Tie up bored kids with a cool craft

String up your kids with this crafty decorative string sculpture wall hanging, with their own initials

This craft, designed for fifth graders, will introduce kids to the irresistible fun of string art.  They can start off with this quick and cool project using just a few nails and some string to create letter boards to feature their own initials.

What You Need:

  • Wooden board
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Scrap paper
  • Pencil
  • Small nails
  • Small hammer
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Heavy string
  • White glue
  • Scissors

What You Do:

  1. Have your child paint one side of her board. Make sure she uses a color that contrasts sharply with the color of her string.
  2. Let her use a pencil and paper to practice drawing the outline of her chosen letter.
  3. Once she’s perfected her letter and the paint on the board has dried, have her set the paper on top of the board. Help her position the paper just right so that the letter is exactly where she’ll want her string letter to be.
  4. Working from the center of the letter out, have her carefully hammer nails into the board along her paper penciled outline.  The nails should be spaced about 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch apart.
  5. If the nail tends to wobble as your child tries to nail them in place, show her how to use needle-nose pliers to keep each nail steady.
  6. When all of the nails are in place, have her gently tear away the paper pattern.
  7. Let her then use tweezers to remove any bits of paper that remain.
  8. Help her attempt to wiggle each nail. If any nail moves, help her hammer it more securely into the board.
  9. Have your child tie her string around one of the nails
  10. Let her stretch the string to a nail on the other side of the letter.
  11. Help her wrap the string around that nail before stretching the string back to the first nail.
  12. This time, she should wrap the string around a nail next to the first string.
  13. Have her continue to weave her string back and forth until every nail has been wrapped. There’s no specific pattern of science that needs to be followed. The goal is just to color in the nail outlined letter with string.
  14. When she is done, help her tie off and cut the string.
  15. Apply a dot of glue to the knot at the beginning of the letter and to the knot at the end of the letter.
  16. When the glue has dried, have your child trim the extra string.

Additional panels can be made to spell out your child’s last name.  Or she could make everyone’s first initial.  Soon she can have a gallery of string art to show off just like a professional artist.

Make your bedroom a retreat for all seasons

Create a refreshing environment for rest and sleep, any time of year

Many a travel-weary soul has exclaimed, “There’s nothing like being home in your own bed.” Your bedroom is your private sanctuary, so make it an inviting place where you can rest, sleep and feel restored, surrounded by pure comfort and beauty.

Blooming bed

Bring a lasting bouquet beauty of seasonal blooms into your bedroom with Ted Baker London floral bedding.  The designer known for its rich, vibrant hues and elaborate prints is launching a new line of luxury linens for spring, including the Blue Beauty collection, inspired by souvenir photographs taken by the designer on a bicycle ride around Holland’s tulip fields. The tonal blues create a striking statement against a pristine white backdrop.

The soft 100-perfect cotton comforter sets, coverlets, and decorative pillows are available at Nordstrom.com, priced between $65 to $285.

Counting sleep

Sleeping in total comfort not just a dream. PONS bedding has made it their mission to create the ultimate environment for perfect sleep. The PONS mattress (starting at $599) will help you rest well not just because of its gel infusion for cooler sleep, its breathable knit cover for airflow and its body-conforming foam with three levels of pressure point relief for restful shuteye, but you will sleep well knowing the materials under you are 100-percent eco-friendly and CertiPUR-US certified from head to toe.

The mattress contains no ozone depleters, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals, or formaldehyde or phthalates, and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million). PONS made the perfect match to its mattress in a bedframe ($1,199) equipped with USB ports for recharging while you sleep. Soon PONS promised to offer cooling and ultra-dry sheets, comforters and pillows.

Airbn-be-better

Nature’s bounty of trees, plants and flowers, as well as our beloved animals, bring us beauty and joy that make our house a home, inside and out; but they also bring into the home pollen, dander and other indoor pollutants that can be harmful to our health and comfort. Blueair Classic 405 ($599) air purifier filters out the polluting particles to clean unhealthy air in your home environment. It operates quietly, and its modern design discreetly blends in with home décor. Integrated smart technology allows it to be operated remotely with a smartphone.

