The Best Ways for New Yorkers to Celebrate the 4th of July

fireworks

It just doesn’t get any better than Fourth of July fireworks in NYC. Photo by Anthony Quintano (Flickr)

The Best Ways for New Yorkers to Celebrate the Fourth of July

It’s almost America’s birthday again, and if there is one thing that the Big Apple does better than anyone else, it’s celebrating the Fourth of July. What could possibly be more breathtaking on the Fourth than watching the annual fireworks extravaganza? Well, not much, but there are other July 4 traditions that equal the fireworks’ grandeur and fun, so you’ll want to check those out, too. What is the best way for New Yorkers to celebrate the Fourth of July? I have some suggestions that I think you’ll want on top of your list.

Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular

Let’s begin with the granddaddy of fireworks shows, not to mention NYC’s most popular July 4 celebration, and that is the Macy’s annual 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular. The show is held on the East River, and if you are in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Queens, you can see the amazing fireworks flying off of the barges anywhere your view of the river is not obstructed by buildings. Some good places to watch the fireworks include the sections of FDR Drive that are elevated, Vietnam Memorial Park in Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, and Center Boulevard between 48th and 49th avenues in Queens.

World-Famous Nathan’s International Hot Dot Eating Contest

This annual July 4 celebration is not for the weak of heart or stomach. Every year, hundreds of people make their way to Coney Island and many more watch on television as gustatory competitors line up to see who can eat the most Nathan’s Famous hot dogs. You might not believe this, but this is one serious sporting event, with male and female competitors and qualifying rounds leading up to the final hot dog frenzy. New Yorkers take pride in their dogs, and it’s quite a battle over international competitors in an effort to ensure that a New Yorker is donning the champion belt and collecting the prize purse.

Liberty Belle Extravaganza

If watching tons of people shovel massive amounts of hot dogs into their mouths isn’t your cup of tea, another Fourth of July tradition in New York City is the annual Liberty Belle Extravaganza. This “vintage” celebration takes place at Hudson Terrace at 621 West 46th St., and you’ll be propelled back in time as you watch dancers and listen to orchestras and bands play patriotic music appropriate for the celebration. What are not so appropriate are the burlesque dancers, sure to bring a new twist on any July 4 celebration you’ve ever been to, and you can enjoy delicious barbecue at this event while overlooking the Hudson River.

Revolutionary War New York Nighttime Walking Tour

This is one of my favorite events. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love the Fraunces Tavern Museum’s annual Revolutionary War walking tour, held on July 4 from 3 to 7 a.m. Many people don’t realize the critical role New York played in our nation’s fight for independence. We often associate the Revolutionary War with more famous people and events, such as Paul Revere and the Battle of Bunker Hill. But New York City has its revolutionary heroes as well, including Marinus Willett, and you can learn all about him and NYC’s involvement in the war by walking through history on this guided tour. What a fantastic way to celebrate our nation’s birthday: walking in the footsteps of the men and women who fought for our nation’s independence and gave us a reason to celebrate.

School’s Out! Keep Your Kids Busy in NYC This Summer

summer

Get your kids outdoors and into some summer fun! Photo by Ian D. Keating (Flickr)

School’s Out! Keep Your Kids Busy in NYC This Summer

As Alice Cooper sings in his raspy voice, “School’s out for summer!” This is your kids’ favorite time of the year: no more school, homework, or teachers. As the Staples commercial humorously depicts, the end of summer is parents’ “most wonderful time of the year!” There’s a precious span of time in between when your children have a lot of free time and you don’t, and there’s nothing worse than allowing them to while away the hot summer days in front of the television set. There are plenty of things to do in New York City during your kids’ summer vacation, so here are some suggestions for keeping your munchkins busy.

Fun at the Park

Many of the New York City parks offer summer recreation designed to educate, enlighten, and enrich your children, and the best part is that they’ll be having so much fun that they won’t realize that they’re learning something! These activities are sure to beat romping on the jungle gym or kicking a soccer ball around.

  • Mad. Sq. Kids: Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday throughout the summer and into October, the Madison Square Park Conservatory hosts a program that will put a smile on your little ones’ faces. In the “Explore!” program, kids are encouraged to explore many different things through fun activities. Whether it’s learning what animals eat, going on a scavenger hunt, or identifying all of the Madison Square Park monuments, your kids are sure to enjoy getting out of the house and into the summer sun for this exploration activity. Please note that an adult must accompany your kidsYou can learn more about the program on the Madison Square Park Conservancy website.
  • Pop-Up Audubon: New York City is a concrete jungle, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t learn about nature during summer vacation. The Prospect Park Alliance and Audubon New York have partnered to bring NYC residents and visitors the Prospect Park Audubon Center. Here, your kids will be immersed in an urban setting full of plants and animals sure to please even the whiniest of summer vacationers. A majority of the habitat has been restored to its natural condition, and a trip to the historic Boathouse is definitely worthwhile. Visit the Prospect Park Audubon Center website for a list of summer activities.

Summer Camp

For most parents, summer presents the conundrum of what to do with the kids during the day while you are at work. Fortunately, NYC has plenty of summer day camps sure to capture your little one’s interest no matter what they’re into. Whether your child is a future engineer or the next Taylor Swift, your kids are sure to have fun at these summer day camps.

