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Making family memories to last for generations at the Greenbrier

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A visit to the indelible resort steeped in tradition, where families come together to enjoy the grandest things in life

Our Greenbrier adventure began with a bit more excitement than our family had anticipated, when we voyaged to the world-renowned resort on a dark and blustery night.

We decided it was best to travel a day earlier than scheduled, since weather forecasters were predicting a windstorm with 50 mph gusts on the day we had planned to drive. Luckily, the Greenbrier was able to accommodate our request for a day-early arrival, so we headed out at 8:30 PM on a three-and-a-half-hour journey through the Allegheny mountains, from Northern Virginia to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The route past my alma mater James Madison University on Interstate 81 and over the alpine thoroughfares was a bit treacherous, with the gale-force winds pushing our car out of our lane several times, but even more frightening was the caravan of 18-wheeler big rigs passing us, swerving on the verge of tipping from the gusts.

A welcoming to remember

After our harrowing drive, the small quiet town of Sulfur Springs was a welcome sight. As we pulled into the gated entrance to the Greenbrier, the magic began. It was the first day of March, but still the resort was dressed in its winter splendor.

Tree branches aligning the gardens in front of the hotel were adorned with tiny sparkling white lights, giving the hotel the appearance of an enchanted palace. As we cruised into the front roundabout, road-weary and wind-battered, we were greeted warmly by the valet, whose energy seemed unaffected by the squall and the late hour.

The check-in staff facilitated a quick registration and off we went, following the valet’s Lincoln Town Car as he led us through the village of white wooden cottages to our accommodations. Upon entering the cottage, we could not contain our oohs and ahhs. The Legacy Florida Cottage, one of the original guest villas on the perimeter of the main resort building, was a spacious and stately yet an inviting home-away-from-home.

Our intergenerational party, spanning eight decades, from two pre-teen boys to an octogenarian grandmother, all found something – in fact many somethings – of delight.

The housekeeping staff had prepared for our arrival by warming the home to a comfortable temperature and turning on lamps in every room, illuminating the charm and hominess of the residence. After the boys did a quick survey of rooms to pick their favorite — a corner king suite with wild jungle-like draperies with a matching bedspread and upholstered chairs, the adults choose their rooms.

Each of the rooms was distinct in its decor, with vibrant colors, like carpets in hues of fairway-green, velvety purple and royal red, paired with bold and bright stripped, plaid and floral bedding and lounge chairs, each with its own strong character and unique appeal.

 

Worth the drive

Even though it was approaching 1 AM by the time we settled in our cottage, the family sat down at the green-lacquered dining room table for a late-night snack of kettle corn and brownies, that my mom had brought along.

The sugar boost was a guarantee the boys would not be going to sleep anytime soon, so despite the night slipping into early morning hours, we sat and chatted at the table, reliving our treacherous trek to the hotel, relieved now that the storm was in our rearview mirror.  We sat up talking and laughing, relating stories of other memorable road trips, and marveling at our surroundings. It was the kind of stuff that family memories are made of, and the preciousness of those moments did not escape me.

The Greenbrier symbolizes this to me, and I’m sure to many. It is a place that families go to spend quality time, to bond, relax, dine out, play, and just be together, sharing and creating  memories in a beautiful and elegant-yet-approachable environment.

Everywhere around the hotel are sitting spaces that encourage gathering and socializing. These lounge spots come in every variety, from sunny alcoves with floral high-back chairs to dimly lit nooks where masculine leather club chairs surround backgammon tables and chessboards.

 

Strolling the grounds and exploring the massive corridors, elegant parlors and ubiquitous lounges and sitting areas of this old-school resort, built in 1778, one feels transported to another time and place.  Here it would not seem out of the ordinary to see a princess ambling in the garden or strolling the hallowed halls, as in fact Princess Grace of Monaco did, when she visited for an impromptu summer vacation, commemorated by a portrait of her in one of the many great rooms of the hotel.

 

The active life

While the Greenbrier is drenched in opulence, it still presents a relaxing environment for its guests, especially for families. As a place where wellness seekers once flocked to bathe in and imbibe the area’s natural mineral springs, believed to contain healing properties, the resort, while giving way to modest modernization, retains its intention to provide a setting for restoration of mind and body.

The activities around the hotel are designed to promote recreation and enjoyment, from the spa, salon and shopping plaza to the seasonal ice skating rink, bowling alley and arcade.

As an ex-pat from Los Angeles, where many ultramodern hotels are steeled in chrome and glass, exuding a hardness and coolness that pervades even the people that inhabit them, I relished the aura of the Greenbrier, where a soul can meld with its beauty and feel at ease, in laid-back luxury.

The small gymnasium overlooking the indoor swimming pool was a place I keenly felt this sense of ease. There a person could exercise and watch children play in the pool, as parents with averagely toned bodies walked comfortably in their swim suits, in a tranquil setting, without the bombardment of loud music and the intimidation of hard-bodied models parading about in bikinis; but, perhaps I am extrapolating too much from my last Palm Springs vacation.

 

Living history

As a historic landmark, there is plenty to see at the Greenbrier, from galleries of fine artwork and portraits of presidents, royalty, celebrities, sports stars and other distinguished Greenbrier guests, to salons designed by the legendary Dorothy Draper and remnants of political and social history, including a cold-war bunker, which is the subject of one of the most popular tours on the property.

On the Bunker Tour, guests can explore the once top-secret fall-out shelter under a wing of the hotel, comprised of spartan barracks and living quarters created for Congress in the 1950s, in the case of a nuclear attack on the nation’s capital.

Among the most popular activities and a Greenbrier tradition since the 1930s is afternoon tea, served daily in the grand upper lobby, where guests can enjoy a sophisticated tête-à-tête while nibbling gourmet pastries and listening to the soft strains of live classical piano music.

