Meaningful Handwritten Notes: From the Heart

There’s a lot of talk today about people feeling isolated, lonely and physically separated from family and loved ones. Because of this, it’s even more important to get back to the basics of communication. This means taking time out each day to let someone know you’re thinking of them by sitting down and writing a personal note, sending a personalized card or even calling them on the phone to let them know you care.

The Importance of Staying in Touch

The importance of staying in touch with others has never been more important than it is today. This means that honing skills like letter writing and personal note writing has become ever more important. Our selection of personalized stationery, note cards and other personalized items at Miles Kimball is a great way to get started. Start slowly by making a goal of writing one personalized note per week — it doesn’t have to be fancy, eloquent or expertly written. Just a quick “Hello, I’m thinking of you and I hope you have a great day,” is a great start. Tell your friend or loved one about the highlights of your week, something special that happened or something that made you smile. Has a cardinal couple been regulars to your bird feeder each morning? Did you enjoy the smell of the rain from an enclosed porch? Is a beautiful flower growing outside your window? The simple fact that an effort was made to stay in touch is often enough to make a world of difference.

Personalized Address Labels

Consider creating a basket full of personalized correspondence goodies from Miles Kimball to send to a loved one who is isolated at this moment. Include our personalized address labels, a set of new pens and some fun postage stamps that are in line with a particular interest of the recipient (such as animals, flowers or inspirational themes). Personalized address labels are a fun and easy way to add some personality to your correspondence and are easy to stick to your envelopes in seconds, saving your hand to write that personalized note inside.

Available in many different styles, colors and designs, our self-stick address label rolls are a delight to receive. Shop label and seal sets that allow you to decorate your envelopes with patriotic themes, holiday themes, religious themes to wildlife, animals and floral decorations. Adorn your envelopes with these labels, address labels, clear address labels and seals in colorful designs.

Personalized Stationery

One doesn’t need a special occasion to get a personalized note in the mail. In fact, we think that it is even more special to receive an unexpected note in the mail when you’re least expecting it. To be honest, the thought of heading to the mailbox to take out more junk mail and advertisements can often be a bit depressing. A handwritten note from a friend or a family member can uplift one’s thoughts and considerably brighten their day. Click on our personalized calendars and stationery to check out our selection of personalized paper goods and accessories, including our self-inking stamps. Add a pocket calendar to a “Thinking of You” card, add a personalized note pad or give someone a towel calendar that they can use throughout the year (and then add to their kitchen collection when the year is over).

Our personalized stationery is great to say everything from “happy birthday,” “hello,” “I miss you” or “hang in there.” Our high-quality note cards and personalized stationery products are available in many different designs and font styles — from traditional script to personalized home state note cards.

Seasonal and Holiday Cards

Of course, the holidays are a fantastic reason to send cards. Personalized Christmas and holiday cards are our specialty at Miles Kimball and our affordable personalized holiday and seasonal cards are not-to-miss sections of the Miles Kimball website. For Christmas and holiday lovers, nothing is more special that receiving and displaying their holiday cards. Luckily, we have a stunning array of holiday cards from which to choose. From religious blessing cards, nostalgic cards, whimsical cards and traditional cards to season’s greeting and nature scenery displays, there are cards that will satisfy every seasonal preference.

Office Organizers and Supplies

If you’re new to sending hand-written thoughts via the mail to loved ones, that’s OK. Getting in the groove with sending love to friends and family members takes just a little organization and will get easier with time. Until then, there are fantastic organizational tools that can help you get your thoughts, dates and supplies in order. For example, we offer a greeting card organizer book that allows you to organize a year’s worth of cards in advance so they’re ready to go each month. (Hint: Our greeting card organizer makes a terrific gift!) Other organizers and dividers can be used, such as our greeting card organizer with dividers or lined index stick-on tabs to help you stay organized, write notes to yourself about when to mail out your correspondence and more. From letter holder baskets and storage bins to magnets and multi-function pens, there is a great selection of office supplies and organization products to get you on track.

What’s Your Style to Keep in Touch?

Do you have a special tradition among friends or family that helps you all keep in touch? Has someone in your family made your birthdays special by always remembering them? What is something that is super-meaningful to you that you have received in the past that is a unique idea for a handwritten note? Whether it is informative or funny, let us know. Share your thoughts with us below.

Garden Flag Décor: All Season Charm

It’s no secret that we love garden flags here at Miles Kimball. In fact, garden flags and garden flag decor are some of our all-time best-selling items in our store. It’s easy to see why, too. These colorful pieces of fabric add color, whimsy and fun to a garden. What’s better is that they couldn’t be easier to include in your garden or backyard landscaping!

Many of our customers take advantage of the changing seasons, holidays and special occasions to swap out their outdoor garden flags. Continue reading Kimball Corner to learn more about our outdoor garden flags and how you can add some colorful fun to your landscaping, garden, deck or patio areas through the use of outdoor garden flags.

How to Install Garden Flags

All that’s needed, really, is a good garden flag pole from Miles Kimball and some imagination. Our convenient, easy-to-use metal garden flagpole fits our garden flags perfectly. The bottom stakes easily into the ground and the garden flag slides over the display. After that, the sky is the limit!

Where to Install Garden Flags

Wondering where to put your garden flags? Natural suggestions include adding them into your landscaping islands, including them in front porch areas, installing near patios and putting them near seating areas. For an outdoor lighting idea, an outdoor patio lighting idea or an outdoor lighting idea for the front of the house, consider using one of our outdoor solar LED lights to add some focus to your garden flag. Your garden flag will not only be a great addition to your garden’s daytime beauty, it will also be a focal point in the evening and nighttime hours as well! Add decorative garden flags to multiple places around your yard — even one of our personalized garden flags for an extra-special touch.

