cranking up the air conditioner. In addition to ceiling fans, there are also window fans you can use to pull hot air from your home and keep things at a more comfortable temperature.

4 Tips for Remodeling Your Empty Nest

Redecorating

Transitioning from a full and bustling house to an empty nest can be difficult. Don’t think of it as losing your children once they move out, think of it as you regaining plenty of empty space in your home that you can do anything with. If you do not feel the need to preserve your children’s rooms for their visits, why not create a fun an usable space instead?

There are plenty of remodeling options available to you, and hopefully something inspires you enough to take on the project. Here are four great ideas for how to convert your newly regained space:

Repainting

1. A Guest Suite

A lot of older homes have several bedrooms right next to each other. If your child’s room is adjacent to another spare bedroom, you might consider knocking out the wall and converting the entire space into one big guest suite. A guest suite is not only trendy, but also functional. When your kids (and maybe even grandkids) want to come for a visit they’ll have a comfortable place to stay. This is a good bridging point between redecorating the room completely and preserving the nostalgia of your kid’s bedroom.

If you’re learning toward creating a guest suite, consider a bright yet neutral color for the walls and bedding. You’ll want to choose something that’s inviting and welcoming to your guests.

Remember, this space is more than just a bedroom. You can add a sitting room or an entertainment area for the little ones. You can even add a small refrigerator and microwave, like you’d find in a hotel. It’s all up to you and your budget!

2. A Home Gym

A spare bedroom can easily be converted into an exercise room. With the right paint, equipment and decorative choices, you can create a calorie-burning room of your very own. Start by looking into and pricing exercise equipment. Test out a few options, especially if the room is only big enough for one machine.

Most people make space for a television, which serves multiple purposes. You can watch your favorite shows to distract you from your burning muscles, or you can use it to watch exercise videos. If you buy a few yoga DVDs, for example, you can rotate your routine between the exercise machine and your 30-minute yoga show. Plus, your TV stand can double as a locker. You can store your yoga mat, sneakers and towels in there.

You may want to paint the room an energetic color like a light yellow or green. Sometimes a fresh paint job can completely transform the energy of a room.

3. A Game Room

Edgestar Ultra Low Temp Full Size Stainless Steel Dual Tap Kegerator

What adult doesn’t want a little room to play? From pool tournaments to Bingo nights, you can soon host a game night at your house. Of course, you’ll need to use your space wisely. Try creating a wish list of games you’d like to play in your new space. Keep in mind that the average game table takes up an area of about 3 feet by 5 feet. Plus, some games–such as pool–require additional space for adequate play.

The game tables will likely take center stage, but you should also consider size-appropriate furniture so guests can relax during or in between play. Stools and ottomans make great, space-saving seating options.

Don’t forget a place for cold drinks. A small bar with either a kegerator or a wine refrigerator would make a nice addition to any game room. These appliances are compact enough to fit into a bedroom while not completely dominating the space.

4. A Dad Cave/Mom Cave

Tired of battling your spouse for the remote control to watch your favorite show every weekend? The spare bedroom could solve that problem. Consider converting this room into your own personal space–a private mom or dad cave. Take down your teen’s posters and change the walls to something more your style. A new coat of paint could do the trick, or you might even consider stained wall paneling. Your cave, your rules!

Traditionally, this cave-type room is converted into a sports room, equipped with a flat-screen TV, lots of seating, and a mini bar. If this is your style, go for it! Having a new place for entertainment that is 100% your style can be fun and stress-relieving.

Perhaps you’re less into sports and more into crafting. A bedroom is the perfect size to create an organized sewing and beading station. Or, perhaps you have a couple of grandchildren running around–why not cater this new craft room to their interests?

If you’re more of a book-worm, consider making this spare room into a cozy library. Finally, an organized way to store your hundreds of books! Invest in nice furniture, dark walls, and mood lighting to create the perfect reading room.

Of course, these are just a few ideas. You could remodel the room into a small library with built in bookcases; change it into a hobby room where you can spread out all sorts of odds and ends; or convert the space into a movie room complete with stadium seating and surround sound. You’ve got a lot of options, and what better time than now to turn that room into a fun space for you and your spouse.