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Backyard Fun and Games for Summer

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

The kids are finally out of school for summer vacation and families are busy making their seasonal plans for entertainment!  The next few months can be tricky for some parents and anxiety may sit in due to the frustration of coming up with new activities.  I think we’ve all heard those agonizing words of “I’m bored” and “What are we going to do now?” at some point or another and there’s no doubting that summer scheduling can become a bit challenging.  How can we keep our children occupied for the next two months without emptying our wallets completely? 


This year I’ve swapped some of those expensive ticket fees for parks and movie passes for some quality games that I can set up right in my own backyard!  Over the past recent years, adults have been faced with the technology age of iphones and ipads that have swapped their kid’s time in the outdoors for time on a screen.  So what if we lure them with some play that they can enjoy within a healthy environment underneath the sun?  The benefits of this strategy are endless including physical fitness, fresh air and face time with their loved ones.  These are my top picks for my family’s backyard fun!


                                        photo credit: sportsrediscovered.com


If you’re going to put up any net, make it a badminton set!  Components of this game are very simple which include a net, racquets and a birdie.  The object of the game is similar to tennis accept that the birdie is lightly tapped from one side to the other.  Since the equipment is light in weight and the net sits a little lower than others, kids from all ages can join in!



This traditional and colorful challenge was first invented in 1856 in England where it became known as the game of civility.  The goal is to knock your chosen ball through small arcs called “wickets” and be the first one to make it to the finish pole line.  I love this one because it involves heavy hand eye coordination and is also a great tool for teaching other similar sports such as miniature golf.



                                           photo credit: cliparthut.com

Scavenger Hunt

You don’t have to necessary buy expensive games to have a good time!  Why not make your own entertainment by rigging up a backyard scavenger hunt?  Make a list of five to ten items that your kids can search for such as pinecones, buttercups or a clover and watch them run wild with excitement!  One suggestion before you begin is to be absolutely sure that your objects in the hunt are available in your area and make sure they wont be trampling through dangerous areas with poison ivy or oak. 

Tags: Kids, #EXFL, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Games

Keeping Pests Away From Your Garden Naturally

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jul 03, 2015

We’ve all been there…


                                     photo credit: gardenswag.com

Our gardens are just beginning to grow wildly from the heat and moisture that the summer season brings.  Our squash plants are beginning to flower with brilliant yellow blooms and the broccoli heads are just about ready to make their debut.  Pea pods are climbing the trellis and cucumber vines are curling their way around the edges of the raised beds.  Your green thumb efforts are finally paying off with the anticipation of growing a hearty and delicious harvest.


That’s right about when it usually happens…


Somewhere, something has also discovered your bountiful vegetables and has decided to help them selves to an uninvited tasting!  Your strong stalks of broccoli and cauliflower are nothing now but a few naked stems protruding through the earth.  Those stunning yellow flowers of the zucchini have somehow disappeared into the night.  Your cucumbers have been chewed, the strawberries picked over and even the green beans have been nibbled.


You’re furious.  You feel violated.  You want nothing more to find that varmint and give him a taste of his own medicine. 


But wait.  Did you know that there are flowers, herbs and other organic tips that you can use to stave off these pests without having to buy expensive and potentially harmful products?  Try out these natural ideas and watch your gardens burst again with healthy livelihood!


                             photo credit: schoolgardenweekly.com

Eggs Shells

Creepy crawlers such as slugs and snails can reek havoc on vegetable and flower gardens.  A great way to get rid of them is to lay down a sharp path such as crushed eggshells on the floor beds surrounding the plants.  They won’t like the tricky and dangerous course they’ll have to travel. 


The Stinkier the Better

Many garden pests have something in common with humans and that includes their intolerance for certain smells.  Create a border around your most victimized crops by planting yarrow, basil, mint, catnip or citronella and you’ll see that the scent will drive away unwanted eaters.


Flower Power

Rabbits can be an awful problem for many of us because they strike fast and leave little behind in their tracks.  Try putting in flowers such as lantana and ageratum close to the vulnerable beds.  These two varieties tend to block most critters since they detest their biological make up. 

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden

Gardening Calendar for July

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

July_Calendar-page0001 an easy reference guide for the novice, intermediate or expert gardener.