Spring Sunshine: Colorful and Charming Garden Flags

Spring is a great time to add some color to your garden. While you’re looking for easy flowers to grow for your garden, you can also incorporate one of Miles Kimball’s spring garden flags. Our spring garden flags add a pop of instant color to your garden — long before your first flowers pop up after a long, gray winter. We have a variety of fun and festive spring flags. Don’t miss our selection, including our personalized St. Patrick’s Day mini banner or our personalized St. Patrick’s Day garden flags, our Easter “He is Risen” garden flag and Easter Bunny garden flags.

Summer Sun Soaked Garden Flag Fun

Summertime sun means sun-drenched color, get-togethers with friends and family and more relaxed schedules that force us to slow down and enjoy each moment. Summer garden flags are beautiful ways to create some wonderful whimsy in your garden. Our delightful Happy Campers garden flag adds fun to your sidewalks or entry ways. Nothing says summer like a Mason jar full of vibrant, summery wildflowers. You’ll love our personalized Mason Jar Floral garden flag — add your name for a custom touch. For the greatest grandma, add our Grandma’s Garden of Love garden flag, which is personalized to feature all of the special sprouts in her life. Don’t forget to celebrate those summertime patriotic holidays! Show your allegiance to the red, white and blue with American flag-themed garden flags, our personalized Patriotic Eagle garden flag or our Patriotic Fireworks personalized garden flag.

Fall Festivities Garden Flags

With the end of summer, the earth’s colors turn from muted browns to brilliant reds, oranges and yellows. Many autumn-themed garden flags reflect these colors and are fun to swap out in your garden flag repertoire. Opt for fall fun garden flags that feature scarecrows, pumpkins, autumn leaf colors or fall holidays, like Halloween or Thanksgiving. There are so many fall garden flags to choose from — too many to choose just one. From our Autumn Greetings garden flag to our Happy Fall scarecrow garden flag, you’ll find a fun fall look for your landscaping.

Winter Garden Flags Wonders

Think that winter is drab and dreary? Think again! With winter garden flags, you can transform your outdoor areas to reflect the many festivities that wintertime has to offer. It’s natural to anticipate the holiday seasons, so swap out your fall Thanksgiving flag to a colorful Advent, Christmas or holiday-themed flag to kick off your outdoor holiday decorating scheme. From snowmen, snow and poinsettias to winter birds like cardinals and wintertime-themed garden flags, there are winter-themed garden flags available for everyone. Check out our Poinsettia garden flag, our Let it Snow garden flag and our welcome Snowman garden flag. When the holidays are over, Valentine’s Day can create some festive decorative color. Check out our Happy Valentine’s Day Mini Banner Valentine garden flag.

More Outdoor Garden Décor There have been so many great additions to outdoor décor in recent years. Outdoor décor, including garden flags, can really highlight your home and spotlight your personality. From outdoor lighting, garden and lawn figurines, there is yard decoration that will brighten up your space — effortlessly. Be sure to shop our outdoor décor and yard decorations, many of which complement our garden flag selection. For example, check out our yard and garden stakes. From 4th of July decorations to decorative plant stakes and decorative garden stakes, these yard décor items are easy ways to add some fun.

Stay Healthy and Hydrated This Summer

Ah, summer. It’s the time of year when we enjoy the outdoors and take advantage of the wonderful warmer months. It is also the time of year when increased outdoor activity means that we need to up our hydration game. We’ve all heard that we should hydrate well, particularly during times of activity. Staying hydrated for optimal health is easier than you think. Read on to learn more about hydration and your health.

Hydration and Your Health: The Facts

Water makes up about 60% of the adult human body. However, did you know that this percentage changes throughout our lives? In utero, our bodies are made up of 94% water; infants are 75% water. As we age, our body’s water composition changes: the average elderly individual’s water composition can drop to 50%. As we take a closer look into water composition, individual organs vary too. The organ in the body that’s made up of the most water is the lungs (83% water), followed by the muscles and kidneys (79% water), the brain and the heart (73% water) the skin (64% water) — even the bones (31% water)! Staying hydrated is vital for your organs to function properly. Hydration regulates your body’s temperature, acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord, helps with digestion, forms saliva and lubricates joints.

How Much Water Should I Drink?

We’ve all been told that we should drink about eight glasses of water per day; however, this is a myth. The truth is that our water needs change and depend upon a lot of factors. These factors include our activity levels, how much we sweat, the climate we live in as well as our overall health. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, need more water. Eight glasses of water or liquids per day a great starting point. Take into account your personal activity levels (and the other factors described above) when determining how much water to drink per day.

How Can I Tell If I’m Getting Enough Water?

You can always tell if you’re getting enough water by the color of your urine. Of course, if you’re rarely running to the bathroom to urinate (less than four times a day is a warning sign), you’re definitely not getting enough water. That said, the color of well-hydrated urine is light yellow. In addition to urine, your hydration level can directly affect how you feel. If you are mildly dehydrated, you’ll likely have a headache, have dry skin or bad breath, you’ll feel tired or you will be unlikely to focus. Sudden and unusual cravings for sugar can also mean that you’re dehydrated. This is because dehydration interferes with many of the body’s function, including its ability to gain access to those stores of glucose. More severe signs that you’re not getting enough water is feeling dizzy or lightheaded. You may feel increasingly thirsty; if you’re thirsty that actually means that you’re already a bit dehydrated.

What are Some Easy Ways I Can Up My Water Intake?

