DIY Wedding Favors: Everlasting Bouquet

FW Origami1L

By Virginia Bittinger

One of the most treasured keepsakes from your wedding day is the bouquet. If you want to keep your bouquet forever and have it look just as it did on your wedding day, then make one out of paper! Origami flowers are simple to make and the paper choices available for patterns and colors are endless. This would be a fun project to do with your bridal party. Each bridesmaid can make her own bouquet and will have a wonderful keepsake from your wedding.

Supplies:

  • Scrapbook paper, book pages, or sheet music
  • Hot glue gun
  • Paper clips
  • Embellishments such as buttons or vintage jewelry (optional)
  • Dowel
  • Fabric

Directions:

Cut the paper into squares. The larger the square, the larger the bouquet. In this case, we are using 6-inch squares. You will need 6 squares of paper to complete one flower.

 

To make each petal, start by folding the paper in half to create a triangle.

Fold both the right and left corners up to meet the top point.

Fold that section in half so that the center edge comes down to meet the outer edge.

Place your finger inside the pocket formed from the last fold to open and then press down.

Fold both tips down into the pocket so that you are back to having a square.

Fold bottom section of each side at the crease.

Join sides together using double sided tape to form the shape of a petal.

Once you have completed 6 petals, join them together using a hot glue gun to complete a flower. Secure petals together with paper clips until dry.

Glue the flowers together to form a sphere. Embellishments may be added to the center of the flowers for a more dramatic effect.

Cover a dowel with fabric and insert into the sphere and secure with hot glue to complete the bouquet.

This bouquet will not wilt or discolor, but will be an everlasting memento of a very special day!

 

DIY “Heart” Project: My Heart is Yours…

shredded paperFW1B

by Virginia Bittinger

 

This Valentine’s Day. show your love by making your sweetheart a thoughtful handmade gift. Create a one-of-a-kind Valentine that can be displayed year round. This fun, festive, and unique craft idea makes a great gift than be created by anyone of any age.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this three dimensional heart:

  • Paper from a shredder or paper cut into thin strips
  • Stiffy Fabric Stiffener or ModPodge
  • Ziplock Bag
  • Wax Paper
  • Stretched Canvas
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • E6000 Glue or other strong adhesive

Directions:

Place two handfuls of the shredded paper into a ziplock bag. Add some fabric stiffener and knead the bag to coat the paper. Add more stiffener if necessary to get complete coverage. If you are using ModPodge, add a few drops of water to thin.

Remove the coated paper from the bag and place on wax paper. Form into the shape of a heart. Make sure the heart is a good size to fit your canvas. You can add more paper if necessary.  Allow the heart to dry. This can take several days. Once the heart appears dry, turn it over to make sure the back is dry.

In the meantime, paint a stretched canvas in the desired color to match your décor. The heart can be painted using acrylic paint or can be left in its natural state.

When the heart is completely dry, glue it to the canvas using E6000.

The canvas may be left simply painted or embellishments may be added such as Scrabble tiles to spell out the word LOVE.

The canvas could also be stenciled, stamped, or in this case, hand painted with the word love written in different languages.

This Valentine will certainly be cherished for years to come by the lucky recipient.

 

 

Wooden Bowls and Biscuits

Biscuits and jam
Warm Biscuits

A basket of biscuits from the oven.

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and a day of college football. I sat around the kitchen counter with family and friends.  We drank coffee and chatted while Marcia set down her bag and unpacked her Tupperware container of flour, a large can of Crisco, a sifter and a beautiful wooden bowl.   She set a small cooler with buttermilk by the entry.

Marcia and her husband are our best friends’ parents.  Each year our group gathers from across the south to watch some football, visit and eat.  Everyone brings a dish to share and for Marcia it is homemade biscuits   She normally arrives to this annual gathering with a container of biscuits premade and ready to devour.  But today, she wanted us to enjoy them hot out of the oven.   Little known to her, she brought me an additional gift….