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, outdoors, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar, July

Festive 4th of July Desserts for Kids

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jun 29, 2015

Independence Day is filled with red, white and blue food including delicious desserts for kids! Not only can we utilize the yummy berries that are finally in season such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries but our pastry chefs all over Boston are whipping up scrumptious creations that are sure to please the whole family.  While some foodies suggest high calorie desserts with extensive ingredients (not to mention extensive sugar), this selection offers easy to prepare directions as well as fuss free diet restrictions.  With these delightful treats, you’ll be able to ring in the 4th of July with a bang!


Freeze Your Own Popsicles


Making your own popsicles is a simple way to invent a fast snack while still being able to control the sugar content by selecting a preferred juice.  Flavors that work the best for a red, white and blue theme are cranberry, fruit punch, grape, blueberry, white grape and lemonade juices.  Most of these varieties offer a low calorie and reduced sugar version so your kids will be able to cool off while slurping down a healthy Popsicle.  If you really want to get fancy, you can freeze them in three separate levels by placing one layer on top of the other just as long as you freeze them one at a time.



Strawberry Shortcake


Okay, so this sweet may not be on the healthy side but honestly, who cares!  You can make this dessert an essential dish at your 4th of July barbecue table just by place a huge scoop of whip cream on top of a piece of shortbread (store bought is fine).  Once you’ve started piling on the good stuff, add red and blue berries  (strawberries and blueberries work best with shortcake) that will finish it off perfectly.  Don’t be afraid to substitute when needed such as replacing the cream with a high quality French vanilla ice cream.               photo credit: MarthaStewart.com


Strawberry Bombs


                         photo credit: thefreshfridge.com

This is so great you’re going to want to make these year round!  Just take a strawberry and clean out the insides with a spoon delicately.  Fill the middle with whip cream and top with one ripe blueberry.  Place in the refrigerator overnight to allow hardening so the cream doesn’t spill out.  Serve before, after and during your barbecue and watch that plate disappear within seconds!


Tags: Dessert, July 4th, Chef, Kids, cooking, Summer, July

Outdoor Design Trends for Summer 2015

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 26, 2015

The summer is bringing on the heat and that means we are able to transition from hiding within the limitations of our homes to the fun season of outdoor living!  There will be holidays, barbecues, pool parties and dinners served alfresco so we’ll need to amp up the décor of our decks, patios and backyards.  No, we won’t need to ring up extravagant home shopping bills just yet.  With a few lighting, color and texture tips, you’ll be able to transform that dull yard into a fabulous Eden for you and your friends to enjoy.  Here’s what’s hot this summer for 2015 according to some of my favorite design companies!




                              photo via Restoration Hardware

I’m in love with the new lighting ideas that are making their way out of design rooms this season.  Particularly the “filament bulb strung lights” models are grabbing my attention, which are perfect to be hung on trees or deck eaves.  They are replacing the lantern look of previous summer catalogs and providing a more sophisticated look for evening settings.  The gentle luminescence of the bulbs provide a romantic glow to your nighttime affairs and are exactly what’s needed for those intimate moments when things start warming up in July and August!


                                                            Ceramic Potting Gardens


                                               photo credit: Pottery Barn

I don’t know about you, but I’m so excited for this look to be returning this summer, which is being showcased by Pottery Barn!  Ceramic pots are not only super easy to pick up on your travels for low cost but they actually become more trendy when they have been a little chipped or the paint has worn down.  Make sure you clean them well before potting your favorite plants and try to get creative by adding complimentary pops of color to your containers.  Once they have been designed, place the pots strategically on your deck, patio or around the barriers of your backyard garden, pool or lounging area. 


Bright Fabric Is In


            photo credit: Crate & Barrel

Another fab line from Crate & Barrel has decided to go bright and bold with their outdoor pillows and cushions.  Orange, lime green and teal seem to be this company’s go-to color palette, adding popular ocean and beach themes within the textiles.  You might frown a bit at the cost but keep in mind that these are so cute and versatile that they can be brought indoors once the cool weather returns to New England.