Luckily, it’s fairly easy to stay hydrated. Although good, plain water is the best, the good news is that many other things count as a liquid, including herbal tea, coffee, milk, soup, juice, smoothies — even fruit! Love watermelon? Cut up some watermelon and take advantage of this great source of water; make your melons fun to eat with our stainless-steel cookie scoops for some decorative and easy-to-create melon balls. All of these items can count toward your daily water intake. If you prefer, filtered water, check out our clear water filtration pitcher. Keep it in the fridge for cold, filtered water to sip on throughout the day in your colorful 16-ounce insulated tumblers. Drink your coffee or tea out of a special personalized mug. Miles Kimball offers our personalized tea bag mug or our popular personalized coffee mug. Have a favorite NFL team? Check out our NFL coffee mug from Miles Kimball. Freshly squeezed juice is easy to enjoy and helps with hydration. Our 16-ounce citrus juicer by Home Marketplace is a great way to enjoy fresh orange juice. Keep your drinks cold with ice cubes, made with our aluminum ice cube trays.

Do I Need Sports Drinks?

With their fun flavors, sports drinks are often a favorite among people — both young and old. These flavored drinks are made mostly with water. They are also enhanced with electrolytes (sodium and potassium), as well as carbohydrates, and may contain glucose, fructose or high-fructose corn syrup. Some of the newer drinks are enhanced with vitamins and protein. Some studies have shown that individuals who are continuously and vigorously exercising may lose a lot of electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, calcium, chlorine, phosphates and magnesium). Electrolyte depletion can cause cramps and heat illness. If you are exercising in warm weather and are sweating a lot, these sports drinks may be beneficial to you. However, experts also agree that water is still the best solution for high-performance athletes. Electrolytes can be replenished without the use of those sports drinks, which may include added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Instead, opt for bananas, coconut water, dairy and avocado to replace your lost electrolytes.

Hydration and Health

It’s important to stay hydrated, and we’ve explored the ways that you can stay hydrated and healthy this summer. Do you have some tips and tricks that you’ve found to stay hydrated and healthy? What do you, your kids or your grandkids do to make staying hydrated for health fun? Leave a comment below to share.

Summer Garden Care

For avid gardeners, spring and summer are the high points of their year. These are the times when gardeners get to experiment with color, grow and nurture their outdoor plants and reap the rewards that can only come from caring for and tending to one’s own garden.

Gardening Tips for Weather Woes

From the time when those first tender new plants are planted to the end of summer, wild ranges of weather conditions can occur. These conditions can be particularly hard on flowers and outdoor plants. High winds, blistering heat, downpours and dry conditions can all affect how your garden thrives (or doesn’t thrive). Miles Kimball has some tips and gardening tricks for beginners — as well as for seasoned garden novices — that will help them get, and keep, their gardens in tip-top shape.

Pick the Right Plants and Flowers for Your Region

Although picking the right plants and flowers for your gardens, raised gardens, hanging baskets and planters may seem like no-brainers, these are quite often gardeners’ downfalls. It’s vitally important to take where you live into account. Have your Midwestern heart set on tropical plumeria, hibiscus or bromeliad? Planting tropical plants like these in places that don’t get enough humidity and sun is a surefire way to be disappointed. Instead, check out this USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This is the standard by which many nurseries and plants are rated and will let you know where your plants will thrive. A plant’s zone is usually prominently displayed, either on its container or as an information note added to the pot’s soil. This will let you its zone, what type of water level the plant needs and what type of sun requirements are necessary. If you’re looking for easy flowers to grow, it may be as simple as finding the flowers that are native, or at least conducive, to your agricultural zone.

Sun or Shade

When you’re determining how to plant a garden that’s best suited for your home and its environment, it’s also important to take your home’s sun or shade levels into account. As a rule of thumb and as a gardening tip, you should always remember these four facts:

  1. The north side of your house receives the least amount sun;
  2. The south side is always the sunniest and is often the hottest;
  3. The east side of your home is a space where your flowers and plants will receive the gentle morning sun; and
  4. Your west-facing plants will likely face the brutal brunt of the afternoon setting sun, which can be very hot in the summer months.

Plan your garden by first learning which part of your home faces what direction. It is also vital to consider the microclimates in your yard. Microclimates are affected by large shade trees, unique angles and other structures.

Miles Kimball makes it super-simple to find easy flowers to grow. Consider our roll-out seed mats that were designed by a horticulturist and are created according to their sun-loving or shade-loving flower needs. Shop our shady annual tree ring, shady garden roll out seed mat or our sunny tree ring. If you want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, check out our butterfly and hummingbird roll out seed mat. Love sunflowers? Planting them is easy as preparing your ground, rolling out our sunflower garden mat, watering and watching your sunflowers grow. Check out all of our plant and garden rolls for an easy garden to grow and to tend to.

Water Wisely

Everyone knows that all flowers and plants need water. However, watering your garden can be tricky. It’s often tough to know when to water and how much to water. Watering issues like watering too much, not watering enough and watering at the wrong time, can lead to poor plant progress. Experts all agree that watering in the morning is best for your plants. This is because the temperature is cooler: this gives the plants more time to absorb the moisture. Watering during the afternoon heat can cause water to evaporate quickly; alternately, watering at night can sometimes cause mildew. Remember that young seedlings and young tender plants need the most TLC, so plan on caring for your plants the most during their beginning stages.

Mulch

Mulch not only can make a garden look tidier, this extra layer of protection over the roots can help keep that summer heat at bay. A good layer of mulch also helps retain moisture, helps keep the soil cool, adds organic matter to the soil (mulch decomposes) and helps deter weeds. Garden tip: Adding three to five inches of organic mulch (pine needles, cardboard, wood chips, straw) will benefit your garden exponentially!