  • Brooklyn Design Lab Summer Lab: For kids in kindergarten through sixth grade, Brooklyn Design Lab’s Summer Lab gives your children the chance to play with just about every art medium imaginable under the sun. Each week, kids will learn how to design and create their next masterpiece using paint, collage, clay, fabric, print, wood, and even 3-D construction with LEGOs. As you can imagine, these summer labs fill quickly, so you’ll want to plan ahead and get your kids in the lab or on the waiting list. Please see Brooklyn Design Lab’s website for more information.
  • Brooklyn Music Factory Camp: Brooklyn Music Factory lets your children ages 5 to 15 get their inner rock star on with three separate summer camps. Whether your little one wants to jam with a band or learn how to write and record music, they will have an absolute blast performing on stage in this summer camp. Alongside playing music, you kids will have fun with other art-inspired activities such as designing logos and posters for their bands, and there is a playground where they can blow off steam when suffering from songwriter’s block. Check out Brooklyn Music Factory for all of the details.

These are just four of the many activities that New York City offers you and your children during the hot summer vacation months. One of the best things about living in NYC is there is always something to do, and if you check out the city’s Parks and Recreation page, you’ll find that plenty of the fun is free. Instead of listening to the incessant “I’m bored” whines, get your kids outdoors and into some summer fun!

Keep Your Home Clean All Summer Without Breaking a Sweat

pool gear

Don’t forget to keep the pool gear clean! Photo by EvelynGiggles (Flickr)

Keep Your Home Clean All Summer Without Breaking a Sweat

The last thing you want to do during the hot and humid summer months is clean your house. Even if you have air conditioning and aren’t afraid to use it (some people’s electric bills skyrocket during warmer weather), the thought of working up a sweat when it’s already 100 degrees outside isn’t appealing to anyone. My solution to keeping your home clean once the mercury begins to rise is simple: Prevention! Use these tips to help prevent dirt in the first place and you’ll be left with an already-clean house without breaking a sweat.

Keep Humidity Under Control

When you combine the steam from your morning shower and the warmer summer months, you get the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. Your laundry room can also become warm and sticky when it’s hot outside. Utilize the exhaust fans throughout your home to dehumidify these rooms after use, and use oscillating and ceiling fans in other rooms where air needs to circulate. In extremely humid environments, purchase a dehumidifier.

Stop the Dirt-Trackers

The kids are outside playing, and you and your partner are outside getting the garden warm-weather-ready. When it’s time to come inside, disaster may very well ensue on your floors and carpets. Purchase quality doormats that are designed to catch all of the dirt when people wipe their mucky shoes or bare feet on them and spare yourself having to clean the grime that inevitably is tracked into your home after a day in the summer sun.

Keep the Damp Outside

Whether you have a pool or live near a body of water, wet swimsuits and towels are sure to wreak havoc in your clean home. Set up drying racks outside on your back porch, and if privacy allows, have the kids change out of their wet gear, dry off, and put dry clothes on before coming inside. If privacy doesn’t allow, have them change in the laundry room to limit the mess, and put the suits and towels outside on the racks to dry prior to washing.

Don’t Stop With the Suits

Pool toys, floaters, ice chests, and all of those other summer accessories that make fun in the sun even more fun also get dirty and should not be dragged into your clean home. Have your kids line up their pool toys and floaters on your patio or lawn once they’re done using them. Empty any ice chests you’ve used outside as well. Grab a bucket of vinegar and water for a safe cleaning solution and wash everything, rinse, and then let it finish drying in the sun before putting it all away.

Close it Up

You holler it all day long: “Close the door! The air conditioner is on!” But leaving doors and windows open during summer months causes more problems than just a higher electric bill. As I mentioned earlier, the best way to avoid having to break out into a sweat cleaning your house during hot and humid weather is to prevent dirt in the first place, and keeping everything closed leaves dirt, dust, and pollen outside and your home clean inside.

These are just a few things you can do to limit the need for housecleaning when the weather heats up. Besides, when it’s warm outside, who wants to be trapped inside? It’s much better to dive into the pool with your kids than dust and vacuum, so heed these tips, put on your swimsuit and sunscreen, and break a sweat by relaxing and having fun in the warm summer sun instead.

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Naturally Repel The Critters That Are Making Your Home Their Own

Once scout ants find a way in…

Naturally Repel the Critters that Are Making Your Home Their Own

Warmer weather ushers in beautiful days filled with blue skies, sunshine, and fun outdoor activities. While you’re enjoying spring and summer, critters are coming out of hibernation and searching for food and water. You see, there’s another thing warmer weather ushers in: pests. You work hard to keep your home clean, but this doesn’t deter determined insects and rodents that are ready to call your home their home. What’s worse, an exterminator is expensive and over-the-counter pesticides can be dangerous. What can you do? Naturally repel them.

Dangers of Pesticides

It’s no surprise that OTC pesticides are dangerous; after all, they are poison. What’s worse, there are three different ways in which you can be exposed to the poison, and each way can cause harm or even death. Whether you inhale it, get it on your skin, or ingest it, pesticide chemicals are designed to kill bugs; and they will harm you, your family, and your pets, too.