Tags: Gardening, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Pottery, Design

Cool Foods That Yield Plants

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

I saw this in a book recently and couldn’t believe my eyes when the author listed an extensive list of fruits and vegetables that actually could be used to re-grow food!  We have all done the potato experiment in science class as kids but I honestly didn’t realize that the possibilities are numerous.  Did you know that there is produce available in your super market that if prepared correctly will actually grow into a tree that you can plant in your backyard?  Or how about a vegetable that can reproduce multiple bearings of veggies just by placing it within the correct environment?  It’s true and they’re the perfect projects that you can set up for your kids to teach them a thing or two about cultivation, agriculture and preserving our natural resources.  Although there are many, here were my favorites that I couldn’t wait to try out on my own!


Avocados avocado-heart-400x400

You’ll want to keep the pit of an eaten avocado and wash it thoroughly.  Prick toothpicks through the heart and immerse a little under one half of the seed in warm water.  Be careful not to place the cup in a brightly lit window and wait for the fruit to root three inches.  Once the plant leaves begin to grow, you can repot in soil and watch your new avocado tree grow!





                          photo credit: vegetablegardener.com

You can’t get any easier than this when trying to replicate a one unit of food into several.  In fact, you don’t even need water or soil in the beginning because the onion will sprout its own green shoot once it begins to age.  You can simply drop the entire head with the greens protruding upward though the soil and be amazed how fast your old onion blooms into an impressive plant!




                     photo credit: telegraph.co.uk


Although it’s true that most varieties of apples need pollination, there are a few exceptions.  Simply core the seeds from types such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Braeburn and place in a fertilized pot near a well-lit window.  Water every other day and watch the sprout begin to rise.  When the stem is strong enough to withstand the outdoor elements, you can plant it in your backyard.  It may not produce a ton of fruit as a natural pollinating species, but you will be amazed at your new apple tree, which can be grown just about anywhere!

Tags: Gardening, Garden Show, Vegetable Garden

What Florists Can Learn from Baseball Hall of Famer Bill Veeck

Posted by Rick Canale on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

I know. I am sad to say that not many of you are baseball fans. But watch a game with me sometime and you might become one. See I like baseball. No, I love baseball. Over-paid, self-indulgent babies on the field you say? I say, watch the 6-4-3 double play while sitting on the first base side and I will show you a visual masterpiece.

I not only watch the game, I am absorbed in its history. I am a lifelong Red Sox fan, but I am a fan of Major League Baseball even more. Fred Lynn, Dale Muphy, Ron Kittle; just names to some, but to me these guys were a pleasure to emulate in my childhood. While learning the game, I also learned a lot about its Hall of Famers. Bill Veeck (1914-1986) never played Major League Baseball, but he certainly left his mark on the game and my approach to the floral industry. 


Some know Veeck as a Hall of Famer. Some recall that Veeck was responsible for planting the first ivy on the walls of Wrigley Field in Chicago. Some know that Veeck owned the Cleveland Indians (1946-49), the St. Louis Browns(1951-53) and the Chicago White Sox(1959-61 & 1975-81). He even was the President of Suffolk Downs horse racing track in East Boston, (1968-71). Many sports business students know Veeck from his books. His most famous, Veeck as in Wreck, I have read four times. I have a copy at my desk at work and in my library at home. I have owned first editions and signed copies too. But, I always want to share the book's wisdom, so these valuable copies rarely stay in my possession. 

Last night, I found another passage in the book and had to share its relevance with my floral, hospitality and business colleagues. What Veeck wrote more than fifty years ago about selling tickets applies to any restaurant, florist or retail store


Chaper 7 - Every Day was Mardi Gras...

The best way to tell you what we did to draw these crowds is to tell you what we did not do. We did not open the ticket windows and expect the citizenry to come rushing up with their money in their fists. We have never operated on the theory that a city owes anything to the owner of a baseball franchise...

Exactly, Veeck hammers a valuable lesson for every florist. Our clients owe us nothing, we do not sell insulin and they do not need our flowers. We, however, need them to buy flowers from us at the price we have deemed valuable.

...There is nothing owed to you. A baseball team is a commercial venture, operating for a profit. The idea that you don't have to package your product attractively as General Motors packages its product, and hustle your product the way General Motors hustles its product, is baseball's most pernicious enemy.