Other favorite experiences include rides in a horse-drawn carriage around the property, cooking, painting and knitting workshops, or, for the athletic, sporting activities at world-class facilities for golf and tennis – which have hosted sports greats such as tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams and the late golf legend Sam Sneed, who served at the pro emeritus in his last years.

Other resort activities include adventure offerings, such as horseback riding, falconry, skeet shooting, fishing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. For those who want to try their luck at gaming, the resort hosts the world-class Casino Club, where guests are treated to a champagne toast and a choreographed waltz performance at 10 pm nightly, and guests and bust a move themselves at the 42 Below dance club.

For kids, there’s a plethora of activities, from laser tag in the Bunker space to family friendly movies in the on-property cinema. The Adventure Zone center provides a number of experiences, such as an Alpine Tower for climbing and an Aerial Adventure Course, which we braved as a family activity, tight-rope walking and crossing a series of swinging and dangling challenges 60-feet in the air, with safety harnesses, of course.

In all, there are about 55 activities at the Greenbrier, so it would be hard to find yourself doing nothing at all, unless that is what you choose, which is also a popular option at the resort.

Dining to celebrate

Of course, one of the most celebrated activities at the Greenbrier is dining. The resort features six restaurants and three seasonal restaurants and cafés and five bars and lounges, along with 24-hour room service.

Each day of our visit we enjoyed the lavish breakfast buffet, which included omelet and Belgian waffle stations and just about every breakfast entrée imaginable, from the basics of fruit and yogurt to egg casseroles, keeping trays of bacon and sausage, and a good southern standby of chipped beef gravy and biscuits.

The former Main Dining Room, for which guests must adhere to the resort’s dress code, i.e., jackets and ties for the gentlemen and cocktail attire for the ladies, is known for its exquisite service and menu.  Certainly, the five-star service and the famed Prime Filet of Beef Tenderloin should not be missed in the Main Dining Room, though several other restaurants on the property have outstanding fare.

Our party was most impressed with our delectable meal at Prime 44 West, the high-end sports restaurant and steakhouse named after the legendary West Virginian NBA player Jerry West, who wore the namesake’s number on his uniform. The atmosphere, service and our meal at 44 West was extraordinary from start to end, beginning with the Seafood Platter, progressing to the perfectly cooked Bone-in Rib-Eye and Lobster Mash Potatoes, to the big finish of the flaming Dark Cherry Flambé with Kirsh, prepared tableside.

 

The kids loved the causal Draper’s cafe, not just for the generous frozen scoops of heaven at the ice cream bar, but also because they serve the best Fried Green Tomato Sandwich and Creamy Chicken Pot Pie this side of anywhere. There’s plenty excellent offerings there for adults as well, like the signature Dorothy’s Chicken Salad and the comforting Country Shrimp and Grits. Besides the food, the atmosphere and décor is pure fun, featuring high-backed pink-and-white-striped booths, an homage to Dorothy Draper, the designer whose audacious color schemes give the resort its distinctive flair.

Service with a smile

At the restaurants and at every venue within the resort, the service was exceptional, attentive and friendly. In speaking to the staff, many voluntarily expressed their pleasure to work at the Greenbrier, where they said they were treated like family.

One of the maîtres told us she had been with the Greenbrier just three months, which made her a “embryo” compared to the staff who had been there for decades, some for generations, following in the footsteps of their parents, and their parents before them.

I told her the Greenbrier reminded me of Downton Abbey, the fictitious British castle featured in one of my favorite TV shows, in which the loyal employees-for-life were an intrinsic part of the estate. The analogy made her smile widely.  “I love that comparison,” she said. “The people who work here feel that same kind of love for the Greenbrier.”

A few days at the Greenbrier is not enough to fully explore and appreciate all that the destination called “America’s Resort” has to offer, but it was a good start.

Our last night, after a wonderful, leisurely dinner in the Main Dining Room, at nearly 10 pm, we called up the porter to help light our fireplace. It was late to start a fire, which we would have to stay awake to tend until it burned out, but we wanted to make the night last.  And so, we did.  We stayed up all night, relaxing by the hearth, retelling stories of our adventures of the past days, into the next day.

As we were checking out the next day, I picked up brochure in the lobby.  It described the Greenbrier, as “Life as few know it.” I would have to agree that the splendid experience of a Greenbrier getaway is not something that everyone can do all the time, just as we cannot, and would not want to, eat caviar every day, or it would lose its specialness; but it is an extraordinary treat. 

A visit to the Greenbrier is among those experiences that one can truly call marvelous, and one that our family will always remember, and hopefully come back to enjoy, again, and again.

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DIYHome

Your maid just might clean out your house

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One in three home contractors flunk background checks

I found out the hard way that not finishing on time or making a mess is not the only crime you have to worry about with a home contractor. I had the unfortunately experience of hiring a handyman who came back a few days after he finished a painting job to burglarize my house, making off with about $40,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables.

So I was not surprised when I read that when home services app SERVIZ put applicants through a pre-employment background check, they discovered that as many as a third of home contractors had prior criminal records.

Concerned at these numbers, SERVIZ then researched and assembled its groundbreaking new Home Safety Rankings (HSR) Index for over 100 metropolitan areas across the U.S. It’s a comprehensive look at statistics and findings on home safety across the U.S., with participation from the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and other national organizations.

The list ranked cities according to highly specific home safety and crime statistics, and the results included more than a few surprises, with cities in the Los Angeles, Dallas and San Diego metro areas appearing in the top 10 safest, and with multiple cities in the Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver and other metro areas also falling in the bottom 10 as the least safe.

In addition to the nationwide rankings on 108 cities, the HSR examined the home safety habits and concerns of residents through city page infographics. The study shows homeowners vital facts about their city’s potential safety and offers important statistics and tips, with insights on such cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, New York, Washington D.C., Denver, and Austin.