I watched as she lovingly picked up the wooden bowl and wiped the smooth surface with her hand. I didn’t touch the bowl, but could tell by the way her hand glided across the surface, that it was silky smooth. As she set her items on the counter she told us about purchasing the bowl as a young student. It had been an extravagant purchase but one she still cherished today. Except for some rubbed spots on the bottom of the bowl, it still looked like the day she purchased it.

Marcia's bowl

Gently, Marcia wipes the bowl. A treasured purchase as a young student.

 

We continued to visit and chat as Marcia worked. We discussed our favorite flour brands, self-rising versus plain flour, whole milk versus buttermilk. She carefully scooped flour into the sifter resting in the bowl. Slowly she cranked the sifters handle and I watched as the flour fell through the screen on the bottom like soft snow. Skillfully she piled the sifted flour to the sides of the bowl making a dome in the middle.

She measured the Crisco into the center and with her fingers started working the shortening and flour into a ball of dough. She slowly added small amounts of buttermilk and sifted in more flour until her ball of dough felt just right. It is a craft, passed down and learned through years of practice. My mind drifted back to watching my grandmother make biscuits.

Like Marcia, I grew up in a family that delighted in homemade biscuit. My mother and grandmother had passed the recipe to me along with the tips and tricks of making delicate, light bread. My family recipe is quick and simple. We can whip up a quick batch of biscuits in a country minute. Marcia‘s biscuits tasted the same, but her technique was very different. It isn’t quick, but slow and rhythmic. There is no pastry cutter, biscuit cutter or rolling pin. The ingredients of flour, shortening and milk are the same in both. One way is not better than the other, just different. Just like people are all different but no one person is better than the other.

bowl and sifter

The sifter sits in soft flour.

Marcia never looked at what she was doing, but felt it. When her dough was the consistency she wanted, she started pinching and rolling circles in the palm of her hand.

She placed them in the pans and with her fingertips, lovingly pushed them down to the familiar biscuit shape. At this point I would have been rolling the dough and cutting my perfect round shapes. Marcia laughed as she made baby biscuits to fit into the empty spots of the pans. When the pan was full she quickly wet her fingertips with water and circled the top of each biscuit. When I asked the reason, she smiled and said, “ I have no idea except that my family always did that.” She popped them in the oven.

patting the tops with water

Gently wiping the top of each biscuit with water.

While the biscuits cooked, we chatted and drank more coffee. Marcia cleaned up her supplies. She once again lovingly wiped down the bowl. She took a moment and talked about the proper way to care for a wooden bowl. You could tell that one day this would be a treasured heirloom passed down to another generation. Hopefully they will use it to make biscuits too.

The golden biscuits were delicious. But as I broke my biscuit to find steaming soft crumbs I realized it wasn’t the biscuits that were important. We could have made a breakfast that morning with frozen biscuits and no one would have thought about it.

The gift Marcia brought that morning was a reminder. While our recipes varied the main ingredient was the same. Love. There is love in taking the time to do the small gestures- to use our hands to make something for our family and friends. It was a gift of time…years of time. Traditions, family recipes and cooking skills passed down for generations like wooden bowls and biscuits.

Adding the milk

The feel of the dough determines the amount of buttermilk.

A pan of biscuits

Marcia gently pushes the tops of each biscuitGrandma's Biscuits

Grandma’s Biscuits from Maggie’s Family Recipe File

2 cups Self Rising Flour (sifted)

½ cup Crisco

2/3 cup milk

Cut flour and Crisco together until it resembles the size of peas.  Slowly add milk*.  Knead the mixture gently until it make a moist but not sticky ball.

Move dough to a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to a ½” thickness.  Dip cup or biscuit cutter in flour and cut biscuits.

Place biscuits on pan with sides touching.  Bake at  425 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

*Amounts are estimates.  Dough should be moist but not sticky.  Buttermilk can be used instead of whole milk.  We always used the milk on hand.

Biscuits and jam
A warm buttered biscuit with homemade jam.