Naturally Repel

Thankfully, there are numerous natural ways repel insects and rodents, and these pest-control measures won’t harm you, your family, or your pets. Not only are these methods risk-free, they’re also less expensive than OTC pesticides or hiring a professional. You clean your home naturally; here’s how to repel the most common pests in the same manner:

Ants: Ants are without a doubt one of the most tenacious insects out there. It only takes a scout ant to find a way into your home before you have your floors and countertops covered with the creepy crawlers. It doesn’t matter if they are looking for food or water; ants become a huge problem very quickly. Fortunately, cinnamon naturally repels ants and has the added benefit of smelling nice. Sprinkle a small amount of cinnamon alongside your baseboards and at all openings and leave the ants outside.

Bats: Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to repelling bats. Simply put, if you don’t give them entrance, they won’t find a way in. To avoid an attic full of bats, check around your house frequently for any openings; this includes vents and your fireplace chimney. Cover all openings with screening material. This prevents not only bats, but also birds, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, possums, and other critters that are better left outside from gaining entry into your home.

Mice: If you’ve seen those plug-in mice repellents at your hardware store and thought cynically, “Yeah, sure, sound isn’t going to drive away mice,” think again. These ultrasonic noisemakers are quite effective in repelling mice, rats, bats, and other rodents. It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or a rural area, ultrasonic rodent repellers are designed to cover anything from small apartments to wide spaces. Just purchase the right ones for your needs and plug them in.

Mosquitos: Mosquito bites can be extremely harmful to your health, and these nasty insects will munch on your pets, as well. Mosquitos are drawn to water, because that is where they breed and lay their eggs, so rule number one in repelling mosquitos is to keep your home and the land around it dry. Get rid of that decorative fountain and birdbath, keep your lawn mown, and don’t let water puddle outside. Inside, use drain screens and keep your doors and windows closed.

Beneficial “Pests”

This might seem like an odd section to add to this post, but there are actually beneficial pests that help keep other pests away from your home. One of them is spiders. If you have spiders, you will want to call in an expert to ensure that they are not harmful. If they aren’t poisonous, it behooves you to consider keeping a few of them around, even if you don’t like them. You don’t want an overpopulation of the creepy critters, so natural prevention is beneficial. Still, allowing a few of them to call your home their home will reduce other annoying pests, including flies. To prevent too many spiders, keep your home clean and free of clutter, and do the same in your garage and storage areas. Keep your yard trimmed and maintained to avoid overpopulation outside and then simply leave them alone. Spiders keep to themselves and aren’t interested in bothering you, so don’t bother them.

Keeping your home free of pests is very important. Your home is your castle, not an insect’s or rodent’s castle, and you want to ensure that you and your family are safe from any pest or the traditionally harmful way of disposing of them. Thankfully, natural pest control is just as effective as chemically-laden pest control, and you can usher in the beautiful spring and summer weather without ushering in all the spring and summer critters.

The Most Overlooked And Under-Cleaned Areas Of Your Home

No matter how clean your kitchen is, there’s dirt and grime hiding underneath and behind your appliances.

The Most Overlooked and Under-Cleaned Areas of Your Home

You clean your house once a week… or do you? Sure, you dust, vacuum, and scrub the kitchen and bathrooms, but you still aren’t getting your home as clean as it can be. This is a problem if you or a family member suffers from allergies or respiratory illness. This isn’t your fault, however, so don’t beat yourself up. There are nooks and crannies in every home that hide dirt, and there are household items you might not even realize need cleaning. I’m here to help you avoid these hidden traps. Let’s talk about nine of the most overlooked and under-cleaned areas of your home.