The study found that Los Angeles’s Home Safety Score was C+, San Diego scored a B-, New York scored a B, and Washington D.C. scored an F. New York ranked 27 (100 is safest) on the Crime Index, with 40,599 annual crimes, while Los Angeles ranked 19, with 121,241 annual crimes. Washington ranked 3 on the Crime Index, with 39,966 annual crimes.

Shockingly, a person’s chance of becoming a victim of a crime is 1 in 33 in L.A., 1 in 41 in New York, 1 in 17 in Washington D.C., 1 in 39 in San Diego, and 1 in 35 across the U.S. (Average). What is even more concerning is that people nationwide are actually unsuspectingly letting criminals into their homes.

SERVIZ found that home service pros failed SERVIZ background checks a rates as high as one in nine in Los Angeles, with as many as 1 in 6 carpet cleaners failing checks. One in six handymen in New York and San Diego failed criminal background checks, and one in four home repair pros failed background checks in Washington D.C.

The statistics may be frightening, but much less terrifying than coming home to a broken window screen and all your jewelry gone and your home ransacked, like mine was, so be smart, and only hire through a verified service that does a thorough criminal background check.

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DecorShopping

Home goods that make the holidays happy

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Holiday gifts that will make a home warm and welcoming, safe and sound

Ess-scential candles

Even if the weather outside is frightening, you can enjoy nature indoors with the warm, soft light of a candle flame and nature-inspired fragrances from the Heritage Collection by Chesapeake Bay Candle ($15-25). These stylish, modern designed candles can make a home feel cozy, homey and romantic with an array of soothing, energizing and refreshing scents naturally crafted with essential oils Available in small and large jars, two- and three-wick coffee table jars and diffuser styles in 12 scents. Available at chesapeakebaycandle.com, Target, Amazon and major home good stores nationwide.

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B to ZZZs

Give a good night’s sleep to someone you love with bedding from B Your Bed. This affordable line of luxury bedding includes extra-long bedding to accommodate thicker mattresses and bed toppers. Not only are the fabrics ultra-comfortable, all B Your Bed products carry a seal that ensures consumers that the bedding is made with verified high-quality materials, and the company guarantees the dimensions, thread counts, fill rates and materials meet specifications. The beautiful styling and patterns of these comforter sets and accessories make you never want to get out of bed, hence the company name, that promises those who sleep engulfed in this comfort being will be one with the bed. Available at www.byourbed.com.

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Smarter Home

No smartly decorated home these days can be without a smart voice-activated speaker, not just to play music but to operate all the smart devices in the home, like light bulbs, switches, window blinds, thermostats, and TVs. The 808 Audio XL-V premium smart speaker ($129) is a new entrant to the Alexa-responsive speaker systems, that works in concert with Amazon’s Alexa app, enabling the 808 XL-V to access music and book libraries on Amazon, as well as other streaming services – and it has the ability to stream the same music from another 808 XL-V simultaneously, in other rooms. It can also connect via Bluetooth to stream audio from other Bluetooth-enabled devices or serve speaker for non-Bluetooth and non-smart devices using an aux in jack.

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Watch me ne-ne

Give the gift of peace of mind to yourself or love ones with the Honeywell Lyric C2 Wi-Fi Security Camera ($169.99), an easy-to-install and use security system that keeps on eye on your home while you’re away, or inside. Using the Lyric app on a phone or tablet, the C2 streams live video and records using free secure cloud storage (up to 1 GB) and 8GB SD-card storage for back-up, so that you can download surveillance clips from the past 24 hours. The system features voice control capability using the Alexa app, sound detection, night vision, and an HD 145-degree wide-angle view that captures video in sharp 1080p high definition.

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Think in a vacuum

A freshly vacuumed carpet gives the impression of a clean and well-groomed home, and with iRobot’s Roomba, a home can have that just-vacuumed look all the time. The original and most tech-forward of the automatic vacuum brands, Roomba has developed an army of round robots designed for a variety of carpet and floor surfaces, with its most advanced units, like the w-fi connected Roomba 980 ($899), featuring smart technology that allows Roomba to be operated and programmed using an app or with voice- command devices like Echo or Google Home. While Roomba doesn’t do windows, it’s a great helper around the house that won’t complain about chores, and with its endearing Jetson-esque robotic voice, Roomba may just become your next pet, that picks up fur instead of shedding it.

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Knead a break

“I don’ like massages,” said nobody, ever. It’s true, everyone likes to get massages, so make everyone feel good right at home with HoMedics Fold-Away Massaging Shiatsu Lounge Chair ($399). Sit back and relax while this comfy no-assembly-required lounge chair kneads the neck, shoulder, back and legs in an immersive deep-kneading shiatsu massage experience, with an option to apply soothing heat, all controlled with a programmed remote. The seat adjusts for different height levels and features three massage zones that concentrate on different areas, so every family member can enjoy a massage to their liking. When not in use, the chair folds compactly for easy storage. Available online at Bed Bath & Beyond or at store locations.

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Raising the towel bar

Refine and refresh the look of any bathroom with the modern style and rich colors of bath towels from the Lacoste Court Bath Towel Collection ($17.99). These thick and absorbent towels are crafted of high quality and durable soft 100-percent Supima cotton, with luxurious fibers that offer a beautiful luster and a design that features Lacoste’s signature croc patch. The colors from the towel collection complement the full collection from Lacoste Home, in case you want to wrap up on a matching bath robe.

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DIYLifestyleOutdoors

How to Make Skateboard at Home

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A step-by-step guide to making your own skateboard

Making a skateboard at home is very easy it’s not like a rocket science. Some people feel it’s difficult to make a home but will tell you it is straightforward to make. Anybody can make it at home with a little patience and little knowledge of carpentry work, vacuum press, glues and other materials.