Crush the Competition: Weed and Dead Head

Weeds not only make a garden look untended, they rob your flowers’ and plants’ much-needed moisture. Keep weeds pulled. This, of course, is easier said than done. Weeds take advantage of the nutrients in the soil and often seem to grow hardier (and faster!) than your flowers or plants. A little weeding every day can greatly help your garden’s weed situation. While you’re weeding, this is also a good time to “dead-head.” This simply means snapping off the dried, spent or waning flowers, leaves or plants so your flowers can use their energy to produce new buds.

Miles Kimball has a great selection of lawn and gardening tools that will help you keep your lawn and your garden in top shape. Check out our folding garden seat, our three-in-one leaf race, our flexible fence edging and our extendable garden shovel.

Sit Back and Enjoy

Take time to enjoy your garden by adding some comfortable outdoor furniture, some bird baths and bird feeders and some spinners, chimes or windsocks, available at Miles Kimball. Gardens are hard work, but with our garden tips, you will see just how rewarding gardening can be!

Ideas for Gorgeous & Electricity-Free Outdoor Lighting

During the warmer months of the year, your yard naturally becomes more of a focal point for activity and entertaining. Gardening and watching your flowers bloom is an enjoyable hobby, of course, as you proudly behold your efforts lead to a gorgeous, colorful yard display. If you have young children, chances are they’re playing in the back yard, so you find yourself out there with them much more frequently. It can be so satisfying and pleasurable spending time in an attractive, well-tended yard.

When the sunsets and all is dark, however, we may not be quite as struck by the beauty of our landscape. Fortunately, thanks to today’s advanced solar technology, there are many exciting options and ideas for lighting the front of your house, deck, patio, stairs and back yard. Not only can you be creative, but you can add illumination without having to worry about electricity costs and hazards.

Outdoor Solar LED Lighting Basics

With the development of LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs, especially ones that run on solar power, outdoor lighting possibilities have expanded enormously. LED’s produce light through the use of a semiconductor material filled with electrons. When an electric current hits this semiconductor, the electrons move to fill electron “holes” in the material, and energy is released in photons of light. Basically, LED technology has made it possible to produce light using much less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.

Outdoor lighting using solar-powered LED bulbs is comprised of a solar panel, battery, control electronics and a light fixture. During the day, the battery collects energy from the sun’s rays, which is stored in the battery. After the sun goes down, the electronics trigger charging to stop and the light to go on. The fixture will radiate light until either there’s no charge left in the battery, or the sun comes up.

With these lights, which don’t rely on electricity and therefore need no plugs or outlets, you can basically place them wherever you want that’s accessible to sunlight. Areas that receive several hours of direct daytime sun are ideal. Outdoor lighting ideas include using them to light the walkway to your front door, illuminate special features of your yard, or add of touch of art to your garden and patio, as discussed below.

Outdoor Lighting Ideas

1. Sparkling StringsSolar LED String Lights are an excellent way to bring more light to your yard and patio after nightfall. They come in an assortment of hues — many are designed to automatically rotate among a menu of colors — and are made with a weather-resistant battery and solar panel, thereby affording electricity-free outdoor illumination. When used as pathway lights along the walkway to your doorstep, they not only look elegant, but help make it safer for anyone visiting in the evening. They can also be used at the base of the riser or under the nose of any steps outside your door, making for a safer stairway climb.

Another way to add accents to your yard with solar string lights is to place them along the top railing of a deck, raised patio or enclosed hot tub. It’s surprising how much ambience is added by these softly lit strings when you’re enjoying a warm summer evening relaxing in your back yard.

2. Sophisticated Stakes – Another type of outdoor solar LED fixture that comes in a variety of designs — traditional, modern and everything-in-between — are stake-mount path and accent lights. With the versatility of these electricity-free fixtures, you can highlight just about anything you like in your outdoor landscape, including walkways, plant-bed borders, koi ponds, unique plants, outdoor sculptures or other artwork. Have some fun being creative and experimenting with lighting effects.

For those who like a more dramatic look, try installing solar-powered spotlights aimed at higher-profile features of your property, such as unusual trees, boulders, and large fountains or sculptures. Spotlights can be strategically placed in front of these structures to provide artistic silhouettes against an exterior wall, like the front of a residence. Other types of fixtures provide all the art themselves in the form of eye-catching, multicolored light displays.

3. Dazzling Drops – Try using strings of droplet-shaped LED bulbs to add a delightful, whimsical appearance to trees, trellises or pergolas. Most solar LED strings, including this type, automatically switch on at night and return to charging mode during the day. However, there are some that include remote controls to adjust brightness and timing.

4. White Light Warning – Besides being decorative and preventing slip-and-fall accidents, outdoor lighting can serve a very important security function. Illuminating areas of darkness deters thieves or vandals, who depend on shadows and low visibility to mask their criminal activities. With solar-powered LED convenience, fixtures triggered by motion detectors shine bright light on outdoor areas — which unlit, would leave you and your valuables vulnerable to theft.

Other ways to combine outdoor illumination with added protection against unwanted visitors are solar-powered fixtures made to deter nighttime animals or insects. Equipped with motion detectors and ultra-sonic frequency dischargers, animal-repelling fixtures discourage foxes, cats, pigeons, rodents and other animal trespassers using light and high-frequency sound. Solar-powered LED insect zappers concurrently emit white light to enhance visibility for people, and purple UV light to kill pests.

