Spring Break Staycation Ideas

It is officially Spring Break in North Texas for many schools! The kids are excited but you may be scrambling for some fun, inexpensive activities to keep them busy for the week. Traveling isn’t an option for many families, as work schedules, finances, and extra curricular activities may be preventing it. But, there are always fun things to do right here at home to make some memories with the kids.

Spring Break Staycation Ideas

Backyard Camping

Setting up a test in the backyard is a perfect way to ease into the idea of “for real” camping. Grab your sleeping bags, make a fire pit, tell stories and eat s’mores. The best part? You can still go back inside to use the bathroom.

Video Game and Board Game Party

It’s Texas, which means the weather can be a tad unpredictable. If the rain comes in, invite some friends over to play video games and board games. Split into teams, break out the Wii Sports, give out prizes, and make a rainy day the best day ever.

Movie Marathon

Break out the red carpet (a table cloth is a good option!) and decorate for a star-studded event. You could even have everyone dress up in their red-carpet best, toast with sparkling cider, and you can be the critics of the best films. But, don’t forget the popcorn!

Play Tourist

It’s really quite interesting the number of people who haven’t been “tourists” in their hometowns. What do people do when they travel to your city? Go catch the hot spots! Look for museums, landmarks, and historical sites that you’ve overlooked. Your staycation could really be someone’s idea of the best vacation.

Book a Room

Booking a hotel room in town seems silly, but it really can be a bunch of fun. You can relax. Housekeeping makes the beds. In most places, you get free breakfast. And the kids can splash around in the pool months before public pools open. It’s a win win win for everyone in the family.

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Do you have any other staycation ideas? Join the conversation and let us know, over on our Facebook page! Happy Spring Break! 

Texas Spring Gardening Tips

Texas Spring Gardening Tips

It’s so tempting to jump right into the spring season. But don’t jump in without reading some Texas spring gardening tips. Our weather has been so mild this winter, so the green thumb may be getting a little itchy. Whether you are just getting started or ready to develop a new hobby, it’s time to start planning and working on your spring garden.

Many people think they are no good at growing anything, leading to the name “brown thumb”. But, anyone can grow some basic crops, you just have to know a few essentials to get started.

So, check out these Texas spring gardening tips to prepare for your new garden. Let’s get growing!

Soil

You have to start with the ground. The soil is THE foundation of gardening and for healthy plants. If you have not been gardening previously, your soil will probably need nutrients. Compost will help add some of those nutrients so you can prepare your land for planting.

Drainage

Rainfall can be “unpredictable” to say the least. When planning your garden, you want to make sure its raised enough to prevent waterlogged plants in the event of a heavy rainy season. But, you also want to make sure it’s close enough to your faucets that you can access it with the water hose.

Sunshine

When you pick the plants you want to grow, look for their sunlight recommendations. Many vegetables require full sunlight at least 6 hours a day, so planting a garden under a huge oak tree wouldn’t be beneficial.

Use Proper Varieties

You want to choose plants that are adapted for the Texas weather (hello, heat in July). You’ll want to go to a nursery or gardening expert to find the best crops for your specific area. Also, you want to pick a variety of plants so that you have a selection.

Planting Time

Planting should occur after the last freeze. However, being in Texas, who knows WHEN that may occur. For some plants, it’s safe to wait a little longer. But, for others, like tomatoes, you may want to get a head start by planting indoors and transplanting later.

Don’t Overplant

It is so tempting to plant ALL of the seeds. But unless you’re feeding a large family or are planning on sharing, you don’t need rows and rows of okra and tomatoes. They WILL produce a lot. It can easily become overwhelming when it comes time to harvest.

Check for Pests and Weeds

With these things, prevention is way better than trying to maintain. Keep a look out for pests and weeds and stay on top of their treatments. Check your local gardening store for the best treatments before and during gardening season.

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Preventing Pipes from Freezing

Preventing your pipes from freezing when the temperatures dip below freezing is one of the most useful tips for dealing with winter. Frozen and busted pipes can cause expensive repairs and a mess of a flood to clean up. It can be especially difficult here in Texas, because we often don’t even think about the freezing weather until it’s too late. Sometimes, we just aren’t prepared enough for all that winter brings, because it is usually so short and/or sporadic.

Be prepared. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and use the following tips for indoor and outdoor pipes to prevent freezing.

Preventing Pipes from Freezing

Salt

Pour about .5 cup of salt in your drains before bed.

Drip

Leaving the faucets on and dripping is one of the most common and most effective ways to prevent freezing. As long as the temps are below freezing, if you have a pipe that is likely to freeze, keep the water dripping.

Heat the Space

An electric space heater can be especially helpful if you have cold rooms where the pipes are on an exterior wall. Basements, laundry rooms, and some bathrooms do well with an addition of a space heater. *Bonus, the room is now nice and cozy when you need it.

Insulate

Foam insulation tubes definitely come in handy, as well as the foam faucet covers. Stock up when it’s NOT cold, because the stores are always out when you need them. If you forgot, newspaper, plastic wrap, or trash bags can be taped on as well.

Heat the Pipes

If you have a particularly stubborn pipe, you can keep it heated by applying heat tape or heat cords. You’ll need to be able to plug those in, so pick up an extension cord if needed. This type of precaution is usually not necessary here, as it rarely gets that cold. But if you do have pipes that have frozen multiple times, this may be worth the investment.