 

For more photos visit the Fayette Woman Facebook page.

DIY Hostess Gifts: Tussie Mussie

Fayette Woman3A

by Virginia Bittinger

 

Tussie Mussie

Supplies:

  • Paper Doily
  • Used, Damp Tea Bag
  • Glue
  • Dried Flowers
  • Wire or Twist Tie
  • Twine
  • Button

 

Directions:

 

Use the damp tea bag and wipe over the doily to give it an aged appearance. Allow to dry.

Form the doily into a cone shape and secure with glue.

Gather your dried flowers. Use wire or a twist tie to hold the flowers together. Trim the stems to the length needed to fit into the cone.

Insert flowers into the cone.

Wrap the cone with twine and add a button.

The Tussie Mussie will add a beautiful vintage style accessory to the home that will be enjoyed year round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Hostess Gifts: Decorative Candle

Fayette Woman2A

By Virginia Bittinger

 

Decorative Candle

Supplies:

  • Dollar Store Candle
  • Burlap
  • Glue
  • Brooch

 

Cut a piece of burlap or use burlap ribbon, as seen here, and wrap around the candle. Secure the burlap with E6000 or other strong glue.  It is only necessary to glue the burlap at the seam.

Once the burlap is secure, pin a beautiful brooch to the burlap on the front of the candle.

This makes a two-in-one gift. Once your hostess is finished with the candle, she has a beautiful brooch to wear. Just make sure she knows that the brooch can be removed from the candle

DIY Hostess Gifts: Coaster Set

Fayette Woman1A

By Virginia Bittinger

The holiday season is fast approaching, and holiday season means party season. A hostess gift is always a nice way to show how much you appreciate being invited to the party. As with so many things, it’s the thought that counts, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a hostess gift. In fact, the most special gifts are those that you make yourself.

Here are a few ideas for inexpensive and easy hostess gifts you can make.

Coaster Set

Supplies:

  • 4 inch x 4 inch tiles; natural stone or ceramic
  • Decorative Napkins
  • Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrush
  • Felt Pads

 

Cut the decorative napkin into 4 pieces. One napkin will cover 4 tiles.

Napkins come in 2, 3, or 4 ply. Separate the layers and discard all but the top printed layer.

Using a soft paintbrush, add a layer of Mod Podge to the tile.

Lay the napkin onto the tile and add another coat of Mod Podge over the napkin. Make sure to use a soft paintbrush so the napkin won’t tear.

 

Once the Mod Podge is dry, gently tear away the excess napkin form the edges of the tile.

Add 2 more coats of Mod Podge to seal the coasters.

Add felt pads to the bottom of each coaster.

Tie twine or ribbon around the set of coasters for a nice presentation.

 

Create Your Own Garden Art with Succulents

Snip succulents from your garden and lay out stems to harden off. Purchase additional succulents to complete frame if necessary.

One of the hot trends in gardening features succulents—plants with thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems—in containers to add interesting textures, colors and shapes. Popular succulents for pots include Euphorbia, Echeveria, Aloe, Agave, Haworthia and Semervivum. Mix them in with more traditional flowering plants for a professional look. A wonderful reference book on designing with succulents is Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin.

Framing a living succulent piece of art is a fun way to experiment with these whimsical plants.

How to Make a Succulent Frame:

Select a picture frame. For your first endeavor, you might want to choose a frame that is not too large so you are not investing so much in the plant materials.

Snip succulents from your garden and lay out stems to harden off. Purchase additional succulents to complete frame if necessary.

Take cuttings from any established succulents in your garden. Succulents root easily. Just snip small pieces, 1-2 inches long. Remove the lower leaves and set the cuttings aside for a few days to harden off (get calloused at the end). Succulents may shrivel a little during this curing process but that is not a problem.

Purchase additional succulents if needed to complete the design. If you don’t have enough plants from cuttings, you can find a wide variety of succulents at plant nurseries or home and garden centers. These will already be rooted and will be able to be placed directly into the container you build for the frame.

