Summer

From House to Home Last Week of July

  • To give a room a taller feeling, place matching tall plants in the corners and add a torchiere light behind a sofa or chairs for extra illumination.
  • Buy a brass knocker for your front door. Consider having it monogrammed.
  • Bring out your good china, glassware, silver and placemats, place them somewhere where they accessible so that once a month you can use them for dinner when you cook a special meal with a theme
  • Turn an ugly old tub into a nicer combination tub-shower or just a glass-enclosed shower.

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Kent Dual Drive Tandem Bike

John and I got one of these this week, and it's the most fun I've had in AGES. There is an in-depth review at Amazon; pay attention to it, because we found his experience echoed ours almost exactly. But with those (easily remedied) problems out of the way, this is a great bike, especially for the price, and riding tandem is a wonderful way for me to get out with John and not feel like I'm either going to get stranded somewhere or hold John back so much he'll get impatient. This way we can go fast and I don't hae to worry about keeping pace with John. Highly recommended.

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Quick and Cheap Summer Decorating

Summer is a time when we want our homes to be welcoming, to be functional for hosting get togethers with family and friends, and be a relaxing place to make some memories. Here are some quick, easy and cheap ways to make you summer decorating…a breeze!

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From House to Home Last Week of August

This week's tips: Start the transition from outdoor summer fun to indoor fall fun!

  • Buy new bath and spa items. Be sure you include bath gels or salts, a candle, a great smelling bar of soap, and a new scrubber for your bath. If you really want to splurge, buy new towels with your initials monogrammed on them. And if you have an extra CD player, consider bringing it into the bathroom as well.
  • Start reading and relaxing each day in your home. Buy some new books, join a book club, or start a new magazine subscription.

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From House to Home Third Week of August

  • If your kitchen is small, mirror the backsplashes to expand space rather than use a solid material such as tile, wood or laminate.
  • If space is at premium in your abode, consider covering a long wood table with glass to double as a desk, dining table, sideboard or bar.
  • To break up space in a child's room in a pragmatic way, use a three-paneled cork board. This serves as a screen and doubles as a bulletin board on which to post precious artwork.

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From House to Home Second Week of August

This week's tips:

  • Tired of hardwood floors? The new trend today is bamboo. It can be dyed a color or kept a natural hue which gives a beach-like feel to your home. But buyer beware: cheap bamboo flooring can buckle and delaminate.
  • If you love tea, start collecting tea items that will enhance your tea-drinking experience when the weather turns a bit cooler. There are tea strainers in various shapes, all sorts of teapots, cups, and trays to make the ritual of sipping tea more fun.

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From House to Home First Week of August

This week's tips:

  • Transform a room into a magical place that makes you feel like you're outside looking up at the sky: Paint the room a pretty sky blue and paste gold astrological signs on the ceiling
  • Consider building a tree house in the backyard for children or grandchildren. There are kits available, or you can design one yourself with a little help from experts at your favorite home shopping store.
  • During warm weather months, place a large empty basket in your fireplace and fill it with dried flowers. In winter, lay your fireplace with dry logs and newspaper, so that all you'll need to do is light it.

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From House to Home Fourth Week of July

  • Be sure your property is sufficiently lit at night so you can use your outdoors for nighttime dining, chats, cocktails, etc. Place bulbs discreetly along the sides of the house, along walkways, and sometimes in trees to diffuse the light.
  • Buy enough Citronella candles, lanterns and other aids to discourage bugs from visiting when you dine outside.
  • Think about adding a front porch or verandah to your home. It adds an attractive look and can become a gathering spot for your neighborhood, like the old-fashioned stoops where city dwellers used to gather.

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From House to Home Third Week of July


  • Plan to finish your outdoor maintenance before the summer ends. With trades people so busy, it could take months to get on your carpenter's, bricklayer's or painter's schedule.
  • If you're looking for a different style of garden, consider an ecologically correct garden for your area. In the Midwest, you might try a "prairie-scape" if your house isn't too formal. If you live in the Southwest, you might want an arrangement of stones.
  • Try decorating your door, or the front of your property, with a custom-designed address plaque in sold brass, bronze, copper or aluminum.