Ticks, What You Need to Know to Keep Safe

When you think of ticks, you may think of summer days, tall grass, or dogs. In the past, if you caught a tick, you didn’t think much about it. Pull it out, kill it, and move on. The were an an annoyance, to be sure, but not generally anything to be overly concerned about. Those ticks are still around and you will notice them by their bigger size and attraction to dogs. But, there is also another species of tick, called a deer tick, and it is not so benign.

Deer ticks, which are smaller and have black legs, are far more likely to carry disease. When they crawl under clothes and attach themselves to their host, they are also less likely to be noticed. But, here’s what you need to know about ticks and staying safe.

Ticks crawl

The don’t jump or fly. Which means, to get to your head where they want to be, they have to generally crawl all the way up the body. Keeping the lower half of the body well covered will hopefully help shake the little critters off before they get to their dinner table (also known as your ears).

Their Life Cycles are Similar

Regardless of type of tick, they hatch from eggs and go through three stages: larvae, nymph, and adult. If they are bigger than normal, they may be full or partially full.

You’re Not Safe in Winter

Not that it feels particularly like winter right now here in Texas, but ticks stay active through the winter. They are not deterred by freezing temperatures so unless it’s iced over, you could still be at risk.

They Carry Disease Causing Bacteria

Ticks today are simply more likely to harbor the bad stuff than ticks in the past. This is due to the growth of deer population. A number of diseases can be transmitted, so if you have any symptoms after being bitten, don’t hesitate to call the doctor.

You Have 24 Hours

That’s about the length of time between attaching and germy transmission. So, if you’re spending the day in the woods or going camping, a quick once over before bed should keep you safe.

Bring Tweezers

Specifically the pointy kind. Grab the little pest as close to the skin as possible to prevent pushing any bacteria into your skin when you squish it.

Treat Your Pets and Other Precautions

  • Keep your pet up to day with monthly tick repellents.
  • Purchase clothing with tick repellent built in if you’re going to be hiking, hunting, or traveling in areas with more ticks.
  • And don’t forget to do a body scan before tucking into your tent at night.

Medication Expiration Dates and What They Mean

Medication Expiration Dates and What They Mean

We’ve talked previously about food expiration dates. In general dates aren’t a hard-fast deadline of when to consume your food. But medication expiration dates aren’t the same and aren’t subjected to the same guidelines. When you take medication, whether an aspirin for a headache or an antibiotic for an infection, you want to know it’s safe and effective.

Here’s the low down on medication expiration dates…

The date on the medication bottle does mean a lot. Food labels aren’t closely regulated. However, medication expiration dates are based on scientific studies on the potency of the medication. External conditions such as temperature and humidity are varied and controlled for, to see when and at what circumstances the drug is compromised.

The short version is….

In general, the expiration date is based on the average time it takes for the medication to be degraded 10%. So, basically, it’s not as useful as it once was, and it’s time to throw it out.

After that,

If the medication expiration dates are based on potency of the product, not on spoilage like food products, taking a medication after its date is unlikely to cause you to get sick. The medicine just won’t work.

And that can be a big deal, depending on what you need medicine for. You may be able to tough out sore muscles or a headache, but if you think you’re going to take last year’s antibiotics, you could be setting yourself up for serious trouble.

First, you should have completed that prescription of antibiotics, as prescribed. But, if you didn’t, and now it’s some time later, you could be at risk for antibiotic resistance. In simple terms, you’re only killing off the weak bacteria leaving the strong ones to reproduce and “outsmart” the medication. Antibiotic resistance is a huge concern, with over 20,000 people in the US dying yearly, per the CDC.

Quick Tips

  • Don’t take medication past the expiration date.
  • Throw away an unused prescription medications so you do not accidentally take them past the expiration dates.
  • Follow the directions on the bottle in regards to storage.
  • If there are no directions, it is generally safe to assume that room temperature, dry, dark places will be optimal for storage.
  • Liquid drugs (like cough syrups) are more easily contaminated, so take precaution with use.
  • If your medication changes color or consistence, it is generally time to dispose of that medication.

Trash Overhaul, Reduce Waste Now

Trash Overhaul

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was not “Reduce Waste”, then you may want to consider it. Whether you cut back on trash production for environmental reasons, cost reasons (some cities charge for bigger garbage receptacles), or just because it’s a hassle to take out the garbage SO much, a few helpful tips can get you on the right track. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, and try out a few of these tips this week!

Reduce Waste With these Trash Overhaul Tips

  1. REUSABLE BAGS! Did you know that some cities have now banned plastic bags? Some stores have gotten rid of all bags together. And some charge for disposable bags. We may not be in an area where those things are happening, but they are very likely around the corner. So, get into the habit now of bringing your reusable bags to the store. (If you forget, make sure to reuse your bag later in the week or recycle it, but don’t just toss it in the trash can.)
  2. Cut back on single serve containers. It may be more convenient, especially for packing lunches and for after school snacks, but it’s less wasteful and less costly to buy in bigger packaging. So, bag up your chips and cookies in reusable containers, and TRY not to leave them at work at the end of the day.
  3. Try your hand at composting. Quite a bit of our trash comes from food waste. Plan your list in advance, buy what you need, and if you do have scraps, consider a compost heap in the back yard.
  4. Unsubscribe from junk mail. Find out how HERE. 
  5. Purchase soaps and detergents in concentrated forms. Some products are made to be diluted, or can be used for multiple purposes. Try to cut back on plastics by finding refillable options!