Gather your materials to build a shadow box to house the succulents. Here are the supplies you will need:

  • 1 x3” cedar or redwood boards or cedar fence boards
  • Hammer and nails
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Corner braces (1” for small frame)
  • 1/2-inch hardware cloth (wire grid) cut to fit the inside dimensions of the frame
  • 1/4-inch plywood backing, cut to fit the back of the shadow box
  • Paint for shadow box
  • All-purpose potting mix or special cacti mix
  • Roll of Sphagnum moss
  • Succulent cuttings and/or purchased plants

    Build a box that fits into the back of your frame. This will hold the soil. Paint if desired.

Remove the glass and backing from your frame and using 1×3”cedar or redwood, cut to fit into the back of the frame, build a box to attach to the back of the frame.

Attach the plywood backing cut to fit the back of your cedar or redwood box. This shadow box will be the container for the soil. Paint the box and/or frame if desired.

Lay frame facedown and insert hardware cloth. The 1/2-inch grid is small enough to keep potting soil in, yet large enough to accommodate stems. Staple the hardware cloth to the edges of the frame.

With frame still facedown, roll out wet moss sheets over the grid for a more finished look and to help hide the grid marks.

Staple a wire grid to the back of your frame. Roll out wet Sphagnum moss behind the grid and attach frame to the box filled with potting mix.

Place potting mix in the shadow box. Shake to evenly disperse soil. Place the frame with wire grid on top of the shadow box. Add more soil through the grid until even with the grid.

Secure picture frame to the shadow box with corner braces.

Now the fun part! Lay out your cuttings and decide on a design/color scheme. Begin placing your cuttings into the soil through the wire grid. A chopstick or pointed end of a ballpoint pen can be used to make a hole for each cutting through the grid and moss. Continue to add cuttings to fill up the frame. If you are using a large piece that is already rooted, you may need to snip out part of the grid to insert the larger succulent.

Lay completed living succulent frame on a level surface out of the sun for the first 2 -3 weeks until cuttings begin to root and grab the soil. Some people do not water during this time, but if you are using already established succulents with roots, I do wet the soil once or twice during this time.

Place succulent pieces through the grid until you fill up your frame with a beautiful work of art!

When succulents are rooted, you can hang the frame outside or lean it against something as a piece of art to amaze your friends. Enjoy!

 

Painting Kids’ Rooms: Tips and Tricks

painted kid room

(Family Features) Whether you need to set up a nursery for a new baby or update a room for a growing child, painting is an easy and cost-effective way to create just the right atmosphere. But knowing how to get started can feel overwhelming. These tips will help you choose the best type and color of paint, while keeping the process quick and stress-free.

 

Sheen Savvy

Sheen determines how shiny your paint looks when it’s dry. Choosing the right sheen adds the perfect finishing touch on a room, and it can make a big difference when it comes to cleaning up.

Semi-Gloss – Brings a soft shine to the room without being overpowering. It’s good for kids’ rooms because it’s durable and easy to clean. You can wipe off crayon and pencil marks with common non-abrasive cleaners.

Eggshell/Satin – Has a smooth finish with a subtle sheen, and is washable and scrubbable.

Flat – A beautiful matte coating with no shine.  It is ideal for low-traffic areas and hides minor dents or nicks best.

Choosing Colors

For many DIYers, choosing paint colors can be a tricky and time-intensive process. There are so many options and many people worry about making a big color mistake.

Get inspired – Look through magazines, websites such as Pinterest®, an online pinboard, and even at friends’ homes to get some ideas.