By exploring today’s outdoor lighting options, you can affordably highlight the most attractive features of your garden or patio. So, when blazing hot summer days cool down to more pleasant evenings, you can unwind on your patio surrounded by enchanting illumination. Better yet, share the de-“light” by inviting family or friends over for an evening get-together.

How to Pack for a Picnic with Essentials from Miles Kimball

It’s a gorgeous summer Sunday. Your plans to get some housework done today fade as soon as you look out the window and see the sun playing on the softly rustling tree leaves. No, this is a day for a picnic with your family. A few phone calls later, you have a plan to meet your sister and her crew at the park by a nearby lake. Now, the question is, what picnic items will you need? Fortunately for you, you’ve been a devoted Miles Kimball fan for years, so you have everything on-hand for a perfect afternoon outdoors.

Your Picnic Checklist

Because a picnic is essentially a “moveable feast,” your thoughts turn to the food you’ve agreed to supply: your famous potato salad, hot dogs and buns, and a cake (chocolate, your spouse has insisted). You head to the kitchen, and pretty soon, the whole family is down there with you, risen from their beds by the smell of boiling potatoes and rising cake batter in the oven.

In a couple hours, the food is ready, and the family is — well, on their way to being ready. Now for the “moveable” part of that feast you’ve prepared. You already have hot dogs, condiments and buns handy, and you pull out your Bun and Hot Dog Keeper Set, one of your first Miles Kimball purchases. Next comes that spectacular potato salad, the recipe for which you keep top secret. Into the largest of your cheery, summer-themed 6-piece Strawberry Mixing and Storing Bowls it goes. These bowls are perfect for picnics, with their plastic snap-on lids. You start whistling as you pack the picnic lunch. This is getting fun.

Now your cake is ready to frost, and your youngest insists on helping. You hesitantly agree, wondering how much of that frosting will go onto the cake versus into her mouth and all over her chubby little 4-year-old cheeks. Oh well. Once the cake is ready, you pop it into your Miles Kimball 12” Cake Carrier. Check.

It’s time to start packing up the car with the help of your spouse and oldest son. Good thing you purchased that trunk organizer last summer, which included a cooler to keep perishable items fresh. You know how important it is to keep food items cool in the summer heat, especially things like your potato salad. Hopefully your sister will also remember her picnic essentials, like that Miles Kimball Double Decker Insulated Food Travel Tote you gave her last Christmas. She loved it, of course, since you had it personalized with her name.

More Picnic Items to Have On-Hand

Everything seems ready, but you wrack your brain trying to think of anything else you might have forgotten. That’s when your little girl comes outside carrying her Melissa & Doug Cutie-Pie Butterfly camp chair, and you can’t resist sweeping her up in your arms and kissing her, she’s so adorable. The sight of her little chair also reminds you of a few more items for your picnic. You run into the garage and grab the deluxe picnic table cover with cushions, which will make it so much nicer for everyone to sit at those public picnic tables and benches, which can be so dirty sometimes. You know your niece Jenny will especially appreciate this, since she’s always excessively paranoid about microbes.

But wait. What if there’s not enough room for everything on one picnic table? Or worse, what if there’re no picnic tables left? What time is it? We better leave soon, you think, before all the tables get taken. Suddenly calm is restored as you remember you actually purchased two of those amazing red folding picnic tables from Miles Kimball a couple years ago, since they were so handy and reasonably priced. We can always use those, you think, if we miss out on getting a picnic table. Plus, we could set them up right on the shore of the lake, in any pretty, shady spot of our choice. You recall that the folding tables even have special beverage holders for your brother-in-law Eddie to put his favorite beer. Your heartbeat returns to normal as you fetch the efficiently compact tables. Thank you, Miles Kimball.

Un-Pestered and Grateful

Finally, everyone is in the car and you’re backing down the driveway. You decide to text your sister once more to remind her to get ice for the 5-Section Condiment Server she’s bringing. Your mouth is watering as you already anticipate a hot dog with onions, relish and mustard. Just as you’re pressing “Send,” an annoying fly lands on your wrist. Gross. But then, the one last thing you forgot flashes through your mind. Stop the car, honey. You get out and return to the kitchen, where you grab your Picnic-Size Food Umbrella. There is no way insects are going to ruin this delightful picnic.

Your kids laugh and play in the back seat during the drive to the lake. It’s one of those moments of joy and exhilaration, and gratitude is your attitude. You consider how lucky you are — a wonderful spouse and children, a beautiful day ahead, and everything to make it enjoyable with the help of Miles Kimball.

How to Use & Care for Vinyl Patio Covers & Tablecloths

When temperatures start to rise and summer is in sight, there’s an excitement in the air you can’t help but sense — it’s that spring thing. The back yard, perhaps covered in snow just a few weeks prior, begins to poke through in small green shoots. And after being indoors most of the time during the colder seasons, you can’t wait to be outside again gardening, playing with the kids, or having friends over for a barbeque on the back patio.

An Ounce of Prevention

First things first, however. Your patio furniture or picnic table has been sitting through the long, chilly days, out of sight and out of mind. Whether you live in a region where it snows, or simply gets cold and rainy for part of the year, any yard furniture is at the mercy of the elements. Even during warm months, it can be damaged by dirt, tree sap and UV deterioration from the sun.

That’s why it’s smart to use yard furniture covers when you’re not using your back yard, either for a couple days or an entire season. Durable, waterproof covers are available not only for yard and patio furniture, but for grills, air conditioning units, condensers and even lawnmowers. Constructed of vinyl, a type of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), these covers can weather whatever the environment has to dish up. Well-designed covers are easy to slip on and off, generally wipe clean easily, and are elasticized around the bottom so they stay secure.