Appearance, attitude, humility, gratitude and accountability are the traits he espouses. Like baseball, people want flowers in their life. They do not need them. Take Bill's lessons to your storefront. Note, the importance of also operating at a a profit.

I connect with Bill's wisdom. Bill was even an avid gardener. Decades ago, Bill suggested a store where you can buy plants, flowers and books in the same place. They did not have that then, but places like Terrain in Westport, CT offer that now. He was not only a Renaissance man, but a visionary.

You might like to know, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Veeck's son Mike is also an author and owner of multiple minor leage baseball teams.His philosophy of Fun is Good, has infected many lives with happiness. Mike's son Night Train (Bill's grandson) is also a chip off the block. Night Train works for the White Sox and has even guest blogged for us.I suggest making his acquaintance on Twitter. He is a great guy.




Tags: Baseball, Bill Veeck, Floral Indusrty, Floral Management, Baseball Hall of Fame

Top Red, White and Blue Flowers for the Fourth of July

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jun 22, 2015

The 4th of July is about celebrating independence, fireworks and showing our red, white and blue pride for our country!  Along with sparklers and waving flags, Boston florists are planning to show their spirit through a stunning spectrum of floral color.  Now, I know we’ve seen this color palette annually but rumor has it that some of this city’s top designers have invented a fresh and contemporary approach to this summer holiday’s festivities.   It’s not that the traditional white carnations, red roses and blue delphinium don’t still hold their appeal but isn’t it time to use a little imagination to present more options?  Here’s what the flower aces are building in their studios to make this year’s 4th of July a spectacular success!


                             photo credit: Flower Factor / Aboutflowers.com


Red is the strongest hue in the color combination, standing for “hardiness and valor”.  It can be utilized throughout many varieties including gerbera daisies, hypericum berries, hibiscus, astilbe, celosia, zinnias, poppies, ranunculus, dianthus, begonias, dahlias and even some breeds of hydrangea.  All of these flowers are garden ready during this time of year so they should be available from your florist.  If your green thumb is up to it, try cultivating your own selection of red plants and flowers to be used at your holiday party!



In respect to the American flag, white represents the country’s “purity and innocence”.  This shade can be found within thousands of beautiful buds that are native to Massachusetts during the summer months or can be shipped from other parts of the world by your floral representative.  The top choices for 2015 include white hydrangea, lily of the valley, alliums, spiaria, beach roses, lilies, calla lilies, anemones, lilac, clematis, Queen Anne’s Lace, bearded iris, and even daisies.  The purpose of the white is to mesh the bolder colors together so don’t be afraid to go with a simple and dainty choice for your bouquets.  July offers some of the most gorgeous weather for wild flower growing so get your clippers and get snipping!


                                      photo credit: Flower Factor / Aboutflowers.com


The blue segment of this holiday trio is also important which means “vigilance, perseverance and justice”.  Typically, you’ll see a lot of delphinium for this shade because in all honesty, there used to be limited choices.  A good thing for us, agriculturalists are getting clever with their crops allowing us a broader variety to select from.  New varieties of blue include hydrangea, jasmine, grape hyacinth, bachelor buttons, dandelion flower, clematis, morning glories, blue star, balloon flower and aster.  If you really want to wow your guests, order a bunch of blue dyed roses or phalaenopsis.  They might be a bit pricier than your other options but you wont be disappointed by the reaction you’ll get!

Tags: Floral Design, Flower Arrangements, July 4th, Flowers, Summer

How To Start Your Dream Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 19, 2015

The garden industry is worth millions and sales depend on the coaxing of the customer to buy products that they believe their gardens are dependent on.  Over the last few years items such as non-chemical fertilizers, organic soil mixtures, hybrid packs of grown plants, expensive tools, varmint free fencing and state of the art hose nozzles have been mass marketed to appeal to the struggling green thumb who is determined to have a healthy and happy garden.  Many end up spending hundreds of dollars purchasing these products from name big companies with the hopes that they will cure all of their gardening woes.


Don’t be fooled…


Propagating a successful vegetable and flowerbed can be done without expensive tabs or exorbitant processes.  There’s a better way and a lot cheaper strategy to cultivate your dream garden!  All you need are the essentials, most of which you probably have.  Here’s my list for my summer gardening needs that are easy and inexpensive to buy or things that I reuse to help my garden beds during the summer season.