Material requires making skateboard at home

  1. Hard rock maple wooden board.
  2. Three high-quality skateboard veneer glue.
  3. Mold for press
  4. Jig saw
  5. Router for rasp
  6. Paint for designing
  7. Painter tape.

Veneers

The first most important thing to make a skateboard at home. first you have to buy a hard maple not other types of maple like oak and pine because this kind of material is stiff, strong enough and it can’ break easily.

There are three type of veneers they are called

Face – this kind of veneer is sanded from one side and not sanded from another side.

Cross Band – This sheet of veneer is cut with grain but not cut against gain.

Core Layer- This type of sheet is same like a face, but a difference is that it is both sides of veneer is not sanded.

Applying glue at veneer

Once you have all types veneers now next step is to apply glue on it.

Tiebond glue is best for this. Then you can need of screwed on board. Use glue on all side first Apply glue on the unsanded side of a sheet and unsanded side and then apply on the face of a core layer.

Apply pressure

Once you apply glue on all faces of veneer now, it’s time to make pressure on it.

Take two pieces of cardboard about 3 inches long and put the veneer in between mold and cardboard. Next to take 4 channels irons with 20 inches nuts and washers. Tight a channel iron in the center of a mold so to give a tight press. Once this step is done, let it take shape for about one day to make a hard and stiff.

Designing the uncut after rest one day take it out from a mold and remove the piece cardboard. One you unmold it next step if make your design on it. You can use your creativity or use a cadd program for embossing nose to tail and can draw your design on graph paper. But don’t apply a tape on it once your design is not complete according to your choice. Once everything is complete marking for trucks position, and you can start to apply a tape and cut the outlines.

Cutting the Uncut

Once you do this all process the next step to use a band saw because it is a more accurate technique to cut, but if you not have you can use a handy dandy little jigsaw. After cutting is done take a router rasp to curve edges. Then apply sand paper on it.

Assemble a custom board: final step is to assemble your skateboard

Trucks: this is large metal pieces that hold your axle and attached to wheels.

Bearings: it allows to move your wheels smoothly, and it comes in steels and ceramics.

Wheels: the central part of skateboard there is a wide variety of wheels available in a market.

After applying all these on board, your skateboard is almost ready.

Finishing touch:

At last, you can design a logo and other painting according to your choice. Now your skateboard is ready to ride.

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Decor

A bedroom for all seasons

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Make your bedroom a refreshing retreat, any time of year

Many a travel-weary soul has exclaimed, “There’s nothing like being home in your own bed.” Your bedroom is your private sanctuary, so make it an inviting place where you can rest, sleep and feel restored, surrounded by pure comfort and beauty.

Blooming bed

Bring a lasting bouquet beauty of seasonal blooms into your bedroom with Ted Baker London floral bedding.  The designer known for its rich, vibrant hues and elaborate prints is launching a new line of luxury linens for spring, including the Blue Beauty collection, inspired by souvenir photographs taken by the designer on a bicycle ride around Holland’s tulip fields. The tonal blues create a striking statement against a pristine white backdrop.

The soft 100-perfect cotton comforter sets, coverlets, and decorative pillows are available at Nordstrom.com, priced between $65 to $285.

Counting sleep

Sleeping in total comfort not just a dream. PONS bedding has made it their mission to create the ultimate environment for perfect sleep. The PONS mattress (starting at $599) will help you rest well not just because of its gel infusion for cooler sleep, its breathable knit cover for airflow and its body-conforming foam with three levels of pressure point relief for restful shuteye, but you will sleep well knowing the materials under you are 100-percent eco-friendly and CertiPUR-US certified from head to toe.

The mattress contains no ozone depleters, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals, or formaldehyde or phthalates, and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million). PONS made the perfect match to its mattress in a bedframe ($1,199) equipped with USB ports for recharging while you sleep. Soon PONS promised to offer cooling and ultra-dry sheets, comforters and pillows.

Airbn-be-better

Nature’s bounty of trees, plants and flowers, as well as our beloved animals, bring us beauty and joy that make our house a home, inside and out; but they also bring into the home pollen, dander and other indoor pollutants that can be harmful to our health and comfort. Blueair Classic 405 ($599) air purifier filters out the polluting particles to clean unhealthy air in your home environment. It operates quietly, and its modern design discreetly blends in with home décor. Integrated smart technology allows it to be operated remotely with a smartphone.

The clean-air companion to the Blueair air purifier is Blueair Aware ($199), a sleek, small air monitor that continuously measures indoor air quality and quickly detects airborne pollutants, including ultrafine particulate matter (PM2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and benzene and carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2). You don’t need to know what any of these chemicals and contaminants are – just that when the Blueair Aware indicator shines blue, the air you breathe is A-OK. If the indicator light turns orange, it’s time to shut the windows or eliminate other sources of air contaminants.

Clean case

Feeling good under the covers begins with a fresh, clean bed and pillows. Cover your mattress and pillows with an allergen-barrier to keep down dust mites, pollen, pet dander and other household allergens. AllerEase Ultimate zippered mattress protector ($55.99) and pillow protectors ($9.99) fully encase mattresses and pillows in antimicrobial, hypoallergenic fabric to reduce exposure to irritants; and because the top fabric is soft and pliable, the covers do not alter the feel or breathability of your sleep surface. As an added benefit, the waterproof coverings offer protection from spills, and they can be machine washed and dried for easy care.

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DecorEat & DrinkShopping

Everything you need for the Fourth

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Get your July 4 holiday celebration off with a bang

Independence Day is around the corner, so get ready to celebrate in style and spirit. Be a star at your July 4th party with festive food, drink and Americana accoutrement made for entertaining and enjoying your holiday.