The clean-air companion to the Blueair air purifier is Blueair Aware ($199), a sleek, small air monitor that continuously measures indoor air quality and quickly detects airborne pollutants, including ultrafine particulate matter (PM2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and benzene and carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2). You don’t need to know what any of these chemicals and contaminants are – just that when the Blueair Aware indicator shines blue, the air you breathe is A-OK. If the indicator light turns orange, it’s time to shut the windows or eliminate other sources of air contaminants.

Clean case

Feeling good under the covers begins with a fresh, clean bed and pillows. Cover your mattress and pillows with an allergen-barrier to keep down dust mites, pollen, pet dander and other household allergens. AllerEase Ultimate zippered mattress protector ($55.99) and pillow protectors ($9.99) fully encase mattresses and pillows in antimicrobial, hypoallergenic fabric to reduce exposure to irritants; and because the top fabric is soft and pliable, the covers do not alter the feel or breathability of your sleep surface. As an added benefit, the waterproof coverings offer protection from spills, and they can be machine washed and dried for easy care.

Fourth of July must-haves for the whole family

Get your July 4 holiday celebration off with a bang

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Independence Day is around the corner, so get ready to celebrate in style and spirit. Be a star at your July 4th party with festive food, drink and Americana accoutrement made for entertaining and enjoying your holiday.

Hole-in-won!

You can’t miss with a flag themed bean bag toss game. This stars-and-stripes Americana Edition of the popular corn hole game comes with two 24″ x 35″ boards and red and blue bean bags for two or four players, with a built-in compartment to store the bean bags and Velcro fasteners to keep the boards together for easy storage and carrying. Available at TJMaxx for $79.99.

Spirit wear

Dress in indie spirit with patriotic themed Trucks Surf & Co. swim suit or a R, W & B Life is Good T-shirt ($7.99 – $14.99), available at TJ Maxx. Dress up or dress down with a versatile and comfortable Discovery skort from Royal Robbins ($55), with a zipper pocket, built-in UPF 50+ sun protection, and a wicking quick-dry fabric perfect for outdoor fun, trekking or travel.

 

Music go-round

Keep up the beat wherever you are, with the Yatra Aquatune 5712 ($34.99), a small but booming weatherproof wireless Bluetooth speaker that can jam up to 12 hours on a charge. It’s so compact it can clip on a belt or beach bag so you can bring along the tunes on the go. www.shopyatra.com.

A-la more

What’s more American than apple pie and ice cream? Scoop on the red, white and blue with Turkey Hill All Natural ice cream in pure vanilla bean and new flavors of raspberry chocolate chip and blueberry.  Like all 20 flavors in the All Natural line-up, all flavors are made with only milk, cream, sugar, and natural flavors, and they include no artificial colors and no stabilizers. Available at select grocers and convenience stores wherever Turkey Hill products are sold.

Not your grandma’s camp chair

Rock out while you view the fireworks in a GCI Outdoor FirePit Rocker ($60) that will make you the envy of everyone sitting stiff in their old-school camp chairs. This low-ride spring-loaded rocking camp chair lets you lean back and look up at the fireworks, and for camping it’s the perfect height for an evening around the campfire, with a mesh backrest and padded armrests for cool comfort, and a beverage holder to keep your drink close-by. Available at national sporting good retailers.

Take out the sting

Keep the skeeters and other pests from biting at your picnic or fireworks party with Nobitech insect-repellent performance wear. Their collection of Skintex-treated T-shirts and long-sleeve pullover sand hoodies ($19-$35) are suitable for the sports-minded athlete but also stylish enough for regular folk and can help ward off Zika-carrying mosquitos and Lyme-disease carrying ticks.

