throw a modern-day swap meet!

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It’s that time again — time for the semi-annual apartment purge known as spring cleaning! And now I have a nice pile of things that need a new home, so I’m thinking I should throw a modern swap meet. I’m going to invite my like-minded friends over and trade goods. So far, my pile to swap includes:

Extra kitchen tools — I seem to end up with extra wooden spoons, spoon rests, wine openers …
Magazines — Design and cooking. Great for inspiration or craft projects. I have plenty to keep me busy for a while.
Tech supplies — extra stereo cables, speaker wire, iPod cables, thumb drives
Office supplies — Who needs a giant box of business envelopes?! Not me!
Houseplant seedlings — I have about a half-dozen succulent cuttings that could use a windowsill of their own.
Workout gear — extra weights, bands, workout DVDs

Now all I have to do is give my friends a little time to gather their things, and make an afternoon of it. What’s leftover, we can donate to a nearby shelter or Salvation Army. What do you do with your extras? — Rebecca F.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

want it now: modfire chiminea

modfire

Better Homes and Gardens is one of my favorite monthly reads — always full of great recipes, smart products, helpful gardening tips and more. One thing I’ve noticed over the last few years is that they’ve really gone more modern contemporary with their styling, thankfully. It’s nice to see things that appeal to my taste in a magazine that my mom and MIL read. So it was with great delight (actually I believe it was more of a gasp) that I found in the folds of June’s issue the most covetable outdoor accessory I’ve seen this season: the Modfire chiminea. Each of these gorgeous colorful cones is forged from 14 gauge steel and powder coated for durability, and comes ready to burn — with ol’ fashioned wood or natural gas with a simple adapter kit. I’ve searched for a modern firepit before, but these are by far and large my top choice. Pick up a copy of the June issue for a healthy 25% BHG reader discount off these beauties. Yes! — Megan B.

kinda genius: aqueduck faucet extender

Aqueduck faucet extender

Even without children of my own, I can instantly identify with the need for a contraption like the Aqueduck. Definitely one for the Why-Didn’t-I-Think-of-That file, the gadget extends almost any faucet so toddlers can reach the water with ease and avoid the old hoist-and-balance routine. Though an initial glance at the simplistic design might elicit some doubt in its value at $12.99, the five-star rating on Amazon.com seems to banish the notion, as many reviewers write that being able to reach the water (with the help of a step stool in most cases) not only eases the strain on little tummies and weary adult muscles, but also encourages hand-washing for the little ones. Another great find for my list of unexpected, but highly-functional gifts for parents. — Sarah C.

more help for picky eaters: construction plate

constructive eating plate

Much akin to my feelings on the Food Face Plate, the kid in me squeals with delight at the sight of the Construction Plate, $14.95 at UncommonGoods. Paired with the specialized set of utensils ($17.49, sold separately), this duo has the potential to make food fun, even for the pickiest of eaters. Would it have kept me at the dinner table for nine hours as a kid? Absolutely. But if you can’t play with your food then, what good is childhood? Dishwasher safe for easy cleanup, this might be the perfect gift for a night when the babysitter’s on. — Sarah C.

post off: what’s growing in your garden now?

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This is the first spring in our house and we are timidly dipping our toes into edible gardening. There are a still a bunch of plants around the yard that haven’t flowered yet, so rather than dig things up, we decided to start some containers with vegetables on our deck. We didn’t get our act together in time to grow from seeds, so we picked up some plants at our local nursery. We chose stuff for pasta and pesto — tomatoes, basil, oregano — and things to help with guacamole — peppers and cilantro. For kicks I planted a few fennel bulbs and some bib lettuce, both which look lovely in our bright plastic pots (from Home Depot). Elsewhere we have raspberry bushes which seem to grow like weeds. I can’t wait for our first home grown feast. What’s growing in your garden? Please share and inspire this novice. – Angela M.