  1. Under and Behind Major Appliances: You can see the dust bunnies under your couch; you cannot see them under your refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, and dryer… and you likely don’t want to. These areas become a breeding ground for dust, grease, and grunge. Even if it’s only twice a year (spring and fall), pull these appliances out and scrub underneath and behind them. A solution of white vinegar and water works well, and you can use baking soda to scour away any tough stains.
  2. The Appliances Themselves: Before you slide your appliances back into place, clean the backsides and sides of each, paying special attention to anything that needs cleaning on the unit, such as your refrigerator coils, which you can dry brush or vacuum clean. Empty and clean the insides of your appliances using a water and baking soda solution, and then scoot them carefully back into place. Make sure to disconnect and unplug everything before you clean.
  3. Drains: Drains collect a ton of grime. Whether it’s your kitchen drain filled with food residue or shower drains filled with hair, it’s important to regularly clean these areas in order to maintain function. Once a month, take 1/2 cup of baking soda and sprinkle it down each drain. Next, take 1/2 cup of white vinegar and pour that down so the mixture foams. Leave the drains alone for 30 minutes. After a half-hour, boil a large pot of salt water and carefully pour that down each drain to rinse everything clean.
  4. Faucets: Your drains aren’t the only things in your sinks, showers, and tubs that need attention. You also need to clean your faucets. Unscrew the faucet heads on those that are removable and soak them in white vinegar for 30 minutes. Grab an old toothbrush and gently scrub away any lime and residue, rinse clean, and then replace. Note: Some of your faucets will have multiple parts as you unscrew them, so make certain you remember how to reassemble them properly.
  5. Ceiling Fan Blades: Ceiling fans are wonderful appliances for keeping the temperature in your home even and controlled throughout the year, but as those blades are gently circulating your indoor air, they are collecting a tremendous amount of dust. If you don’t include your ceiling fan blades in your weekly dusting, make sure to dust and clean them at least once a month. You can either dust with an extended-reach duster or carefully use a stepladder to reach the blades.
  6. Lighting Globes, Panels, and Lampshades: If your home is older, you may have ceiling lights that are covered by globes. You may also have kitchen ceiling fluorescent lighting and lamps throughout your home. It’s wise to remove your ceiling lighting globes and panels at least every couple of months and clean out the dead bugs and grime that collects. Simply sponging them down with warm, sudsy water will do the trick. Don’t forget to dust your lampshades, too.
  7. Baseboards: This is one of the most forgotten areas of your home. Many people don’t think about cleaning their baseboards until the grunge is already caked on; this holds especially true in humid environments such as your bathrooms. Don’t forget to clean around the base of your walls monthly to ensure your baseboards are not gathering irritating dust. You can dust them with a feather duster or damp sponge, depending upon how dirty they are.
  8. Kitchen Cabinet Tops: In most cases, there is a space between your kitchen cabinets and your ceiling and that area is dust bunny heaven. Once a month, take a damp sponge or cloth and wipe clean the tops of your kitchen cabinets. If your home isn’t prone to collecting too much dust, a feather duster might do the trick. Don’t stand on your kitchen counters to do this; that’s dangerous. Use a sturdy stepladder and work slowly and carefully.
  9. Remote Controls: Surprise! You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Believe it or not, the one thing that you cannot pry out of your husband or kid’s hand is one of the dirtiest and germ-riddled items in your home. Dirty, grimy, sticky fingers spend all afternoon and evening pressing the buttons channel surfing, so wipe down your remote controls weekly with a cotton ball doused in rubbing alcohol, and get in between the buttons with cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol. Remove the batteries first.

This might seem like a lot, but it really doesn’t take that much additional time to clean these hidden and grimy areas of your home. If you keep it up as you do the rest of your house, you’ll forget you’ve even added them to your cleaning routine. The bottom line is that your home is your castle! You’ve worked hard for it and you’re proud of it, so make sure you’re not overlooking and under-cleaning parts of it.

Baking Soda, The Best Remedy To All Your Spring Ailments

Take the “ouch” out of bee stings with baking soda.

Baking Soda, the Best Remedy to All Your Spring Ailments

If there is one natural miracle cure, it’s baking soda. It doesn’t matter if you use it for personal health or cleaning purposes; baking soda is nature’s remedy to just about everything. As we move forward with greater concerns over our health and environment, the one thing we should always keep in mind is that our 20th-century solutions to first aid and cleaning are not as safe as we thought they were. We’re living in the 21st century, and it’s time to adopt an advanced mindset by taking things back to basics. One way to do that is to add good old-fashioned baking soda to your healthcare and cleaning arsenal, because it really is the best remedy for all your spring ailments.

15 Amazing Uses

Don’t believe me? That’s okay. I meet people daily who are afraid to let go of their chemically laden first aid kit and cleaning supplies. They still believe that bleach is the best solution for that grimy bathroom and grungy laundry, unaware of how dangerous the chemical actually is.

Rather than try to convince you by pointing out all of the chemical products’ dangers and downfalls, I’m going to give you 15 positive reasons why you should make the switch to baking soda. If these reasons don’t convince you, nothing will!

  1. Whiten Your Teeth: Skip the harsh whitening toothpastes and strips and brush your teeth with baking soda instead. It naturally and safely whitens your teeth and freshens your breath.
  2. Soak Your Kids’ Retainers or Your Dentures: Baking soda works just as well as manufactured cleaners in getting your dental appliances clean and fresh between wearing.
  3. Exfoliate Your Skin: Exfoliate your face, hands, elbows, and feet! If you make a paste of baking soda and water, you have a fantastic, natural way to remove rough, dead skin.
  4. Insect Bites and Bee Stings: With spring comes insect bites and bee stings, and baking soda takes the “sting” out of both. Just make a thick paste with water and apply to the wound.
  5. Relax: If you’re exhausted and have been on your feet all day, add 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of baking soda to warm bath water, immerse yourself, and soak the day’s troubles away.
  6. Scrub-a-dub the Tub: After you’ve soaked your stress away, clean your tub with baking soda. This amazing powder will clean all of your bathroom and kitchen tile surfaces.
  7. Clean Your Shower Curtain: Baking soda also works beautifully on your vinyl shower curtain. Sprinkle baking soda on the damp curtain, scrub it, and rinse; it’s already hanging to dry!
  8. Disinfect Your Sponges: Refresh your cleaning tools, too. Add baking soda to hot water, soak the mold and mildew out of your sponges, and allow them to air dry.
  9. Polish Your Silver: Using your silver for that special graduation dinner? A paste of baking soda and water is a safe way to polish away tarnish without the nasty cleaner fumes.
  10. Clean Your Appliances: To get your microwave and conventional ovens clean, moisten your sponge, sprinkle it with baking soda, and scour away. It even scrubs away caked-on foods.
  11. Remove Coffee Pot Stains: Coffee stains our teeth and our coffee pots. Fill your coffee pot with warm water and 1/4 cup baking soda and soak away the stains; it works on your mugs, too.
  12. Safely Scrub Walls: Don’t flip out if you come home to your three-year-old’s crayon “graffiti.” Scrub the crayon off with baking soda on a damp sponge and wipe clean.
  13. Skip the Bleach and Fabric Softener: Adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to each wash load safely whitens and softens your laundry without the dangers of bleach and fabric softener.
  14. Deodorize Your Carpets: Perfumes are brutal to spring allergies, so skip the flowery carpet powders and sprinkle baking soda on your carpet instead to deodorize it.
  15. For the Pets, Too: Baking soda works wonders in neutralizing cat box and pet bedding odors. Sprinkle it in your cat’s litter box and on the dog’s bed. Vacuum the bed clean.