Hole-in-won!

You can’t miss with a flag themed bean bag toss game. This stars-and-stripes Americana Edition of the popular corn hole game comes with two 24″ x 35″ boards and red and blue bean bags for two or four players, with a built-in compartment to store the bean bags and Velcro fasteners to keep the boards together for easy storage and carrying. Available at TJMaxx for $79.99.

Spirit wear

Dress in indie spirit with patriotic themed Trucks Surf & Co. swim suit or a R, W & B Life is Good T-shirt ($7.99 – $14.99), available at TJ Maxx. Dress up or dress down with a versatile and comfortable Discovery skort from Royal Robbins ($55), with a zipper pocket, built-in UPF 50+ sun protection, and a wicking quick-dry fabric perfect for outdoor fun, trekking or travel.

 

Music go-round

Keep up the beat wherever you are, with the Yatra Aquatune 5712 ($34.99), a small but booming weatherproof wireless Bluetooth speaker that can jam up to 12 hours on a charge. It’s so compact it can clip on a belt or beach bag so you can bring along the tunes on the go. www.shopyatra.com.

A-la more

What’s more American than apple pie and ice cream? Scoop on the red, white and blue with Turkey Hill All Natural ice cream in pure vanilla bean and new flavors of raspberry chocolate chip and blueberry.  Like all 20 flavors in the All Natural line-up, all flavors are made with only milk, cream, sugar, and natural flavors, and they include no artificial colors and no stabilizers. Available at select grocers and convenience stores wherever Turkey Hill products are sold.

Not your grandma’s camp chair

Rock out while you view the fireworks in a GCI Outdoor FirePit Rocker ($60) that will make you the envy of everyone sitting stiff in their old-school camp chairs. This low-ride spring-loaded rocking camp chair lets you lean back and look up at the fireworks, and for camping it’s the perfect height for an evening around the campfire, with a mesh backrest and padded armrests for cool comfort, and a beverage holder to keep your drink close-by. Available at national sporting good retailers.

Take out the sting

Keep the skeeters and other pests from biting at your picnic or fireworks party with Nobitech insect-repellent performance wear. Their collection of Skintex-treated T-shirts and long-sleeve pullover sand hoodies ($19-$35) are suitable for the sports-minded athlete but also stylish enough for regular folk and can help ward off Zika-carrying mosquitos and Lyme-disease carrying ticks.

Pop star

Break out the Popcornopolis and make your Fourth of July party really pop.  Popcornolpolis chef-designed artisan popcorn one-ups America’s favorite snack food with decadent gluten-free, non-GMO confection varieties like Zebra, drizzled with premium chocolate; Chocolate Stripe carmel corn drizzled with dark and white chocolate; Chocolate Peanut Butter caramel corn; and White Chocolate Macadamia; or try the Popcornolpolis new line of organic popcorn Nearly Naked; Herbed Butter; Three Cheese; Pesto Mozzarella; Avocado Lime; Kettle Corn; Karamel Kiss; and Chocolate Macaroon. Available at Popcornopolis stores, grocery and club stores, sports stadiums, movie theatres and at www.popcornopolis.com.

Mix it up

 

When it’s hot as a firecracker outside, quench your thirst with a sparkling refreshing beverage from Zevia.  The zero-calorie, zero-sugar Zevia drink varieties include flavored bubbly waters, like Cucumber Lemon, Lime and Mandarin Orange. If you want a little punch in your drink, add your favorite spirits to Zevia mixers, perfect for cocktails or mocktails in Dry Lemon Lime

Ginger Beer, and Tonic flavors. If old-school pop is more your style, step up your health game with Zevia’s sodas, naturally sweetened with stevia, exploding with taste in flavors beyond cola including Black Cherry, Grape, Grapefruit Citrus, Lemon Lime Twist, Mountain Zevia, Orange and Strawberry.

 

Come share the wine

Invite friends over and chill out with your Little Black Dress on the table. No, not with a lampshade on your head, but with LBD wines. For a refreshing summer wine, try LBD Pinot Grigio, with aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish; or for something a bit more complex, there’s the Pinot Noir, with layers of cherry and clove with soft floral notes, hints of strawberry jam and pomegranate; or everyone’s favorite party wine, the LBD Chardonnay, a crisp and fruit-forward wine with flavors of apple and pear, and creamy accents of vanilla and oak.  Available in wine stores, bars and restaurants and select grocers including Safeway, Wegmans and Harris Teeter.

Sit a little

When America’s poor tired huddled masses come to call on the Fourth, be ready with a little extra seating.  Sit in style with Dar Living Folding Stool, in red, blue and other colors. When your guests leave, the chairs fold up compactly for quick storage, and the built-in handle makes for easy carrying. Get the stools in a four-pack ($35) so all your company has a place to rest their laurels. Available on Amazon and home goods retailers nationwide.

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AutomobilesDIYLifestyleTravel

Wax on, wax off

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Protect your paint and interior and keep all systems go for summer road trips

Just like your Mom told you, even if the sun is behind the clouds, UV rays can be damaging to your skin; but bet she didn’t mention what those rays can do to your vehicle.  Sun, heat, salty sea air and other harsh environmental elements can take a serious toll on your car or truck, inside and out, and under the hood.  Get your car ready for summer vacation with these DIY maintenance tips.

 

  • Check your tires. There’s nothing worse than a flat tire on your road trip. Be sure to check for proper inflation pressure, especially since under-inflated tires consume more energy, therefor giving you poorer gas mileage.

 

  • Protect your car from the sun. Similar to protecting your skin with sun tan lotion, it’s important to shield vinyl, plastic and rubber surfaces on your car from the sun’s harsh UV rays. You can use a product like Meguiar’s Ultimate Protectant, which creates a rich shine & darkness on interior surfaces, while bringing new life to exterior trim, moldings & tires. 

