Sturdy oilcloth, which is made from water-resistant plastic or cotton woven with vinyl, makes a great picnic blanket, as any spills can simply be wiped away. Best of all, it comes in a variety of appealing prints and colors. Cut cloth to the size you want (no hemming required) and keep it folded in your picnic basket.
Although they're available in the market year-round, these fruits are at their best September through November. There are thousands of cultivated apple varieties worldwide, but only a handful of them make up 80 percent of the crop grown in the United States. If you come across an unfamiliar variety at your local farm stand or orchard, give it a try. Store apples in the refrigerator to keep them crisp and fresher longer.
These tiny purplish-black berries have a very tart flavor when uncooked and therefore are best for use in jams, pies, and wine. They are a good source of vitamin C. Look for elderberries at farmers' markets in early fall.
Get in the Habit
Have your cholesterol level checked. You should do so at least every five years; many people should be checked more often. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors. The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have designated September as National Cholesterol Awareness Month. For more information and helpful tips about maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, visit www.americanheart.org.
Have You Done It Lately?
For even wear, rotate your mattress four times a year. Alternate between flipping it end-over-end and side-over-side. This is also a good time to launder the mattress cover and, while the cover is removed, vacuum the mattress itself thoroughly. Air out the mattress twice a year (in fall and spring) by taking it outdoors on a sunny day and letting it sit in the sun for at least three hours. If this is not possible, open windows on a breezy day and leave the mattress uncovered for several hours.
Have your heating system inspected by a professional who can check for leakage, replace filters, and condition the system so it runs at its best when cold weather sets in. Flammable material should be stored away from the furnace, water heater, and other gas appliances.
Vacuum upholstery once a week using an upholstery attachment. This will prevent dust from being ground in, minimizing the need for deep-cleaning later. Vacuum all sides of cushions, as well as underneath. Protect delicate upholstery by vacuuming through a plastic or nylon screen (this will prevent the fabric from being sucked into the nozzle, which could lead to tears).
Remove window air-conditioning units. Clean filters, and drain the units of water before putting them in storage for the cold season.
Clean dirt and lint from inside your washing machine. Wipe the interior with a clean, damp cloth, then run a short hot wash cycle with detergent; rinse the empty machine with a plain water cycle. If the machine is exceptionally dirty, fill it with a disinfecting solution: 3/4 cup chlorine bleach and 1 tablespoon powdered detergent for every gallon of warm water. Let it sit for a few minutes, then drain and rinse a few times.
Take storm windows out of storage and clean them, if needed, before putting them in. Wash screens before storing them.
Get your soil in shape for fall planting. Remove spent annuals and vegetables, dig and turn top four to six inches of soil, lightly water once a day for a few days, and pull any weeds. Also add a good two to three inches of organic compost.
In cold climates, protect tender plants from damaging early frost and extend the harvest for your vegetable garden by covering beds with sheets, newspapers, row covers, or burlap.
Inspect the siding and shingles on your house for cracks and holes. Replace caulk around windows and in crevices, if necessary, to prevent water and air from leaking into your home.