I could go on; you can use baking soda for so many things! The best part is it’s safe. When using baking soda, you don’t have to fret about chemicals that are dangerous to you and your home. This natural wonder has been used for centuries for personal hygiene, healthcare, and cleaning, and it’s time you added it to your routine to enjoy the best remedy for all your spring ailments.

Cleaning Tips To Ease Your Seasonal Allergies

Spring is upon us and so is allergy season. We can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, until that familiar tingling in the nose sets in. Along with spring comes seasonal allergies, and for those who also suffer from severe allergies and/or asthma, this is a particularly difficult and dangerous time of the year. In some cases, allergies to spring’s pollens and dust can turn into allergic rhinitis, sinus infection, and for asthmatics serious breathing trouble. You don’t have to seal yourself into a bubble, however, to avoid the discomfort of spring allergies. Keep things clean and fresh and be surprised at the difference it makes.

Allergy-proof Your Cleaning Products

Before you dive into your spring-cleaning, it’s important to look at what you use to clean first. This might surprise you, but your cleaning products could actually be causing your allergic reaction more than seasonal allergies. Studies show that perfumes can trigger allergies in some people and are definitely bad news for asthmatics, so dump the air fresheners, scented detergents, furniture polish, everything, and opt for natural, unscented cleaners instead.

Scent isn’t the only thing that might be irritating to you and your family. Certain ingredients that were once thought as fantastic for cleaning are also detrimental to those suffering from seasonal allergies and asthmatics. Even if you do have unscented cleaners, check the labels for ammonia, bleach, calcium hypochlorite, chlorine, D-limonene, formaldehyde, sodium hypochlorite, and sodium lauryl sulphate. Don’t be surprised if your cleaning products fail to list the ingredients, and if they do, turn them in during your city’s next hazardous waste collection.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are plenty of simple, affordable, and natural cleaning options out there that will clean, sanitize, and freshen your home without harsh allergy-inducing chemicals. If you don’t want to purchase natural cleaners, make your own using ingredients such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemons, olive oil, salt, and white vinegar. Check out my post “When Life Gives You Lemons, Use Them in These Amazing 14 Ways” for recipes.

Spring Clean Your Allergies Away

Once you’ve removed the irritants from your cleaning supplies, it’s time to clean. As you know, pollens and dust multiply exponentially in the spring and summer months. This is in part due to everything blooming and in part due to your doors and windows being open. Cleaning tasks that could have been put on hold in the winter cannot be set aside in spring, particularly if you are suffering from allergies. It’s time to roll your sleeves up, put on a mask if cleaning exacerbates your allergies, and follow these tips:

  • Start outside. It does you no good to clean the inside of your home from top to bottom if dirt and pollen is going to be tracked in from the outside, particularly if you have carpeting to trap the irritants. Keep your driveway, walkways, front porch, and patios swept clean to avoid additional dust being tracked or blown into your house.
  • Reduce your clutter. Speaking of dust, there is no better dust trap than a ton of knick-knacks, bookshelves full of books, boxes everywhere, magazines, newspapers, piles of clothes… I could go on. If your house is cluttered, it’s dusty, not to mention a lot harder to clean. Reduce your clutter to avoid dust traps. You don’t want the dust and you definitely don’t want the mites.
  • Replace mattress covers and pillowcases. Speaking of dust mites, replace your mattress covers and pillowcases with dust-proof covering. It’s also wise to replace your bedding with hypoallergenic, natural options to ensure that your allergies are not being triggered at night during your sleep. The same goes for your blankets and comforters.
  • Wash them weekly. Aside from protecting your mattress and pillows from dust mites, you should also wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly in your washing machine’s hot cycle, and your blankets and comforters monthly. Use unscented, hypoallergenic, biodegradable laundry detergent and soften your bedding naturally with white vinegar or baking soda.
  • Don’t dry outside. It admittedly saves energy to avoid using your dryer and air-dry your laundry, but as your linens and clothing are sun drying, they are also picking up pollen from the air. When your allergies kick up, dry everything in the dryer using the lowest heat setting possible to save energy, and skip dryer sheets – those are all kinds of trouble, including causing allergic reactions.
  • Trap the dust. Speaking of the dust and pollen outside, you need to trap the dust and pollen inside while cleaning; otherwise, it’ll just be released into the air and settle onto your floors, furniture, and décor. Use damp clothes to wipe everything down instead of dry dusting, and make sure your vacuum has a good HEPA filter that traps dust instead of kicking it into the air.
  • Watch for mold. Keep your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and any other area in your home where there is moisture as dry and clean as possible to avoid mold growth. Mold is a primary allergen and can be extremely hazardous to everyone’s health, particularly if you or a family member suffers from asthma. Air out damp environments and keep them clean.
  • Do this weekly. You might be able to clean your house bi-monthly or monthly in the winter, but you won’t be able to in the spring and summer. Perform all of the steps above weekly to ensure that you are keeping dust and pollen down to a minimum, and vacuum at least twice a week; if you notice the house becoming dirty prior to your weekly schedule, clean earlier to avoid unnecessary irritation.