 

  • Wash and wax your car. Your car’s finish can easily fade and rust from the salty air and sunshine. Be sure to give your car a solid wash and don’t forget to wax before heading toward the shore. You can use Meguiar’s Ultimate Fast Finish, the easiest and fastest way to wax your vehicle in just 10 minutes. Simply spray and wipe with a microfiber towel and your vehicle will have a slick, protective top coat that will deliver up to one full year of water beading protection—no buffing required.

 

  • Clean the underside of the hood. Any salt and grime build-up remaining from the winter months along with added beach salt could harm electrical connections and fuel and brake lines. Spray Nine Heavy-Duty Cleaner/Degreaser can help wipe away bugs, tar and other unwanted hitchhikers on surfaces and can also help control mold and mildews as well as fungicidal growth.

  • It’s hot out there…don’t forget about your cooling system. The last thing you need on your relaxing trip is a problem under the hood. It’s important to inspect your antifreeze/coolant to make sure it’s free of debris and contaminants. If you notice an issue, flush and fill your system with a mixture of 50 percent concentrated antifreeze and 50 percent distilled water. If your reservoir is low, you can easily top off with Prestone® 50/50 Prediluted Antifreeze/Coolant with patented Cor-Guard® corrosion inhibitors.

  • Wipers! Even if you have not used your windshield wipers in a while, they need regular replacing due to dry rot that can make them ineffective when you need them.  Rain-X Arch beam blade wipers are a step up from standard wipers as they have a curved design engineered to improve pressure distribution on the windshield and a graphite coating, so that they wipe smoothly and chatter-free, plus they are simple to install with nearly all wiper arm styles.
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Decor

Amazing DIY ways to redecorate that you think require a professional (but don’t)

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Bring out your inner interior decorator and transform a room yourself, in a day, or minutes

Giving a living space a new look does not always require a major renovation, or a contractor.  Here are a few DIY ideas for refreshing and reviving a room with a fresh new style, no home improvement experience required.

Cut a rug

Do-it-yourself and rug are not usually terms that go together, but FLOR is changing that. This innovative flooring company allows anyone to design their own unique rug, one square at a time, using self-adhesive carpeted tiles that can be laid in custom sizes and shapes, using a huge variety of gorgeous patterns, styles and colors with many textures and piles.

The beauty of the system is that the options are limitless. FLOR tiles can be arranged to fit odd spaces, such as hallways or a room with a nook or a jagged floor plan, or the tiles can be placed to create an area rug or seamless-looking wall-to-wall rug to fit any room. Designing an inspired and creative custom rug is made easy with FLOR’s online Design Studio tool, or you can choose from a selection of pre-designed signature pieces.

 

For those who like to change up a room’s look often, the tiles can be taken up and moved much easier than an installed carpet; and in areas like kitchens or kids’ rooms, where floors suffer the most spills and stains, individual soiled tiles can be replaced, rather than an entire rug. Available at flor.com. Prices range from as low as $11.49 to $24 and up per square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throw some shade

Recessed lighting has its benefits, but it can lack variety and versatility. Make a room with recessed lighting stand out with EzClipse, stylish shades that fit around recessed lighting fixtures that can transform the look and feel of a room within minutes. A lackluster flat ceiling in any space can be instantly upgraded from traditional to modern.

The shades come in several styles, including metallic and fabric options, and in round and square shapes and several colors and profiles. The covers can be used on an entire ceiling, or only on selected lights or areas to add an element of style, draw attention to an area, highlight artwork or furniture, or give a feeling of separation between multiuse rooms, such as a living room that doubles as an office.

 

The inner fittings of the shades can be adjusted for the size of the recessed light opening, and even if the existing rims are plastic, self-adhesive magnetic holders can be installed without any tools. Installation is so easy that you can remove and change the covers whenever the mood strikes. EzClipse are available on Amazon or at EzClipse.com and also at Costco in Canada. Prices start at $13.99.

Launch pad-ding

There is another way, besides painting or adding artwork, to dress up plain walls. Vänt Wall Panels give an instant new look to a room with a wall décor system of padded panels that snap into a track that anyone can install, no special skills required.

Each wood-backed panel is 1.75” thick and either 30” or 39” long. The panels are filled with foam padding and batting for comfort, and covered with a variety of easy-care materials in a variety of collections of different colors and textures, such as Vintage Leather Finish in Black Coal, White Dove, Saddle Brown, Grey Pewter or Dusty Taupe; and Cotton Weave Finish in Black Denim, Midnight Blue, Toasted Wheat Ash Gray, and Gray Mist.

The panels are ideal as a back board for any size bed, or for use in living rooms to add an inviting softness to a room, in a dining room to add a sleek sophistication, in offices and dens to make a stylish statement, and in kitchens, kids’ playrooms or any room to cover an entire wall or as an accent to enhance the look of a room. The panels can be arranged in a solid-colored configuration, or colored panels can be mixed and matched to create unique, custom configurations to transform the style and ambiance of a room in minutes.

 

 

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DecorDIY

No-hassle home improvement planning

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Organized planning can make turning your home upside down easier on your psyche

Getting ready to undertake a home improvement project? Many homeowners get overwhelmed at the magnitude of a large DIY project or a contracted job, even simply not knowing where to start it and how to get organized. Erin Condren, organization expert and creator of the LifePlanners organizers, offers these professional tips and the tool of her “Level Up Your Life” activity sheet, a customizable actionable checklist Condren created with Liberty Mutual Insurance to help people get organized before, during, and after their home improvement projects.

