post off: how do you feel about yard sales?

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Growing up, I don’t remember ever going to a yard sale, at least not until I was in high school — and by then I was at the age where I hated going with my Mom to look through other people’s stuff. (Ironic, given my love for antiques.) What I do remember, however, were farm auctions: fields full of tools, equipment, old harnesses, generations of accumulated furniture, linens, and magazines, all of which served as perfect mazes to run through with my siblings and friends. While I haven’t been to a farm auction in ages, I have finally become an official suburbanite after staging my first yard sale. It was a ton of effort, but by following tips from the Yard Sale Queen, we got rid of most everything. Plus we taught the kids another way to practice the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). I’m just not ready to do it again for at least another 10 years. What about you? Are you planning a yard sale this year? — Sarah L.

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steal this idea: organize your desktop with images

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I try to be an organized person. Really, I do, but most days, my desktop looks like it’s on the verge of a digital mutiny lead by a mishmash of uncategorized jpegs and hastily saved documents. Happily, all that is about to change thanks to this ingenious organizational how-to from Shelterpop. My fave tip? Organize with images. Simply download a desktop image, like this minimalist option from ExitCreative, and move your icons into their designated areas, or create your own, like the post’s author Erin Loechner did with her to-do list grid. For more background templates and non-visual desktop organizing tips click here. – Sarah C.

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old-fashioned annuals are new again

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In talking with garden friends and nursery staff, it seems old-fashioned annuals are back in vogue this year. Perhaps it’s botanical comfort food during the recession, or maybe it’s just a natural cycling around again. Whatever the reason, here are some tried-and-true annuals to enjoy in your garden this year. — Jenny P.

Impatiens — Lots of colors and wonderful for shady areas! They like lots of water, though, so don’t let them dry out.

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Geraniums — There is something so cheerful about these plants! Choose from red, pink, white, or salmon. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings and remove the old flowers by snapping them off at the base of the stem.

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Marigolds — Sunny and ruffly — there’s a reason our grannies planted these! And here’s an added benefit: if you like to vegetable garden, plant marigolds around the edges of your garden to deter pesky veggie-eating bugs.

Begonias

Begonias — Small flowers in red, pink and white, with green or bronze foliage. Plant them close together for more impact. They’ll also take a bit of shade where the many other annuals want full sun.

Zinnias

Zinnias — There are so many colors and varieties of zinnias that you’re sure to find one that fits what you’re looking for! Just remember to be careful of overhead watering; zinnias are susceptible to powdery mildew and don’t like water on their foliage. Aim the hose at the base of the plant or use a drip system.

Photos, top to bottom, via: Sanna Mattson MacLeod, Human Flower Project, Cordite Country Show Notes, Weidner’s Gardens, Parks Wholesale Plants

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putting more homemade green cleaners to the test

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For my birthday earlier this month, I finally got something I’ve been asking for since I could talk: a puppy. My husband and I adopted a beautiful, tiny Pomeranian from F.I.D.O. Rescue and, as you can imagine, I’m over the moon! As any new owner has to, we had to doggie-proof the house from top to bottom. That included ditching all the harsh bleaches and chemical-heavy cleaners that make your eyes water and can harm a curious pet. I started by mixing up some of Mary’s highly recommended green cleaners, then found some more concoctions that worked just as well as more toxic recipes. After the jump, check out some recipes for furniture cleaner, drain cleaner, grout cleaner, oven cleaner, mildew cleaner, and oil/grease cleaner. — Katie D. (more…)

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the sharpest knives in the drawer

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My knives are by far my most used and loved kitchen tools. They weren’t cheap by any means, but when you are a serious cook, you need serious equipment…serious equipment that I had neglected completely for two years. The blades were nicked, chipped, and impossibly dull. Cutting onions was sheer torture. So I finally gave in and took my knives to be professionally hand sharpened — and to be shamed by the proprietor:

“What kind of honing rod are you using on this?”

“Um…nothing. Sorry about all the nicks.”

When I got them back I was delighted with the results: knives sharper then when I brought them home from the store — we’re talking straight razor sharp — that diced up an onion as if it were nothing at all, and with nary a tear in sight! The knife sharpener advised me to get a ceramic honing rod (which is thankfully much cheaper than metal rods) for knife upkeep in between professional sharpening. I’ll never let them go dull again! This all leads to the question: How sharp do you keep your knives? — Megan B.

Photo by Flickr member Coultl

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