Top 10 Baby Colors

  • Celery Sticks
  • Bubblegum Pink
  • Iced Purple
  • Spring Bluebell
  • Early Morning Sun
  • Sweet Baby Boy
  • Sweet Baby Girl
  • Walnut Bark
  • Mint Shake
  • Rich Navy

Top 10 Growing Up Colors

  • True Turquoise
  • Blue Marina
  • Rich Navy
  • Sunbaked Orange
  • Spring Green
  • Refreshing Mimosa
  • Blooming Fuchsia
  • Fresh Pink Lemonade
  • Lilac Bouquet
  • Sunbeam

Try them out – Once you’ve narrowed down your color choices, try out your top picks to see how they will look in the room with your specific lighting conditions. For example, Glidden paint testers come in a variety of colors from the Glidden® Brilliance Collection® paint, which is available only at Walmart stores. The testers have a built-in brush and hold enough paint to cover three square feet so you can experiment with several colors before making a final decision.

Painting Tips

  • Consider using a combination paint and primer – it can save you time and money by eliminating the need to use two painting products.
  • Work from the ceiling down to the baseboards. Do one entire wall or area at a time.
  • Use wide masking tape to mask off areas you don’t want to paint, such as window panes or trim.
  • Use a roller to paint in blocks of roughly 4 x 4 feet. Paint adjacent blocks before each previous block dries to help blend the edges.
  • Paint molding and woodwork with a brush, in the direction of the wood grain. Use short strokes to coat the surface, then use longer, smoother strokes for an even and finished surface.
  • Make sure the room is well ventilated as you paint.
  • Pick a paint that dries quickly and has low odor, so your child can move into the newly painted space sooner.

To get more inspiration and helpful painting tips, visit www.Glidden.com. You can also try a virtual room painter or calculate how much paint you’ll need for your next project.

 

 

Glidden & Brilliance Collection are trademarks of the AkzoNobel group of companies and Pinterest is a service mark of Pinterest, Inc.

 

The Art of Following Your Dreams

pillow

Success is a slippery goal. It can be just out of reach one moment and a world away the next. You rarely see it clearly until it’s in your grasp. Often, close inspection brings disillusion and you realize you want something else entirely. Then what? Do you hold on to the product of your hard work, even if it brings you no joy? Or do you let it go to pursue a new – and usually equally elusive – dream?

Three years ago, Peachtree City resident Jessica Healy found herself faced with this very dilemma. She had what many would consider an enviable life. She and her husband Mike both held prominent, well-paid positions at their southern California church. They had a wide circle of friends and a nice house. Still, they weren’t particularly happy. Their careers were no longer fulfilling and they missed their son and daughter, both of whom had recently moved to Georgia. Above all, their son was about to become a father and they hated the idea of living so far away from their first grandchild.

So after lots of thought, prayer, and consultation with their families, they pulled up stakes and relocated. The move brought them within miles of their kids and their new grandson, Haydon, but Jessica struggled on the work front. She’d spent most of her career teaching classes or developing curriculum for churches and spiritual centers, but her heart said it was time for a change. A highly artistic free spirit, she longed to make her living doing something that brought her joy – and allowed her to bring joy to others – while still leaving her plenty of time to spend with Haydon. She even knew what she wanted to do: write a book and start a textile design company.

But following those dreams would come with a price. A cross-country relocation is expensive and Mike had taken a major pay cut in the move. Writing is an uncertain profession and starting a business is never easy. Yet it just felt right. So Jessica found part-time work to get her through, buckled down to learn the craft of writing, and started building a collection of designs and samples for her business.  She researched textile printers, tried out filling and backer options, developed her logo, and started looking at distribution platforms.

Within a few months, she launched Once Upon Words and began selling to friends and through websites like Etsy. Her special niche is pillows, but she also creates wall hangings, hanging headboards, and more. Her designs are whimsical, magical, and inspirational, like the seeds of a dandelion floating in the wind, or a tree with book pages instead of leaves. Her zebra design is popular with kids. Blue skies and red umbrellas appear often.

The style and feel is unique, but what makes Jessica’s pieces truly special is that each design has a message worked into the pattern. This nifty little addition is at the heart of the way she lives her life and the reason she began designing in the first place.