 

“I’m all for taking pen to paper when it comes to preparing for any project, so this is a great tool for people to utilize especially if they’re unsure where to start,” said Condren.The first section provides mini checklists to help get organized before embarking on a project, perfect for de-cluttering a room and getting ready for a tag sale with items you plan to sell. When it comes to hiring help and setting a budget, under “Planning for the Big Picture” you can find an easy-to-follow guide that shows what you should be writing down when creating a budget plan and what to make note of when researching contractors.

In addition to the activity sheet, below are tips to follow when taking on a home renovation.

Organization from the Ground Up

I’m currently in the middle of a home renovation,” said Condren, “And I can’t urge people enough to clean out their clutter before starting their renovations.”

According to a recent survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance, lack of organization causes worry for nearly one-fifth of Americans on a regular basis. You do not want to begin a home improvement project with this feeling of worry. Clean out clutter room by room and set solid completion dates for each room to be organized. Setting dates helps hold you accountable and makes sure no room is overlooked.

If the room you’re renovating was used as storage space, sort through your items and decide which can be sold during a tag sale. There might be a reason this stuff has been in storage. De-cluttering this space will help you realize which items you can keep, toss, sell, or donate. You do not want unnecessary belongings taking up living or storage space in your new, remodeled space.

How to Hire Help

Another home survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance found that over one-third (38%) of Americans feel that they need assistance or advice on managing a home improvement project. Some home improvement projects, such as those that involve plumbing or electrical, are best to leave to a professional.

When hiring help, it’s important to research multiple contractors to ensure the most bang for your buck. Create a list that includes the contractors’ names, phone numbers, pros vs. cons for each, project type, and budget quote. This helps organize your thoughts as you’re meeting with each contractor and allows you to reference your conversations later in one fell swoop to make your final hiring decisions.

Budget Appropriately

No matter the home project – big or small – leaving a 15-20% cushion in your budget is necessary. The cushion allows you to be prepared for the unexpected without hurting your wallet in the long run.

Use an organizer, such as the LifePlanner, to write down the project type and project to-dos. Document what you plan to accomplish during the renovation project and the exact improvements that will be happening along the way.

Writing down the step-by-step process will help you visualize how big or small of a project you’re planning. Mapping out the project details in this manner will also make creating the budget an easier process since you can go line by line for each item.

For more budget tips, Liberty Mutual has a new go-to resource MasterThis where you can view more home improvement budget tips in the “Tackle Home Repairs” MasterKit.

“Techorate” to Add Value

Many of us have recently hopped on the smart home bandwagon and installed items like smart home security systems, smart lighting and thermostats, and smart locks in the home. If budget allows, consider purchasing smart home devices, such as locks, security cameras, leak sensors, or smoke/fire alarms. You might be surprised to find that installing these devices can save you money on your home insurance.

 

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DecorDIYShopping

Brand building the right way with Home Depot

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The leading name in home improvement opens its doors to a bunch of media influencers, and exposes the nuts and bolts of its operation

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I am only allowed to tell you part of what I saw at The ProSpective, but what I can tell you may alter the way you look at Home Depot, and power tools. It did me.

For three days in April I participated in ProSpective, an invitation-only event sponsored by Home Depot in the company’s hometown of Atlanta, where 80 journalists, bloggers and influencers came together to get a look at the latest in tools for DYI and professional use. It was a first-ever opportunity for media to go behind the scenes and see how things work inside the home improvement retailer giant.

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On arrivals night, attendees had the option to tour the top-secret Husky lab, a place that is a chamber of horrors for tools, and a playground for kids who became adults who loved to blow up things. As one of Home Depot’s premier brands, Husky ensures its quality by constantly testing the limits on its products. While there were certain areas and tests at the lab that visitors are not allowed to photograph or write about, I will describe what happens there as a cross between YouTube’s Crushit and an episode of Jackass, but in this case engineers and technicians wearing ties and safety goggles are executing the torture tests.

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Here we saw machines shaking and dropping boxes from great heights, compressors exerting the weight of two Corvettes on top of tool chests, bolts being purposely rusted and weathered and then subjected to thousands of pounds of torque and force, flashlights frozen into buckets of water at 40°F, and straps and fasteners stretched to the extreme, until they snapped, to make sure they could all withstand superhuman abuse and still meet or exceeded the Husky quality standards, per their lifetime guarantee.

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I only wish I could post it all on online, to inspire all of those pyrotechnic-obsessed YouTubers, whose fascination with deconstruction might one day lead to a successful career.

This was our first peek under the hood of Home Depot.

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The Town of Home Depot

The official Day One of the event began with a tour of the tiny town that is Home Depot headquarters, though they don’t call it that. To avoid sounding overly corporate, the employees refer to the complex as the Store Support Center, or SSC for short.

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Being an iconic American company with over 7,000 people walking through its doors each day, the company realizes it could be a target for bad guys, so security is tight. After showing ID and getting barcoded passes, we went one by one through revolving doors to enter. Once inside, we were given a tour of Main Street, the central passageway through the complex, which includes an on-site CVS and Minute Clinic, Starbucks, a dry cleaner, an in-house fitness center and childcare facilities.

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There’s also a museum dedicated to all things Home Depot, with artifacts from its founding days when Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, two guys who got fired from competitor Handy Dan, came up with the concept of a warehouse type hardware store.

An American Dream Story

The founders’ story is a lesson in perseverance. At first they had a difficult time getting buy-in from investors and suppliers. In 1978, the DIY movement was just getting started, and most hardware stores were small neighborhood shops, like ACE Hardware, and customers and vendors were skeptical of the big-box store format. Home Depot couldn’t fill the shelves in the beginning and even resorted to staging racks with empty paint cans to make their inventory look fully stocked.  Eventually, the concept caught on, and the store became the behemoth brand Home Depot is today.