The Plot

If you have a backyard with a ton of space, you’re lucky because all you have to do is choose an area that is the right size for your garden that receives sunlight.  You’ll need full sun for vegetables and partial to full light for flowers.  If you don’t have a useful part of land for gardening, keep reading…


The Soil

Whether the soil that you have in your yard is sufficient to grow plants depends on the consistency, sediment and moisture of the earth.  If your ground is soft and adequate for easy plotting than you may have lucked out and you can skip the potting soil step.  If you have a hard, dry and coarse platform to work with, you might want to consider making your own raised beds.  Please don’t run out and buy a pre-constructed kit from a hardware store or garden center-its not necessary.  You can either find some scrap wood planks to nail together to form a hollow square or look around your house for old furniture.  If you find a bureau or nightstand that you don’t want, take the drawers out and place them directly in the yard.  They make perfect flower and vegetable beds plus you’ll feel great knowing that your green thumb extending to the green reuse of unwanted items. 



Trust me, there’s no better way to produce plants than starting with a simple germinated seed.  Not only can you start them indoors but the roots will also fixate better in the ground than a pre-bought plant that has already rooted somewhere else. If you want a suggested brand for seeds, I would advise on buying from Burpee.  Although they are a bit more expensive in some nurseries, you can grab great deals at discounted stores such as Ocean State Job Lot where they are almost half the price!

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar

Plan Your Father's Day Cookout Menu

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jun 17, 2015

Father’s Day Barbecue


It’s time to fire up the barbecue- Father’s Day is here!  The big guy will be celebrated on Sunday, June 21st and let’s face it, all you have to do is light some coals on the grill and he’s pretty much satisfied.  Make sure you skip the lean diet food such as salad, greens and fresh fruit.  You can pretty much count on the fact that all he’s really interested in is a smoldering, juicy slab of beef cooked perfectly to his satisfaction.  Favorite cuts likely to be most popular this holiday are baby back ribs, three inch thick pork chops and teriyaki wings that can be seasoned and sauced just about any way dad likes them.  You’re going to want to buy in bulk, too since Father’s Day is meant to be a buffet of indulgence.  Things could get kind of complicated if you haven’t made a decision on your barbecue grocery list or destination so here are a few choice ingredients and locations that always tops my list each June!


What You’ll Need

It’s time to grab your beef so dig in and buy his favorites!

Select three options:

Baby Back Ribs                            Sausages                       Pork Tenderloins

Three-Inch Thick Pork Chops         Teriyaki Wings                Marinated Chicken

Lemon Infused Salmon                 Strip Sirloin Steak           Cowboy Steak

Split Roast Chicken                     Chicken Legs                  Fillet Minion

Swordfish Kabobs                       Steak Tip Kabobs             Jumbo Shrimp


                   photo credit: bonappetit.com

It’s time to get rubbing with marinades, seasonings and sauces!

Select four options:

            Lemons                                         Garlic Rub                     Memphis Rub

            Smoked Salmon Brine                    Pork Brine                     All Purpose Meat Rub

            Chicken Marinade                          Balsamic Vinaigrette       Barbecue Sauce

            Hot Wing Sauce                             Asian Marinade Sauce    Mango Sauce

            Relish                                           Applewood Sauce           Sweet Maple Marinade   


Since he’ll need to eat something with his barbecue to balance things off, try grabbing a

couple of his more preferred vegetables.  Now remember, you don’t want to

take away any attention from the grill, just compliment it with some color and freshness.

Select two options:

            Tomatoes                                      Asparagus                       Broccoli

            Cucumber                                     Onions                            Carrots

            Spinach                                        Green Beans                   Mushrooms


Now that you’ve mapped out your list, here are a few places that serve the best choice cuts in Massachusetts!

Select 1 option-that’s all you’ll need!


                        Butcher Boy                                     Butcher Shop Market       

                        1077 Osgood Street                                  782 Adams Street

                  North Andover, MA 01845                      Dorchester Center, MA 02124


          Bucciarelli's Butcher Shop & Deli

                         147 Bridge Road

                  Salisbury, MA 01952

Tags: Father's Day, Steak, Chef, cooking, #EXFL

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