“All of us hear so many negative words each and every day. People say we’re not good enough not pretty enough, not smart enough. They complain about the world. And it takes a lot of positive words to counteract all that negativity. Once Upon Words is about reminding yourself that you are awesome and celebrating bliss in everyday life,” she explains.

Even the product types are intentional. After all, people spend time sleeping every day. Why not put positive messages right on the pillows? Her words are certainly uplifting enough to brighten the shortest of snoozes.

“Your dreams pull you into the unknown you were created for,” reads one pillow. “You feel it every day. Fly above defeat, reach high and believe that all things are possible.”

“Turn the pages of your life each day and follow the adventure in front of you,” instructs another.

It’s been a long road with a long way yet to go, but the business is starting to pick up. A recent Kickstarter project helped fund an expansion and Jessica hopes to continue to build. She’s planning to grow her presence on Etsy and hopes to soon begin selling to designers and boutiques. She also finished her first book and is currently looking for an agent. Best of all, working for herself allows her to watch Haydon a few times a week.

Yet she’s the first one to admit that it hasn’t been easy. Finances are tight. Date nights are few and far between. And not everyone is supportive of her dreams. But she and Mike feel strongly that this is their path. Faith and family help get them through. Her advice for others standing at career crossroads?

“Consider the cost,” she advises. “Believing in yourself is a tough thing, especially when things don’t go the way you planned. There’s a lot of uncertainty. You don’t know what people are going to like or whether they’ll buy what you make or whether the business will work or what it’s even going to look like when you’re through. And there will be things you have to give up.

“You have to look inside your heart and ask yourself if your dream is big enough to get you through the scary times and the hard decisions. My dream is huge. And I’m going to make it happen.”

 

DIY Garden Art – Cement Leaf Casting

Finished

If you are looking for an easy and inexpensive way to add some unique art pieces to your inside and outside space, then this project is for you! Local artist and master gardener Jan Fruit took me step-by-step through the process of making cement leaf castings. The finished pieces can be used as wall plaques, bowls, stepping stones, and bird baths – whatever you desire! Jan says to start out with a medium-size leaf from the garden and experiment with your designs. “Don’t worry if you mess up on your first try,” says Jan. “The leaf castings are cheap to make and you have a big bag of cement to work with!”

Safety First

Dress in long sleeve work clothes and waterproof gloves. Concrete is caustic to your skin.

Wear a fine-particle dust mask and safety goggles and work in a ventilated area when mixing the cement.

Supplies


Bag of Portland cement (comes in 75 lb bags)

Fine sandbox play sand

Bonding agent for cement (sold at hardware stores)

Water

Bucket, cup and trowel to mix up the cement solution

Old towels

Sanding tool for smoothing edges

Dental picks or bamboo skewers and toothbrush to brush out excess cement and dirt

Cotton balls and paint brushes (1- 1 ½ inch) for painting

Acrylic paints

Protective finish spray

Leaf Selection

Select a medium-size leaf with no holes, a smooth texture (not fuzzy) and deep veins on the back. Plants to consider are hosta, Elephant’s ear, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, lily and caladiums.

Directions

  • Spread some sand on a flat work surface and dampen the sand with water so it will stick together.
  • Mound up some of the sand to create a base for your leaf. Make sure the mound is large enough to allow the entire leaf to lie across.
  • Trim off the stem of the leaf and then lay the leaf, face down, on top of the mound.
  • Remove the leaf and place a piece of saran wrap that is slightly larger than the leaf on the sand mound.
  • Place the leaf again, face down, on top of the saran wrap.
  • Begin mixing your cement solution. You want a mixture that is two parts sand to one part cement.
  • Slowly add water to the mixture. With the first of the water, add two tablespoons of the bonding additive.
  • Stir and continue to add water until you have a mixture the consistency of toothpaste. The mixture should not be soupy or it will slide off the leaf. If you get it too soupy, begin adding more sand until you have the right consistency that will adhere to the leaf.
  • Place a large dab of the cement mixture on top of your leaf and begin to smooth it across the whole leaf. Build up the cement ½ – ¾” and make sure you cover the area where you cut off the stem.