If you find after practicing these cleaning tips that your allergies aren’t getting any better, you may have to take drastic steps, such as redoing your flooring, curtains, and blinds to avoid allergy triggers like carpeting and heavy drapes that cannot be washed regularly. You might also have to keep your doors and windows shut and run your air-conditioning instead of allowing fresh, yet pollen-laden, air inside. I hope you don’t have to do this, because a beautiful spring day needs to come into your home. Either way, ease your seasonal allergies by keeping everything clean and dust-free.

The Best Parks In NYC To Play And Relax In

No one does dog parks quite like New York City.

A huge part of New York City’s appeal is Central Park, and it is an amazing park, but if you visit it frequently, you’ve likely discovered how crowded it becomes, especially during tourist season. As with everything else about New York City, however, we do parks better than most, and there are plenty of smaller, less packed options to enjoy during the warmer months. Whether you’re looking for a romantic picnic spot, a family day of fun, or a place to take the pooch so it can run around, NYC has the perfect park to play and relax in.

Love Is in the Air

It doesn’t matter which borough you call home; there’s a park for the perfect romantic picnic in all five. From the Bronx to Staten Island, NYC city planners have always understood the need for adequate outdoor space in our busy concrete jungle, and not just for the kids. Couples can enjoy a hand-in-hand walk along these places of greenspace, followed by a relaxing picnic in the fresh outdoors.

  • Brooklyn’s Lullwater Bridge at Prospect Park: Set your blanket down near this park’s boathouse and enjoy a beautiful waterfall as you munch on your picnic fare. You’ll feel as if you’ve been catapulted out of the city and into a lush work of art.
  • Manhattan’s Carl Schurz Park: Built in 1799, the elegant Gracie Mansion offers visitors a glimpse into NYC’s past and access to its glorious greenspace called Carl Schurz Park. Wander the gardens, and then steal a kiss on one of the many benches.
  • Queens’s Kissena Park: You might think I chose this park because “kiss” is part of the name, but that’s not the only reason. You and your significant other won’t realize you’re in NYC anymore once you see the glorious lake surrounded by weeping willows.
  • Staten Island’s Willowbrook Park: What makes this park special is its carousel. What’s more romantic than snuggling on a carousel bench or riding horses side by side as the machine turns? You can even steal a kiss or two; just be careful!
  • The Bronx’s Orchard Beach: Another park to transport you from the hustle and bustle that defines NYC, Orchard Beach will leave you thinking you’re in New England… old New England. Wander this rocky shoreline hand-in-hand and enjoy the beauty and fresh air.

For the Kids

Now it’s time to get the kids away from the video games and head outdoors. Fortunately, New York City has you more than covered with a ton of playgrounds. It’s hard to pick the best ones, but notables in each borough include:

  • Brooklyn’s Imagination Playground: Not only can your kids play amongst a towering dragon and storybook characters throughout the park’s statuary, but they can also enjoy summer performances put on in the park that are perfect for all ages.
  • Manhattan’s Hudson River Park: Head over to the playground at this beautiful revamp of Tribeca’s Pier 25 and watch your kids go crazy over the climbing walls and nets, out-of-this-world play equipment, skate parks, miniature golf course, and more. You’ll find it all here.
  • Queens’s Elmhurst Park Playground: Climbing structures, rock piles for exploration, and manmade hills to buffer the nearby Long Island Expressway noise and pollution make this Queens playground the perfect place for kids to explore, climb, and imagine to their heart’s content.
  • Staten Island’s Seaside Nature Wildlife Park Playground: Located beachside, you’ll find all sorts of sea-themed playground equipment upon which your kids can play pirates and get lost in their imagination. You get to lay down a towel and enjoy some relaxation in the sun.
  • The Bronx’s River Park Playground: Imagine your kids playing in a park just outside the Bronx Zoo! It will be a day of excitement they’ll never forget. This dream-come-true location is filled with swings, slides, and climbing structures.

Bring the Dog

We cannot forget human’s best friend when talking about the best NYC parks, and the city offers plenty of dog park options that allow Fido to be off the leash and running rampant with his doggy friends. Some parks go all out; others simply offer a clean, safe exercise space.