A Little History of PVC. Furniture covers are only one product among countless others that are constructed of super-versatile PVC, which was first invented back in the early 1920s by a rubber scientist named Waldo Semon. Due to the durability and versatility of PVC — it’s easily moldable, and by addition of various chemicals, it can be made rigid or flexible — it is the top manufacturing material for dozens of industries, including construction, automotive, aerospace, communications, health care, textiles and retailing.

Vinyl, a type of PVC, is the third most used plastic in the world. About 75% of all vinyl manufactured is used in construction because of its strength; resistance to moisture, corrosion and abrasion; ease of maintenance; and low cost. According to the Vinyl Institute, life-cycle studies of PVC/vinyl show that this material actually helps protect the environment, taking into consideration low greenhouse gas emission, and conservation of resources and energy.

Vinyl Furniture/Table Covers and Tablecloths. Just as the benefits of vinyl make it the perfect material for use in outdoor furniture covers, it is also ideal for outdoor (or indoor) tablecloths. Soon during the growth of plastics manufacturing, it was found that vinyl could be coated on the back with a synthetic, non-woven backing. With its cloth-like consistency, protective and long-lasting characteristics, ease of cleaning, and ability to be imprinted with all kinds of attractive colors and patterns, vinyl is indeed a natural for tablecloths.

Vinyl Cover and Tablecloth Maintenance

While vinyl is easy to care for, there can be issues with vinyl covers or tablecloths staining, wrinkling or becoming moldy. Here are a few guidelines for caring for your vinyl tablecloth, which will help keep it clean, attractive and usable for years:

  • To prevent staining, always wipe up spills from your vinyl tablecloth/cover quickly, using a soft, non-abrasive cloth or sponge.
  • Outdoor dirt or food stains can be removed using a combination of dishwashing detergent and water. An antibacterial kitchen cleaner can also be used, especially if there was raw meat on the tablecloth. If the cleaning product instructions direct, wipe down afterward with a damp cloth.
  • Isopropyl (or rubbing) alcohol works well to remove grease and ink from a vinyl tablecloth. Dampen a white cloth with the rubbing alcohol and rub the stain from the outside toward the center to prevent it from spreading. A stain from a food-based dye can be removed using a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water. Let the solution work on the stain for several minutes before wiping with a damp cloth. If the stain remains, try using full-strength hydrogen peroxide.
  • Vinyl tablecloths should occasionally be given an overall cleaning, especially if one side is lined with a woven material. For this, you can use a tub, large sink or washing machine. Wash in cold water with mild detergent, and if desired, a non-chlorine bleach. After washing, the tablecloth can be placed in the dryer with other items, and dried at a “low” setting. Monitor the tablecloth in the dryer every 5 to 10 minutes, and remove it promptly when dry to avoid wrinkling.
  • For wrinkles in your vinyl tablecloth, try ironing it on a low heat setting with material, such as a damp towel or cotton/polyester cloth, placed between the vinyl surface and the iron. Use quick strokes while ironing, being careful not to apply enough heat to melt the vinyl.
  • To store your vinyl tablecloth, roll it up on a sturdy cardboard tube rather than fold it, to prevent creases.
  • If mold grows on your vinyl tablecloth, spread it out in the direct sun for several hours. The UV rays of the sun actually kill any active mold. After this, wipe it clean using dishwashing detergent and water, or a kitchen cleaner. Then, rinse the tablecloth with water, and wipe it down one more time with white distilled vinegar to remove any remaining moldy odor.

Easy-to-Grow, ‘Just-Add-Water’ Flowers & Plants

Some of us seem to be endowed with the proverbial “green thumb,” naturally gifted from birth with the ability to fill our homes and gardens with lush, thriving foliage and blooms. Others of us — well, maybe we’ve had one or two past experiences where plants died on our watch, and now we’ve branded ourselves as “bad gardeners.” Fortunately, for people who think of themselves as gardening-disabled, Miles Kimball offers some solutions that might even have your plant-proficient neighbors getting a little green.

Pre-Seeded Flower Mats: Just Add Water

Shade-Tolerant Blooms. For easy-to-grow garden flowers, Miles Kimball offers a nice assortment of pre-seeded flower mats, rolls and bags, all with different flower mixes and sun requirements. Our selection includes many varieties that are shade tolerant. This way, even those of you who don’t get much direct sun exposure in your yard, can enjoy watching gorgeous beds of blooms pop up before your eyes. One shade-tolerant choice is the Hens & Chicks, which thrives in partial to full shade. After approximately three weeks, the mat yields 15 varieties of flowers and plants, including poppies and forget-me-nots.

Another option for shade environments is our lovely Bag o’ Blooms Shade-Loving Pansies, a bag pre-seeded with magnificent purple and yellow pansies. All you do is hang the bag wherever you’d like some floral fabulousness — like on an exterior wall of your porch, or a deck, trellis or fence — and water it. Within a few weeks, your friends will be “oohing and aahing” over the bounty of blooms.

Sunnier Spots. If you have areas of your yard that get more sun, Miles Kimball has several other fragrant and easy-care flower collections. Our Sunny Tree Ring, for example, is perfect for covering the ground beneath a tree with cheery blooms in multiple hues — including pink, orange, rose, mauve, blue-violet, purple, white, blue, yellow and red — throughout the summer. The best part is that these are perennials, which means they’ll continue to bloom year after year.

Or how about attracting some fascinating garden visitors to your yard with our Butterfly and Hummingbird Roll-Out Seed Mat? With partial sun and water, this mat produces an amazing array of vibrant flowers, selected especially for their attractiveness to butterflies and hummingbirds. If you know someone who’s particularly fond of these delicate creatures, this seed mat makes a perfect spring gift.