  • If you are working with an extra-large leaf like a ‘Sum and Substance’ hosta, add chicken wire or screen on top of the cement application cut into the shape of the leaf and then add more cement mixture on top of the wire. This will reinforce a larger piece.
  • If your design will hang on a wall or fence, place a hook into the cement mixture.
  • Pull the edges of the saran wrap over the edges of the leaf to hold the design in place and cover with a damp towel.
  • Let the cement leaf set for two to three days. Cement must be hard or it will crack. (It is hard if you cannot leave a mark when you press on it with your fingernail).
  • Brush excess cement from around edges of the leaf.
  • Slowly peel the leaf off the concrete.

  • Set the piece outside in the shade to cure for two weeks. The cement will be completely hardened when cured.
  • Sand the edges of the leaf smooth using a sanding tool like a Dremel rotary tool.
  • Using dental picks, bamboo skewers and/or a toothbrush, clean out excess cement from the veins.
  • Choose a variety of acrylic paints to finish your piece. Dab paint on with cotton balls and various sizes of brushes.
  • After painting, set your creation aside to dry for an hour or so. Then mix up some black paint and, using a paint brush, fling small dabs of black over the piece to add depth and interest.

  • Allow black paint to dry and then spray the finished piece with an outside clear protective finish like Thompson’s Water Seal.
  • Place your new cement art in a place of honor in the garden or in your home!

Check out some of Jan’s unique creations at Beyond the Door in Senoia, Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry in Peachtree City, Panoply Interior Design in Newnan and ArtWorks on the Square in Fayetteville.

 

Spring Cleaning Your Computer

computer shutterstock_99049511

By Lindsey Thompson

As the winter comes to a close, you’ll find yourself getting ready for your yearly spring-cleaning marathon. While your list probably includes sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, one thing that it probably doesn’t include is cleaning up your computer.

Your computer is like your car in that it needs regular maintenance to function properly, so it should be on your spring-cleaning list! Maybe it wasn’t added to your list because you don’t know what to do to maintain your computer. If that’s the case, this article is a good place to start.

Backups. The most important piece of computer maintenance is to back up your data. Nearly everyone keeps data on the computer that would be irreplaceable if the computer’s hard drive crashed. There are a number of ways to back up your data. You can copy files to a thumb drive, CD or external hard drive manually, but the best way is an automatic, recurring backup to an external hard drive that runs, preferably, nightly.

Most modern operating systems include backup utilities. If you are using a Mac running OS X 10.5 or later, you can use Time Machine. Visit Apple’s Time Machine support page for more information (http://www.apple.com/support/timemachine/). If you own a PC running Windows 7, you can use the built in Backup and Restore utility. Visit Microsoft’s website for more information (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/backup-and-restore). If you find these utilities hard to use, however, you can either use the software that comes with most external hard drives for backup or purchase backup software such as Mozy.

Disk Space. Every computer needs “working” space on the hard drive to function properly. Without this working space, the computer’s operating system will become corrupted, requiring a complete reinstallation of the operating system, reinstallation of all software and a restore of backed up data. To avoid this, make sure that you always have at least 1GB of free space on your hard drive. If you don’t, you can either remove applications/programs you no longer use, move personal files to external hard drives or CDs, or install and run a disk cleaning utility. If you decide to install a disk cleaning utility, ALWAYS check to make sure it’s reputable. Many malware and virus programs masquerade as clean up or speed up programs. If you’re in doubt, don’t install!

Anti-virus. If you are using Windows, you MUST have a reputable, up-to-date anti-virus program installed to help protect your computer from malware and viruses. This includes anti-virus programs such as TrendMicro, AVG, Avast, Norton and McAfee, among others. It’s very important to renew your anti-virus subscription before it expires and leaves you without protection. Viruses and malware will not only cripple your computer, they may steal your personal information as well. You should set up your anti-virus program to update daily and run a weekly scan of your computer to make sure it stays virus free. Also, if you are ever in doubt about a file or program, don’t download or install it! This will help keep you virus and malware free.