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Herb Gardening for Beginners

Just outside my back door is a patch filled with happy buzzing bees. When I need a little rosemary for my chicken, or thyme for my fish, or lavender for a bouquet, I just pop out the door and cut a handful. You're thinking, wow, I'd like to do that too, but I don't know anything about growing herbs.

Good news! You don't need to! Herb gardening is about the simplest form of gardening there is.

An herb garden can be planted just about anywhere that you have space--a strip of dirt beside the front walk would even work. And if you have no outdoor space, herbs can be grown in large containers on a sunny porch or balcony.

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From House to Home Second Week of July


  • Consider building a screened in gazebo to create an attractive dining space in the shade outdoors. This not only offers a dramatic mood for food, but will add gorgeous simplicity to your property.
  • Consider adding an attached sun porch or greenhouse to grow fruits and vegetables year-round and to park the summer plants that are now proliferating in your yard. Prices on prefab sun porches or greenhouses will be more reasonable than having one constructed custom.
  • Birdhouses add pizzazz and can be a conversation piece. They come in a range of styles and colors with patterns and special features. You might even find one that duplicates the style of your home.

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From House to Home First Week of July


  • Buy an antique hutch, remove the door and use the shelves to display ceramics you picked up at a summer estate sale. Paint the back of the hutch a darker color than the rest of the piece to add depth and dimension.
  • Do you have a yearning for a pet? Summertime is the best time to get a dog since the weather is warm, which makes training easier. Why not adopt from the Humane Society? To make life with your new friend easier, you might consider fencing part of or all of your yard.
  • Summer is the season for barbecue. Stock your pantry with a hearty supply of accompaniments that can turn a bland meal into something special. Olives, roasted peppers, pimentos, soy sauce, fish sauces, and assortment of salsas, chili sauces and bean paste.

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From House to Home Last Week of June

This week's tips:


  • Have all your windows washed to let more sunlight filter into your home. You can do it yourself or hire a company.
  • If your weather will permit it, consider creating an outdoor kitchen. Purchase a grill, small portable refrigerator, and sink and install them in a handsome stone counter. Consider building a permanent outdoor fireplace for cooler evenings.
  • To hang pots or even flower baskets outside, try an interesting and attractive chain of oxidized bronze thorns, ranging up to four inches in length.

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Ready...Set...Hunt!

It's a beautiful day and you want to get outside...Try planning a scavenger hunt. With a little bit of advance planning you can design an exquisite afternoon of family challenge and fun.

Start by dividing your gang into two teams. Each team receives a clue collection bag containing a Polaroid instant camera, film, hunt instructions, a challenge sheet, and various supplies.

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From House to Home Second Week of June


  • Hand paint the cement or wood floor of a screened-in porch to look like a faux rug with diamond-shaped pattern and a squiggly border in favorite colors. Get young family members involved and ask them to splatter the paint like Jackson Pollack once did.
  • Buy fresh herbs and plant them outside. Liven up your meals by adding fresh herbs from your own garden.
  • Organize a special Father's Day (June 17) and invite dads who might be forgotten (whose children have grown and moved away, whose spouses have died, or who may be divorced). Make the food simple such as bratwurst, corn on the cob, and blueberry pie.

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Iced Tea Season Begins

June is National Iced Tea Month, so I thought I'd take a sec to share some iced tea ideas and links with all y'all--everything from traditional sweet tea, to crisp, refreshing green, to spicy Indian chai.

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From House to Home First Week of June

This week's tips:


  • Organize a Flag Day party on June 14. Hoist your American flag, tell the generations to dress in red, white and blue, have everyone bring favorite American classics such as baked beans, potato salad, hamburgers, lemon meringue and cherry pies.
  • Build bookcases along a wide hallway. They add an interesting visual element. If the hallway is wide enough, consider adding a built-in desk to be used as a homework station.
  • Punch storage units into a bedroom or family room wall or hallway to store everything from linens to out-of-season clothing.

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Summer Tonics

I've always loved reading about seasonal traditions, for some reason--maybe because in American life we have so few, and eventually they become nothing but another excuse for a big sale (Presidents Day, anyone?). In that same vein, I've always loved reading about seasonal tonics, drinks and food given to fortify the body for the change of weather. Here are some ideas for cooling, tonic drinks.

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