  • Brooklyn’s Hillside Dog Park and Run: This dog park is open 24/7 all year long and offers plenty of space for your dog to blow off some steam (two acres to be exact). There are hills, wooded areas, and recycled wood chips to give Spot a chance to roll around in something other than dirt.
  • Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Dog Park Run: Regardless of your dog’s age, there’s something for it to do at Tompkins Square. There are pools, dog runs, a “puppy patch” for the little ones, and, yes, a dog wash area. At Halloween, dress up your dog and join the costume party and parade.
  • Queens’s Cunningham Park Dog Run: This dog park in Queens has the ever-important reputation of being friendly, not to mention clean. Let your dog run and play with other dogs while you take a break and visit with other fun and friendly dog owners.
  • Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park: Take your pet on a walking trail designed just for dogs at Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park. During on the of park’s many special events, you can test your dog’s agility at a trial or enjoy watching other canines amaze you with their abilities.
  • The Bronx’s Canine Court at Van Cortlandt Park: This dog park has it all, including teeter-totters for your dogs. You’ll also find agility playgrounds, hurdles, tunnels, and a puppy swing made out of a specially designed hanging tire.

New York City is filled with parks, and these are just some of the ones I feel are worthy of a visit. A great spring and summer activity for the whole family is to check out as many parks as possible throughout the season. That way, you get plenty of outdoor time and the opportunity to find your favorites among the mix.

The 9 Kitchen Hot Spots For Germs

When was the last time you cleaned your refrigerator’s ice and water dispensers?

The 9 Kitchen Hot Spots For Germs

There is danger lurking in your kitchen and it’s not the two-week leftovers you’ve forgotten about in the fridge. Many of your kitchen appliances and, believe it or not, cleaning tools are actually the perfect breeding grounds for germs, and this includes germs that can cause serious illness and even death. For you and your family’s health and safety, it’s important to know where the hot spots for germs are in your kitchen and how you can clean them effectively. Let’s talk about the top nine.

Blender

Sure, smoothies are healthy, but the bacteria they leave behind is not. Germs can hide in all kinds of places in your blender, including on and underneath the rubber seal, in the blades, and in the crevices where the lid rests. A common mistake people make is doing what you see being done in smoothie shops and coffeehouses, and that is simply running the assembled unit under some hot water when you’re done using it. This is precisely what causes the germs in the first place, as it does not clean the crevices. Disassemble your blender after each use and wash each part thoroughly, then allow it to dry completely before reassembling.

Can Opener

This might seem as if it’s an odd place to find germs in your kitchen but your can opener, whether manual or electric, is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria on the magnet, blades, handle, and anywhere else you touch the unit. Just like doorknobs and your phone, places where you touch begin to harbor bacteria, and you can see the foodstuff seeping out of the can onto the blade as you open it. Most people don’t think to clean this appliance regularly, much less wipe off the cans before opening them. Do both, and if you can take your can opener apart to clean it, do so to ensure that germs aren’t hiding between the pieces.

Cutting Boards

Cutting boards are an absolute germ haven, particularly if you do not clean them thoroughly after each use. What’s worse is you could end up with E.coli, clostridium, listeria, salmonella, or other dangerous and even fatal bacteria, depending on what you’re chopping up on the board. As you cut your ingredients, you are scoring your board, no matter if it’s made of wood, plastic, or other material. The food liquid and debris settles in those scores and germs and mold begin to breed. Thoroughly clean and dry your cutting boards after each use, and use separate ones for meats, vegetables, and so on. If your board is dishwasher safe, toss it in the unit. If it’s made from wood, check with the manufacturer to determine the best way to clean and sanitize the utensil.

Ice Bins

This is a hidden danger that most people fail to consider. You know you are supposed to clean your refrigerator’s icemaker annually, but when was the last time you cleaned the bin into which the ice falls? Is your ice starting to taste funny? Are the cubes sticking together and to the bottom of the bin? It’s time to clean it. In fact, you should clean it once a month, because, yes, germs can survive for a time in that freezing environment. Turn your icemaker off, empty the bin, and wash it thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Allow it to dry completely before placing it back into your freezer.

Meat Compartment

The meat compartment in your fridge is honestly one of the most dangerous places. You know the different types of food poisoning you can receive from tainted or uncooked meat, and the stuff leaking from your deli packages is no exception. As you go about your life grabbing the lunchmeat for your sandwich and then tossing it back into the compartment, bacteria is building up on the bottom of the drawer. Dark, cool, and damp environments are the perfect breeding ground for germs and mold. Remove your meat compartment monthly and wash it thoroughly will hot, soapy water. Allow it to dry completely before inserting it back into your fridge.

Refrigerator Seals

Your refrigerator and freezer seals quickly and easily breed bacteria and mold when not kept clean. Open your refrigerator and look at the seal. Notice the folds? Moisture gets trapped between them, as does dirt, and this makes for the perfect place in which mold and bacteria will grow. As you’re cleaning your kitchen and wiping down your fridge, don’t forget to take a clean, soapy cloth and gently scour between the seal’s folds. Dry the seal thoroughly with a clean towel, ensuring that it’s completely dry before closing the fridge.

Sponge

Ah, your kitchen sponges; these are, without a doubt, one of the worst culprits for growing germs, bacteria, and mold, as they are almost always damp. You recognize the mildew scent they eventually get, and if you’re washing your dishes and wiping down your counters with them, you’re transferring those germs onto other surfaces. Toss your sponge into the dishwasher each time you run it to clean and sanitize it properly, and have a vented place to set it to ensure that it thoroughly dries in between uses. In fact, if you can dry it in the sunlight pouring into your kitchen, even better.