Other Special Picks. Miles Kimball’s Honeybee Garden Flower Mat serves a dual purpose by offering a summer medley of spectacular, aromatic flowers, specifically selected for their ability to attract honeybees. As you may know, honeybees and a great number of other insect populations are declining worldwide due to factors such as pesticide use, habitat destruction and climate change. By planting a honeybee garden, you can help support one species of these important pollinators.

Finally, if you love the look of a uniform cluster of one type of flower, check out our Sunflower Garden Mat or Merry Marigolds Mat.

Unique Plants for Extraordinary Gardens

All of Miles Kimball’s Garden Center plants are carefully chosen, with due consideration to their ease of planting and maintenance — according to their specified seasonal planting requirements and suggested type of soil, of course. Some of our plant varieties are quite exceptional-looking, and we encourage all beginning gardeners to challenge themselves by trying a couple in your own yard or house. We offer further help by pricing all our products reasonably, enabling more people to try something new. In the case of our Plant and Garden Department products, you have the opportunity to raise healthy plants with ease (as well as raise your gardening confidence).

One of our plants renowned for its heart-shaped, bluish-tinged leaves with dramatic ribbed veins is the Blue Angel Hosta. This member of the lily family is a large-leaved Hosta, which looks lush and tropical when used for groundcover. Although the Blue Angel Hosta may be exotic in appearance, it is still considered easy to grow.

Another easily cultivated, but distinctly striking and showy plant within any landscaping scheme, is our Nikko Blue Hydrangea. This versatile, fast-growing shrub produces large clusters of bright, indigo-blue flowers. Interestingly, the color of the flowers can vary according to the acidity of the soil; more alkaline soils, with a pH greater than 7, result in pinkish-colored hydrangea blooms. A nice advantage of the Nikko Blue Hydrangea is that it has an extended bloom during the summer — more than four weeks.

One other Miles Kimball favorite is the Peacock Jasmine, which blooms almost continuously once it’s mature. This delightful plant has delicate leaves and elegant, pure-white buds. When in bloom, it exudes a blissful fragrance, which is especially pleasurable when you grow this plant inside the house in a small pot. The Peacock Jasmine does not need much direct sunlight, so it makes a great indoor plant that will bring you joy every day with its exquisite appearance and sweet aroma.

Sowing the Soul

There are few things quite as natural and satisfying as sowing and raising plants and flowers. It can give you a fulfilling sense of creating something beautiful from what began as a plain-looking seed or bulb. We at Miles Kimball hope that even those of you who may think of yourselves as “plant-killers” will take advantage of our Garden Department selection and affordability to experiment with and be captivated by this simple, surprisingly rewarding experience of nurturing another living thing.

How to Start Your First Garden

Gardening can be an exciting new hobby. There’s no better feeling than watching as something you planted grows and matures into beautiful flowers or yummy vegetables. But for those who don’t have any experience, it can be hard to know how to start a garden.

What Will You Grow?

The very first thing you need to do is decide what kind of garden you want to grow. Are you going to go down the aesthetic path of a flower garden, or are you going to go a more functional route with a vegetable garden? Both types are wonderful options. With flowers, you can have a colorful, bright garden and gorgeous flowers to put around your home or gift to friends and family. With a vegetable garden, you get to eat the fruits of your labor, which can help you save money at the grocery store. Just pick which one appeals more to you, and if you’re feeling up to a challenge, you can grow a small garden of each. 

Getting the Right Tools

Before you can learn how to plant a garden, you need to make sure you’re armed with the right tools. A good pair of gardening gloves is going to be your new best friend. Gloves will help keep your hands clean and protect them from thorns, splinters and prickly plants or weeds. 

Another important tool to have is a garden shovel (to the right) or spade. This is a necessity if you want to be able to dig the holes to plant seeds or bulbs. In order to keep your garden tidy, you’ll want gardening shears to trim plants and a rake to collect leaves and debris.

Don’t forget about your water supply. Flowers and vegetables need to be well-watered in order to grow. Make sure to have a watering can or garden hose on hand. Consider getting a portable hose caddy so you can always have a hose nearby when you need it. 

Finding the Right Spot

Whether you want to know how to start a vegetable garden from scratch or how to begin a flower garden, you need to find the right spot to plant in. Most vegetables or flowers are going to require plenty of sunlight to grow, so take some time to figure out which areas of your yard get hit with the most sun. It’s also a good idea to find a spot that has some protection from the wind, such as near the side of a building or a hedge. 

Be sure to take foot traffic, by both humans and animals, into consideration. You don’t want to plant your garden in an area where people or dogs are likely to walk through it. Setting up garden fencing (on the right) is a good way to help with this.

Space and Plan

You can’t go around planting seeds all willy-nilly. You need to figure out how much space your flowers or vegetables will need to be able to grow and plan around it. If planted too close together, flowers and vegetables will compete for the sunlight and nutrients they need to flourish. Most seed packets will come with a guide on spacing, so make sure to follow this carefully. 

How to Plant a Flower Garden

If you’ve decided to start a flower garden, there are a few different directions you can go in. You can begin your garden with seed packets, flower mats or potted plants. 

Individual seeds from packets are going to require the most time and effort, but you might them the most rewarding. You’ll have to dig, plant and bury the seeds and wait weeks to months for them to bloom. A seed mat will still have the same growing time, but it involves less backend work. All you have to do is roll out the mat instead of hand-planting seeds. 