Pop star

Break out the Popcornopolis and make your Fourth of July party really pop.  Popcornolpolis chef-designed artisan popcorn one-ups America’s favorite snack food with decadent gluten-free, non-GMO confection varieties like Zebra, drizzled with premium chocolate; Chocolate Stripe carmel corn drizzled with dark and white chocolate; Chocolate Peanut Butter caramel corn; and White Chocolate Macadamia; or try the Popcornolpolis new line of organic popcorn Nearly Naked; Herbed Butter; Three Cheese; Pesto Mozzarella; Avocado Lime; Kettle Corn; Karamel Kiss; and Chocolate Macaroon. Available at Popcornopolis stores, grocery and club stores, sports stadiums, movie theatres and at www.popcornopolis.com.

Mix it up

 

When it’s hot as a firecracker outside, quench your thirst with a sparkling refreshing beverage from Zevia.  The zero-calorie, zero-sugar Zevia drink varieties include flavored bubbly waters, like Cucumber Lemon, Lime and Mandarin Orange. If you want a little punch in your drink, add your favorite spirits to Zevia mixers, perfect for cocktails or mocktails in Dry Lemon Lime

Ginger Beer, and Tonic flavors. If old-school pop is more your style, step up your health game with Zevia’s sodas, naturally sweetened with stevia, exploding with taste in flavors beyond cola including Black Cherry, Grape, Grapefruit Citrus, Lemon Lime Twist, Mountain Zevia, Orange and Strawberry.

 

Come share the wine

Invite friends over and chill out with your Little Black Dress on the table. No, not with a lampshade on your head, but with LBD wines. For a refreshing summer wine, try LBD Pinot Grigio, with aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish; or for something a bit more complex, there’s the Pinot Noir, with layers of cherry and clove with soft floral notes, hints of strawberry jam and pomegranate; or everyone’s favorite party wine, the LBD Chardonnay, a crisp and fruit-forward wine with flavors of apple and pear, and creamy accents of vanilla and oak.  Available in wine stores, bars and restaurants and select grocers including Safeway, Wegmans and Harris Teeter.

Sit a little

When America’s poor tired huddled masses come to call on the Fourth, be ready with a little extra seating.  Sit in style with Dar Living Folding Stool, in red, blue and other colors. When your guests leave, the chairs fold up compactly for quick storage, and the built-in handle makes for easy carrying. Get the stools in a four-pack ($35) so all your company has a place to rest their laurels. Available on Amazon and home goods retailers nationwide.

Cycling safety for a relaxing ride

Road rules to ride by

Whether for recreation or a mode of transportation, bicycling is an excellent way to get exercise and get where you want to go. Cycle safely by following riding rules for the trail, the street or anywhere your two-wheeler takes you.

Be a helmet head

A helmet is a no-brainer, and it’s the cheapest form of head-injury insurance you can get, yet many riders forgo a helmet thinking unless they are performing extreme BMX tricks that they don’t need it. No matter if you are on a short ride around the block or a rocky single-track, cover your head.

Check it out

Check your equipment before every ride. Make sure tires are inflated properly, and test out your brakes, handlebar, and shifting to make sure it’s in good working order before you ride. Make sure your bicycle is in good mechanical condition with a regular checkup and tune-up by a certified mechanic.

Best buddies

Always bring your phone and ID, and ride with a buddy. If you break down or are injured, your riding companion could be a lifesaver. Coordinate with your partner before you set off as to your riding plan, and make sure your companion knows what hand signals you will use for turning, slowing and stopping. Also, tell others when you are going for a ride, where you plan on going, and when you plan to return.

Hydrate your ride

Bring along plenty of water. Most bicycles have cages to keep a water bottle or predrilled outlets to mount them. If you don’t want the extra weight or the obstacle of a water ball bottle mounted on the bike itself, or if you want to be competitive and streamline your ride without water breaks, Camelback and many other brands make backpack style hydration systems so you can sip while you ride.

Get lit

When driving at dusk or dawn or in traffic, use a bike light. The safest lighting systems are those that are always on, like car running lights, with front- and rear-facing daytime lights which have been proven to decrease the likelihood of a collision up to 33%.