Vegetable Compartment

You might be thinking that you do not need to worry about your refrigerator’s vegetable compartment. After all, there aren’t any fluids or blood leaking out of your food in this drawer, as there are in your meat compartment. There is, however, the potential for bugs, especially if you buy organic, and the possibility that your produce is also tainted by bacteria-laden water. Another danger is if you wash your veggies the minute you bring them home and then toss them into the compartment, as this adds moisture to environment. As with your meat compartment, remove your veggie drawer once a month and clean it thoroughly. And if you pull out a veggie and see some creepy crawlers you missed when inspecting your produce at the store, empty the bin and wash it immediately.

Water Dispenser

Your refrigerator’s water dispenser hides germs all over it, not only in the spout and the hand/glass-press, but also throughout the unit itself. This is because it’s a moist environment and people are consistently touching it, no doubt with grubby hands when your kids retrieve water from the dispenser. Annually, you need to disassemble the entire unit and clean it per your manufacturer’s instructions. Weekly, you should take a clean, small brush (you can even use a brand new toothbrush), soak it white vinegar, and scrub the spout and opening around it. Once clean, open the spout to rinse it out, and wipe down the hand press, catch tray and area surrounding the dispenser with warm, soapy water. Dry thoroughly.

The Best Things To Do In NYC Once The Weather Warms Up

Spring is one of the most beautiful times to visit Central Park.

The Best Things to Do in NYC Once the Weather Warms Up

Spring is a refreshing time in New York City for everyone; it’s a time we all look forward to enjoying. NYC winters are cold and harsh, and none of us can wait for the sun to start shining – sans the April showers of course – and the weather to warm up. This is especially true for my employees and me. During work hours, we spend our time indoors cleaning, and nothing is better than heading outside for sunshine and fresh air. You might think that the holiday season is the most magical time of the year in NYC, but spring has its own charm that you cannot miss. So, after you’ve finished your spring-cleaning, get outdoors, take a deep breath, and check out some of the best things to do in NYC in the warmer weather.

For the Art Enthusiast

Whether you’re an artist or art enthusiast, there is plenty of new art to see in spring and Central Park is where you’ll find it. You might be thinking that Central Park is a strange place to suggest checking out art; after all, it’s not one of our amazing museums, but I’m not talking about manmade art primarily, I’m also talking about nature’s art. Spring is the perfect time to stroll through Central Park and enjoy all of the flowers and trees in bloom; you’ll see colors you’ve never imagined. It’s also a chance to see a variety of bird species, and, yes, there is new manmade art on display in the many plazas in Central Park.

For the Beer Enthusiast

Located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, spring is the time when the recently expanded and famous Brooklyn Brewery unleashes some new brew upon its patrons, so get your taste buds ready. Take a tour and learn all about the brewery’s manufacturing process, including being able to see some classic and new German beer-making equipment. Yes, this brewery crafts beer the authentic way, so take that Munich and Oktoberfest, we have our own beer “festival” right here in Brooklyn in the spring.

For the Film Enthusiast

Spring is time for NYC’s annual Tribeca Film Festival. The film festival was founded by acting great Robert De Niro and colleagues Craig Hatkoff and Jane Rosenthal in 2002 and pays homage to the Lower Manhattan neighborhood and its tragic losses after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the nearby World Trade Center. Hollywood’s best, brightest, and up and coming talent is on display at this annual event, and you’re sure to see stars and fantastic films aplenty.

For the Flower Enthusiast

Aside from enjoying all the flowers in bloom while wandering through Central Park, another annual spring event definitely worth checking out is the Macy’s Flower Show. Macy’s doesn’t just give NYC a wonderful fireworks show on July 4, a Thanksgiving Day parade, and its annual Santatown, it also ushers spring fittingly with a beautiful flower show. This garden expo features over 30,000 varieties of fresh flowers. The sights and smells will amaze you.

For the Kite Enthusiast

Socrates Sculpture Park is located in New York City’s borough of Queens, and alongside some amazing sculpture – hence its name – you’ll find kite flying galore in spring. In fact, the park has an annual kite-flying event, usually held in April, and you’d be amazed at how much fun it is to be a kid again, or to watch your kids, spend the day tackling the winds with a colorful flyer. It’s also amazing to watch the professional flyers there; I never knew kites could do what some of these pros make them do.

For the Shopping Enthusiast

April and May usher in the seasonal flea markets, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find tons of things you simply must have. Whether you’re looking to fill your home with antiques or get your hands on some new or vintage jewelry, the seasonal flea markets in spring make shopping in NYC a fun-filled and exciting annual event; just think about all the treasures you might unearth. There are also plenty of food stalls, including some wonderful ice cream vendors, to help you cool off in the warmer weather.

For the Sports Enthusiast

New York City is home to the most famous team in Major League Baseball: the New York Yankees. But we’re also home to the National League’s New York Mets, so whether you’re an American or National League fan, we’ve got you covered when baseball season officially opens in spring. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you have to check out a Yankees game and wander through the museum dedicated to some of baseball’s most famous names, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

As you can see, spring is really a magical time in New York City, and there is plenty to do to get you outdoors, in the warm weather, and dusted off yourself. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy, I’m certain there is a “best thing” to do in NYC right up your alley once the weather warms, so get out there and enjoy.

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