Another option is to take potted flowers and replant them into a garden. You’ll need to dig a hole big enough to fit the flower’s roots and carefully transport it from pot to ground. This allows you to have already bloomed flowers that you can nurture and watch grow even more.

No matter which planting method you choose, make sure to pick the flowers you would like to see around your garden and home. 

How to Plant a Vegetable Garden

Before starting your vegetable garden, take some time to consider what vegetables you will actually eat. There’s no point in growing the vegetables if they’re going to go to waste. As a beginner, you will also want to consider trying the easier vegetables to grow before moving on to more advanced ones. Some great vegetables for beginners are radishes, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers. 

Once you’ve picked the vegetables you want to grow, it’s time to get to work. There are two ways you can get started: seed packets or transplanting seedlings. With seeds you start from scratch while transplanting allows you transfer an already started vegetable from pot to ground. Make sure to follow the planting instructions on either the seed packet or transplant container. 

Nurture and Love

After you’ve planted your seeds or transplant, you need to take care of your vegetables or flowers to help them grow. This means making sure they’re watered, removing weeds that grow near them and keeping any dangerous pests away. A garden is an investment that requires a lot of attention, so you can’t just plant the seeds and forget about them.

Garden Supplies and Decorations

For affordable garden supplies and cute decorations, make sure to visit Miles Kimball. We have gardening tools, plant pots, garden flags and more!

Top 10 Kitchen Gadgets and Tools for Every Home

The time has finally come to revamp your kitchen tool collection. Perhaps you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to cook at home more and eat healthier food. Maybe your budget has gotten tight from eating out too much. Or it could be your knives have gotten so dull they couldn’t cut through snow, never mind a pork chop.

Whatever the reason, you’ll want the best kitchen gadgets and tools at your disposal. The folks at Miles Kimball have put together the list of our 10 favorite kitchen tools for food prep that are practical, affordable and easy to use. Cooking a meal in your own home doesn’t have to be a hassle — and with these useful kitchen tools at your disposal, it might even be fun! These unique finds and many others can be ordered through our online store, so start your journey towards high-quality home cooking today.

1. Rubber Spatulas

A rubber spatula is one of the best kitchen tools for food prep you can own. They can be used for scooping batter from a mixing bowl, flipping a burger on the stove, spreading mayonnaise on bread and so much more. We recommend having three different sizes in your drawer or stoneware crock to fit various containers or foods

2. Kitchen Shears

Scissors aren’t just for arts and crafts. Shears are another kitchen gadget you need. Uses include opening food packages, removing fat chucks from meat, cutting herbs and trimming aluminum foil or parchment paper to fit a pan. These heavy-duty kitchen scissors are safer than knives for these tasks to prevent injury.

3. A Good Knife Set

You don’t need your kitchen to look like a butcher shop. However, you’ll at need at least a few good ones. A 6-piece knife block set will have all the essentials for carving, slicing and pairing, and a steak knife set is perfect for the table. You’ll want a knife sharpener as well to keep them working their best. We also recommend a large plastic knife for slicing through brownies, lasagna and other softer foods without scratching the pan.

4. Food Grater

Try it and see: home-grated cheese tastes way better than bagged store-grated cheese. A grater is also a must for shredding vegetables and will help you add that “zest” of citrus you thought only existed in high-end restaurant. Whether it’s a simple one-side microplane grater or a four-sided stainless steel grater, they’ll save you plenty of time and elbow grease.

5. Electric Mini Food Chopper

Tired of manually cutting every single piece of food? An electric mini chopper does the hard work for you. Add meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and anything else you can think of, then chop them as large or fine as you want for a salad, stew or stir-fry. These gadgets mix and dice as well, so you can make salsa, guacamole and other dips in your kitchen.

6. Bamboo Cutting Boards

Whether your beautiful kitchen counters are made of hardwood, marble or granite, you’ll want to protect them from scratches. While cutting boards can be made of many different materials, we like the bamboo cutting board the most. They’re heavy enough to stay balanced on a table, light enough to move and clean with ease and strong enough to withstand constant pounding and slicing. These renewable resource boards look amazing, too!

7. Burger Press

Anyone who loves a good burger can create their own with a burger press or hamburger maker set. Both of these useful kitchen tools allow grill-masters to make perfectly-shaped hamburgers, turkey burgers and sausage patties at any thickness. You can then toss them on the grill, store them in the refrigerator/freezer or put them in the cooler for a camping trip. They’re not just for meat-eaters, either — vegetarians can make black bean burgers or tofu burgers just as easily.

8. Large Colander

A colander is another useful kitchen gadget that you can use practically every day. Set your stainless steel mesh colander or plastic colander in the sink to rinse vegetables, fruits and meats. They’re also a safe way to drain pasta and other boiled foods after cooking to reduce the risk of burns or water spills.

9. A Spiral Slicer or Spiralizer

A spiralizer set might seem like one of those weird made-for-TV gadgets that doesn’t have much use in a real kitchen. But as soon as you use one, you’ll wonder why you didn’t sooner! Among other things, this cool kitchen tool can be used to easily make homemade pasta noodles, veggie pasta, French fries and salads. You can spiralizer many other fruits and vegetables as well for dipping, party snack plates or to make them easier for kids to eat.

10. Juicer

If you own a citrus juicer, you can enjoy fresh-squeezed juice in your own home with almost no effort. Make a glass of orange juice that tastes great and doesn’t have the added sugar and preservatives of store-bought juice. Add fresh lemon and lime juice to recipes or make your own lemonade and limeade instead of using powdered mixes. An electric juicer can also be used for vegetables, letting you create unique summertime drinks!