Bontrager Flare R bike light is one of the best for daylight visibility, as demonstrated in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nC8zf_9FOc

Dress up

Wear contrasting clothing and gear. Accessorizing in tennis-ball-bright fluorescent and reflective gear and apparel has been shown to decrease a rider’s risk of incident by as much as 53% during the day and makes you 72% more noticeable at night.

Proper biking attire is not just for fashion. Wear appropriate clothing for cycling that is snug to the body to prevent it catching on saddles, handlebars or other bike parts. Fear not, you do not have to look like leg-warmer-wearing extra from Glow. Many cycling apparel brands make functional but decent looking hoodies, sweatshirts, jerseys and other performance wear that you might even wear out after your ride. Never tie clothing around your waist, wrap clothing around handlebars, or otherwise attach items to yourself or your bike where they can come lose and catch in moving parts.

If you are riding with clipless pedals, make sure your shoes are properly fitting and cleats and clips are free of mud and are in good working condition. Practice snapping in and snapping out of them before each ride to make sure you are able to clip out in a hurry if needed.

Map it

Know where you are headed. There are many mobile GPS tools like Avenzamaps can help you map and mark your way so that you don’t get lost on the road, woods or mountains. Make sure you are riding for your skill level.  Rails to Trails Conservancy has ratings and reviews on many trails to guide you in choosing your riding terrain.

Road rules

 Stay on designated trails. Wherever there is a marked bike route, use it. But be aware of vehicles around you at all times, even if you are in a bike lane, as motorists don’t always yield right of way. Obey traffic signs and follow the rules of the road the same as if you would behind the wheel. Ride in the same direction as traffic, on the right side of the road. If there is no bike lane, ride on the shoulder, but ride slightly in the lane rather than the edge of the road, which will cause cars to cautiously pass you, and you will have room to maneuver or bailout if needed.

If you are at an intersection with a traffic light but your bicycle will not trigger the sensor for the light to change, the best option is use the crosswalk as a pedestrian.

Listen up

If you want to listen to music while you ride, wear wireless headphones that can’t get tangled on handlebars and use an earbud with an open design that allows ambient noise so that you can hear your surroundings.

Even if you’re on a biking path, you must still follow the rules of the road. Use an audible signal when you are passing, and only pass on the left. On single-track mountain biking trails, the uphill rider has the right of way. Ride single file and give hand signals when turning, slowing and stopping.

Follow your heart

Nobody wants to be so concerned about safety that bike riding loses its fun. If you have the correct gear, in working order, and you know where you are going and the rules of the road, you will be relaxed on your ride, so plan ahead, so that you can get rolling with ease.

Topped up for Fourth of July at my favorite binge shopping place

A trip to TJ Maxx for a one-stop shopping spree for everything Fourth of July

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As I loaded up for Independence Day festivities at my secret place, before I noticed two hours had passed. I wondered how the time had gotten away from me, as it always does when I go there; and more broadly, I wondered how my TJ Maxx compulsion had started.

It began innocently, many years ago.  I wandered into TJ Maxx.  I wondered, “What is this odd place; a sort of no-frills mini department store?” I discovered, it is just that.  Officially, TJ Maxx is considered a department store, but sans the helpful sales associates to bring you different sizes in the dressing room. I have come to peace with my TJ Maxx habit, because if you are going to have a shopping problem, or more positively referred to as retail therapy, at least TJ’s is affordable.

I have found some great deals, like 50 percent-off prices on designer clothes that are currently in other stores.  How do they do it?  Well, for starters, its doubtful you’ll find too many of the same thing at TJ’s, such as a rack of the same white blouse in six sizes. They get the leftovers, but remember, last does not mean least, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one man’s trash…you get the point.  There’s great stuff there, but you do have to really look.

Much of the merchandize is one-offs, end-of-season or last season or slow sellers at other stores. Rarely do I see an irregular item, though if so, those items are marked as such and usually deeply discounted. There’s also an awesome clearance section in each department, where you can find a set of three dishes or an item out of a box or in a banged-up box for a fraction of the regular retail price.

