help! how do i keep pesky squirrels out of my garden?

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Hello Shelterrific readers! I am hoping you can help me discover some simple NON-cruel ways to discourage squirrels from rummaging around in our porch flower containers. You see, we have a big old oak tree in the front yard which produces a ton of acorns. Lots of acorns = lots of squirrels! Mostly we don’t mind them, but just recently they’ve taken to digging up our recently planted impatiens in two container beds. Every morning we wake to find holes in the beds, and soil scattered all over the porch. My guess is that they think they have some buried in treasure in there, so they dig, dig, dig!

Any suggestions on how to deter them from the porch? This thread on Garden Web suggests getting a dog (something our 10-month old kitten would mind — even if our three year old daughter would love!) or setting up traps. Our neighbor up the road makes a hobby out of capturing yard squirrels and then releasing them in the nearby forest reserve. Seems like a lot of work! I was thinking a little cayenne pepper in the soil might turn them off. What do you think? All ideas welcome! — Angela M.

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helpful kitchen tips from professional chefs

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I love working from home, testing out recipes in my sanctuary of a kitchen — it’s just me & the food (and music, usually). The serenity in itself is inspiring, but occasionally, I miss the choreographed rhythm of working in a busy teaching kitchen. I learned a lot from the folks I worked with (mostly off-color jokes), so I thought I’d share some of the helpful hacks passed on to me from my well-seasoned (excuse the pun) ex-co-workers with our fabulous readers.

Halving cherry tomatoes or grapes with ease: Instead of wasting time slicing every single one in half, use a small dessert plate to hold a handful of fruit, roll gently to level, and slice slowly with a serrated knife. It may take a little practice, but they should come out perfectly halved and ready for your recipe.

Wrap your mixer: When whipping cream or egg whites in a stand mixer, avoid the messy splatters all over your kitchen by draping the top of your mixer with plastic wrap. Such an easy (and obvious) fix — I can’t believe I never thought of it myself!

Upcycled knife guards: When transporting your kitchen knives or storing them in a drawer, protect the edge and your fingers by using a flattened empty paper towel roll. Just slide your blade in, secure with a binder clip, and you’re done. TP rolls are the perfect size for paring knives.

Ice cube trays to the rescue: Use ice cube trays to freeze small squares of homemade stock, then pop them out and store in ziplock bags. You don’t have to thaw a whole quart of stock at a time, just pop out exactly what you need. I also freeze left over wine this way and I’ve got it ready for deglazing and reduction sauces.

Do you have any helpful hacks of your own to share? Leave them in the comments! — Megan B.

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new twist on lawn chair webbing: leather belts

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I’ve re-webbed patio chairs and I’ve written about chairs woven with belts, but this is the first I’ve seen leather belts used to web patio chairs. Lori Wyant has the how-to at Green Is Universal. I confess I’m slightly on the fence about the finished project, but I think it could be a lot of fun to seplace out funky belts at thrift stores. Just be sure they’re long enough to use as webbing! And if you need a little more instruction, revisit our chair webbing how-to. — Mary T.

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steal this idea: custom flor coasters

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I have a huge glass coffee that I absolutely love. It’s perfect for a messy craft project, spreading out work papers, or having a casual dinner while watching a movie. But, after a while, I got tired of having to constantly clean it b/c my coasters weren’t measuring up. While cute, they didn’t absorb any moisture and left me with watery rings to constantly wipe away. But — ta-da — enter a crafty solution! I went to my local Flor store and picked up three 6×6″ carpet samples (for $5), cut each sample into quarters with a sharp utility knife, and voila – cute coasters that actually do their job! Flor has a huge selection of colors and textures that would fit almost any decorating style, and because they’re so inexpensive, than can be switched up when room styles change. So, what do you think of my new coasters? — Rebecca F.

Photo credit: Rebecca Firlik

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win a $1000 rejuvenation gift card!

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You know you want to. So go ahead and enter the third annual Make Your Home Your Own contest, where there are two chances to score a $1000 Rejuvenation gift card: simply upload three photos of your home renovation project along with a brief description of that project between now and May 1st. One winner will be selected by popular vote, kinda like “Renovation Idol”, and one winner will be chosen by a panel of experts (not to brag, but our own Mary T. was one of those experts last year). So go and enter — and make sure you post a link to your entry here in the comments or on our Facebook page if you do!

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