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Similar to Disney, there’s a corporate culture of happiness that within a few minutes any employee will tell you about, with complete sincerity and appreciation. They will tell you that Home Depot cares about its people, and that’s why from the top down, the organization has a reputation of being a community member, where local stores give back through contributions of all sorts, including in-kind donations and labor. The company often organizes Team Depot philanthropic projects, where team members join together to give aid to those in need, such as families displaced by natural disasters.

Through the Home Depot Foundation, one of the company’s largest charitable efforts is its support of US military veterans, who the company serves through numerous organizations across the nation and in their local communities at the store level. Home Depot also employs about 35,000 veterans across its 8,000 stores.

Hands-On

Day two of the event was at Atlanta’s Ambient + Studio, an artsy warehouse space, where the leading tool manufacturing brands were on display. Greeted by orange-aproned helpers who handed us bags with 3M earplugs, safety goggles and face masks, the participants were divided into groups so we could tour through the space, visiting demos, similar to a trade show. IMG_5967

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The room reverberated with the sound of saws, drills, and nail guns. Representatives from the companies demonstrated the tools, some with entertaining and showy stress tests and comparisons with the competition.

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The company representatives were well versed, rehearsed and ready for us. It was hard to choose where to go next, surrounded by so many whirling and buzzing demos.

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I tried to get to each of the displays, though I wound up spending a lot of time at the Milwaukee booth, thanks to their very engaging ambassador — a handsome beefy guy with a great laugh and tremendous enthusiasm for his job of showcasing their tools, by putting them through their paces with a number of dramatic demos.

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First, he took a competitor’s measuring tape dispenser to task by pounding it with an enormous robot hammer, smashing it to pieces. Then he did the same test with a Milwaukee tape, which didn’t seem to put even a crimp into it. Then he stretched out the tape to 60 feet, alongside a competitor’s measuring tape, with huge balloons attached to the ends of the tapes. He recoiled the tapes at the same time, whereby the Milwaukee tape retracted within seconds, leaving the other leading brand, which I held, trailing behind. As I slowly reeled in the competitor’s tape, he beamed with pride.

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What a tool

As I made the rounds, I was treated to previews of the newest, hottest goods making their way to Home Depot shelves. For the do-it-yourselfer, there were drool-worthy tools like the Bosch Daredevil drill bit that can punch through a cinderblock as well as hard steel; the line of Ridged tools for pro or DIY building, that come with free parts, service and battery replacement for life; the Dremel precision tools for engraving on just about anything; the DeWalt cordless air compressor that can go anywhere and double as a generator for your electrical needs for projects – or those outdoor parties; or the Makita pneumatic line-up with tools that can grind through stone, vacuum up the dust and absorb vibration, alleviating some of the worst, hardest, dirtiest and most dangerous aspects of construction jobs. There were also automotive products and accessories companies, such as Armor All, A/C Pro refrigerant, and Rain-x, touting a new long-lasting wiper blade.

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Besides demos and hands-on opportunities to try out the tools, attendees also got to talk to various Home Depot brand managers, who informed us about little-known services and departments of Home Depot, like the online Décor department, where customers can shop for everything from mattresses to wine glasses.

Work hard, play hard

After a full day of tooling around, it was dinner time, and game time, at Ponce City Market Skyline Park. This rooftop party space above a retail and restaurant complex, developed from the former crumbling and abandoned Sears, Roebuck & Company building, was a perfect venue for this crowd, who valued what vision, imagination, and industriousness and create.

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This place was a grown-up fantasyland: an open bar with craft beers, wine and champagne, delicious hors d’oeuvres of beef sliders, shrimp toasts and chicken skewers; and midway games, mini golf, and even a couple amusement park thrill rides. It was the perfect wind down, to relax in the warm late afternoon Atlanta sunshine, with a view of the city, sipping drinks and socializing in a laid-back atmosphere of literal fun and games.

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Winning Team

The next day we boarded the buses bright and early, at 7 AM, to head for a project site, where we were going to help build and repair homes of local senior veterans. The Home Depot crew had to switch gears quickly when the weather turned nasty though. Instead of the outdoor site, we were shuttled to the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta.

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This enormous warehouse and workshop recycles gently used home furnishings and builds furniture for thousands of families a year. The executive director showed us a video of some of the people who whose lives have been transformed thanks to the gift of beds for their families to sleep on, kitchen tables where they could have a meal, and furniture to sit on instead of the floor. Even among the hunky handyman with steely faces I saw some misty eyes, as we all realized the significance of our task at hand.

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We were divided into teams of four or five people per workstation, and from the racks of raw materials, we gathered lumber, bolts and nuts and the various pieces to put together basic furniture items. In a few hours, my team had constructed a kitchen table and three coffee tables. In all, our group of volunteers had put together 44 pieces of furniture, all of which the furniture bank executive director informed us would likely be delivered to families within the week. In fact, while we were working, the kitchen table we had made was claimed and on its way to a home in need.

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Our participation in this Team Depot project was the highlight of ProSpective for many of us, as we got to see the Home Depot giving spirit at work, and we individually were able to make a contribution and to learn about Team Depot projects, so that we can get involved in our own communities.

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Good work

Throughout the three days, the presentations were highly professional, and the event was well produced, which was even more impressive considering ProSpective was the first event of its type. Busses efficiently transported attendees place to place, and the itinerary was organized and thoughtful, hotel accommodations at Hyatt Atlanta Midtown were excellent, and even the food, including a delectable creamy kale salad to die for, by local caterer Avalon, was superb.

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Home Depot hit the nail on the head when the company figured out that inviting influencers in the DIY space and professional contracting world into their world would be the best way to make an impression, by allowing us to immerse ourselves in the inner and outer community that makes up Home Depot. The event left us energized not just about Home Depot, but about our next projects and the new tools we can get our hands on, leaving us looking forward to – as the company slogan says – a lot “more doing.”

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