So, for the Forth, here’s a sampling of the great stuff I found, all for under $100.  Talk about a celebration.

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A cooler that will make you feel like a star when you stroll into a party, of course more so if it is filled with adult beverages

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Can ever have enough of these decorative glass sets, and they make great hostess gifts

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Cute overload. Get them to wear these while they are young , before they want piercings

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Not sure if I will ever use these cupcake cases and toppers, but I knew if I didn’t grab them, they would be gone

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Even Fido can get into the spirit with this patriotic chew toy

A little off the top

Solutions for when you are at a loss about hair loss

hairloss

A beauty issue that many women don’t want to talk about, or even acknowledge, is thinning hair and balding; and because so many sufferers keep this problem under their caps, the beauty industry has been slow to find solutions. Women usually will only wear wigs and hair pieces or turn to prescription remedies as a last resort and in the case of extreme hair loss, but for those who have a mild to moderate hair shedding, which can be due to age, medications, hormone levels, genetics, and other health or lifestyle issues, fill-in powders may be a suitable option.

Products like Fill-in Powder from Cover Your Gray can help reduce the appearance of thinning hair.  The matte powder can be dusted on with a brush to conceal thinning around the temples and cover graying or balding spots. Cover Your Gray’s formula contains Procapil, a natural botanical that promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss, so while camouflaging thinning areas it can help thicken hair and protect against further loss. The powder comes in four shades for matching, and it stays on through rain, sweat and normal daily activities.

fill in powder

While many other similar cover-up hair products are designed for touching up hair color between highlights or color styling, they can also be used to cover thinning hair and boost volume, such as sprays to cover thinning spots; permanent or wash-out root touch up designed to cover grey close to the scalp; touch-up sticks for around the hairline, side burns and roots; and brush-in wants for broader cover-up for scattered gray hairs throughout the head.

These are all affordable options, usually around $6 to $16. Look for brands that are waterproof, do not flake or rub off, and in shades that match as closely as possible to the rest of the hair, or slightly lighter. Powders and other topical solutions for thinning hair are generally the most efficient way to treat this beauty concern, and they are the safest and most economical, not to mention they can help extend time between salon visits.

Mom wears the pants

Wear these pants wherever

There are a lot of crop pants out there, but SlimSation pants by Multiples are not your garden-variety pants. This slimming pant, as the name implies, is designed to slim your figure, and make you look your sensational best.

The pants feature a flexible tummy control panel that smooths and holds in the tummy, thighs and rear. SlimSation states you can drop one size instantly and look and feel 10 pounds lighter wearing their Spanx-on-the-outside pants (obligatory disclaimer: Slimsation is not associated with the actual Spanx brand). The Bottom line (pun intended) is, with a $69 price tag (prices vary depending on style), you might expect something more from these pants, and in my estimation, they deliver. 

They have a slightly higher waistline, which helps reduce tummy bulge and the dreaded muffin top of low rise waistbands. They hug the body like Lycra leggings, but because the fabric is heavier and thicker, the wearer feels more contained rather than exposed.

 

 

SlimSation pants come in many styles, from walking shorts and skirts, capris and crops, to ankle-length pants and jean styles, including the skinny Boyfriend Crop, Knit Ankle Legging, Lace Print Crop Legging and styles in solid colors and patterns. The brand also carries a number of figure-flattering tops, such as tanks and knit tops that hang longer at the bottom to cover the tummy and are flowy rather than clingy.

The line was designed by fashion designer John Bourgeois, who endeavored to create the perfect fitting pant that would be a woman’s essential staple piece to wear and enjoy every day, for business or casual looks. After extensive wear-testing, and re-designing, he designed the SlimSation collection, using fabrics that are comfortable and move with you while having a slimming effect, without compromising style.

SlimSation apparel can be found with hundreds of specialty retailers across the United States.

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