Updates. All computers need updating from time to time. This is how computer manufacturers fix security holes that may allow unauthorized access to your computer and its files. If you are using a Mac, occasionally you will see a dialog box that tells you that updates are available. At least once a week, you should tell the computer that it is ok to install those updates. If you use Windows XP or a later version, you can set your computer to receive updates automatically from Windows Update at a scheduled time so that you do not need to worry about it.

While these four steps probably look like a lot if you are unfamiliar with computers, doing them will only take about 15 minutes. If you take the time to follow these simple steps, you will find that your computer will not only run better, but that you will avoid having to take your computer in for expensive service and repairs. The 15 you minutes spend maintaining your computer now can save you hundreds of dollars, hours of trouble, and lots of headaches later!

 

Natural Solutions for Spring Pests

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Warmer weather in Georgia brings the blooms we love, but it also brings back the bugs we hate. No matter how clean your home, no one is immune to household insect pests. And while you might consider hiring a professional exterminator to treat your home, there are natural, non-toxic ways to keep pests at bay as well.

Your first line of defense is to start outside the home, clearing dead leaves away from the foundation, cleaning gutters and picking up all the sticks and debris in the yard that provide a cozy cover for insects. Next, remove the things that attract them inside the home: food and water. Keep your counters free of crumbs and sticky spots. Repair any leaky faucets and don’t leave dishes soaking overnight.

Ants are one of the most difficult pests to eradicate. One of the most popular natural substances used to rid homes of ants is borax. There are many recipes out there, but my father was a fan of the following mixture: one cup of water, two tablespoons of borax and two cups of sugar. Boil ingredients for three minutes, then pour in small containers (such as yogurt containers) with holes punched in the lids for ant access. Place containers near where ants are present. Ants will carry the bait back to their colonies where it will eventually kill the colony. Important: Although borax is not considered acutely toxic, it should not be ingested; therefore, keep the mixture away from pets and children.

You can also trace the ants back to their point of entry and try setting any of the following non-toxic items at the entry area in a small line, which ants will not cross: cayenne pepper, citrus oil (can be soaked into a piece of string), lemon juice, cinnamon or coffee grounds.

Another spring pest we love to hate is the cockroach. Catnip is a natural repellent to cockroaches. Small sachets of catnip can be left in areas of cockroach activity. Catnip can also be simmered in a small amount of water to make a “catnip tea” which can be used as a spray to apply around baseboards. This natural repellent should only be used in homes without cats!

Borax can also be used to kill roaches, but the recipe is a little different from the one for ants: Mix borax and sugar together in equal parts (no water). Then apply in cracks, under cabinets, under the sink, behind the refrigerator, and anywhere else you’ve seen roaches. A little known fact about cockroaches is that they like high places, so try placing some of the mixture on top of kitchen cabinets (not inside) if you have space between your cabinets and the ceiling. Again, keep away from children and pets.

Dog and cat lovers know that pets can become a “flea factory” in warm weather. For every flea on your pet, there may be as many as 30 more in the pet’s environment. Before reaching for pesticides, try these safer choices: Bathe and comb your pet regularly. Use pet shampoos containing Neem oil instead of harsh chemicals.

Citrus is a natural flea deterrent for dogs. Pour a cup of boiling water over a sliced lemon. Include the lemon skin, scored to release more citrus oil. Let this mixture soak overnight, and sponge on your dog to kill fleas instantly. (Do not use citrus oil on cats.)

Don’t forget to take care of the carpet too. Vacuum frequently and put flea powder in the vacuum cleaner bag – before you vacuum. When you’re finished, put the bag in an outdoor garbage bin.

As with commercial pesticides, improper use of natural insect repellants can be harmful. Be sure to do your homework first. Ask your local professional exterminator about non-toxic strategies to reduce the amount of pesticides needed to treat your home.