Things to NEVER Buy at a Thrift Store

Buying used is often an easy way to find inexpensive, high-quality, and one-of-a-kind pieces. But in some cases, preowned or old items can be unsanitary, more expensive, and—in worst-case scenarios—dangerous. So the next time you scour your favorite thrift shop (or an antique store or garage sale), think twice about these items.

Stuffed Animals

©Tomekbudujedomek – Getty Images

Yes, they’re adorable, but they’re probably dirty—or worse, infested with bed bugs or fleas.

Pet Furniture

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You’ll never know what previous pets were up to on secondhand pet beds, houses, crates, blankets, and toys. To prevent stinky smells from overtaking your space, and to ensure your furry friend has a clean place to sit or sleep, buy ’em something brand new.


©Getty Images

Bringing home any sort of used textile or item covered with fabric puts you at risk for a bed bug infestation. In fact, bed bugs can survive up to one year in upholstered pieces. And with cute throw pillows available for just $10-$20, it’s both affordable and wise to go for something new.


Choosing the Right Landscape Plant-Use the Hardiness Map

The U.S.D.A. updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map last week for the first time in more than a decade, showing that about half the United States had moved into a slightly warmer zone. The hardiness map is considered the gold-standard resource for understanding which perennials thrive and where. The map divides the country into color-coded zones, each indicating the average low temperature of the year for that area.

While Christopher Daly, who is the director of the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University and the map’s lead author, said that climate change may be a factor, he pointed to other changes in how the data is collected to explain the shift.

“It’s not a forecast,” he said. “It’s what happened in the past as best as we’re able to describe it.”

Below is the newest hardiness zone map.

The new Plant Hardiness Zone Map issued by the Agriculture Department. Credit…U.S. Department of Agriculture

The map is based on the 30-year average of the lowest annual winter temperatures for specific places. It is divided into 13 zones, each reflecting a 10-degree temperature range, and each zone is divided into two half zones, designated as A and B.

The coldest area, as low as negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit, applies to remote regions of Alaska. The warmest, as high as 70 degrees, covers coastal areas of Puerto Rico.

Dr. Daly said that the greatest changes came in and around Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, where temperatures warmed as much as 5 degrees.

Some zone changes reflected how data was collected, he said, which included the use of more weather stations and increasingly sophisticated mapping methods, right down to the ZIP code.

Art DeGaetano, the director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, said that it can be hard to use an extreme number, like a historical average of a region’s coldest winter temperature, to model climate change over time.

The warming reflected on the updated map, however, is “very much in line with, over the long term, what we would expect to see from climate change,” he said. “Not every cold temperature is going to get warmer, but on average, things will get warmer.”

This is not the first version of the map to show planting zones shifting northward as winters become milder. When the Agriculture Department released a 2012 version of the map, most areas of the country had shifted one half zone from the 1990 version.

Among other uses, the plant hardiness map has applications in commercial agriculture and is used by the department’s Risk Management Agency to set some crop insurance standards.

But gardeners are its most frequent users, and for good reason: They need to know which zone they’re in because winter temperatures will play a major role in determining which perennials will survive to spring, which ones should be taken inside and which ones should not be planted in the first place.

Signs of adaptation are easy to find. In the New York metropolitan area, for example, some native plants, like sugar maples, are becoming less prevalent as temperatures rise. At the same time, some plants from the South, including camellias, the state flower of Alabama, have started to bloom at the New York Botanical Garden.

Jason D. Lanier, an extension specialist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said the shift in the map, while minor compared with the one a decade ago, reflects longer and larger changes.

“If you talk about this in increments of a hundred years, based on what we’re seeing now, we’re seeing significant differences in these hardiness zones,” he said. He suggested looking at the hardiness zones as “a handy, sort of guideline.”

“We’re dealing with living things so nothing is hard and fast,” he said. “This is an attempt to get as close as we can to some real sort of go-to useful advice.”

That’s exactly how Mr. Reeves, who lives in Clarksburg, Tenn., is thinking about it. “Nothing has changed overnight,” he said. If gardeners want to push their limits on new zones a little bit, he added, they should do so in the spring and early summer, and give the plants a chance to take root before winter.

“Just keep on planting,” he said.


Choosing the Right Landscape Plants

Factors to consider when choosing.

Even a newbie gardener knows that for plants to thrive, they need good soil, sunlight, and water. But that’s not all there is to a recipe for success in the garden: You also need to make sure the plants you choose will actually be happy in your yard.

While this sounds simple enough, things turn complicated the second you head to the nursery and find yourself completely overwhelmed by the selection. Big, beautiful flowering shrubs, promising saplings, and even those showy annuals all start vying for your attention.

So how do you choose the best plants for your garden? Check out this article, and future related ones, to help you make an intelligent decision.

Factor to consider: Climate

Source: Wisconsin Horticulture – Division of Extension

Title photo credit:

The first in a series of articles about plant choice in your landscAPE.

What Are Sagittarius Traits?

Sagittarians are optimists. Leave it to a Sagittarius to point out the silver lining. Their positive attitude and confidence make them experts at manifesting their goals, Ater explains. “Their naturally optimistic nature can help them in life with going after their dreams, because believing is always the first step,” says Ater. “And because they usually choose to see the bright side of things, they know how to have a good time and bring positive energy to others.”

Sagittarians are thirsty for knowledge. Sagittarians are basically students of the world. They love decoding the messages in their experiences as a way of making sense of things. “Sagittarius is constantly seeking new experiences, whether it be far-flung places or through the philosophical travels of the mind through belief systems and spirituality,” Dawn says. If they can gain new experiences, they’d easily choose to be uncomfortable over being content.

Sagittarians are honest. Sagittarians are great at speaking their mind, even if it stirs up a little drama. “Sagittarians are truth and knowledge seekers, so they are typically straightforward and honest about how they feel,” says Ater. They don’t hold back when it comes to speaking the truth, which can be intimidating at times. But you can always rely on a Sagittarius to give a sincere opinion, because they believe they owe it to others to be honest, which makes them great people to lean on.

Sagittarians are independent and love their freedom. It’s not so much that Sagittarians prefer to be alone, it’s more about the restriction that comes with being around others. “They want to go where the most fun and adventure is, so this can come across as a flakiness to others who don’t understand this sign,” says Ater.

What Are Sagittarius Weaknesses?

Sagittarians are noncommittal. As a mutable sign, Sagittarians are masters at going with the flow – literally! But because of their ability to adapt to their surroundings, it can be challenging for Sagittarius to devote themselves to any single person or idea for too long. “The Jupiter and archer symbol influence on Sagittarius gives them a love for travel and freedom, but this can lend to a lack of commitment,” says Ater.

Sagittarians are hard to please. Sagittarians are all about abundance: the bigger the better! Once they conquer one goal, it doesn’t take long for them to point their arrow toward another. “The natural tendency toward expansion and loftier ideals can be taken to excess,” says Dawn, “which results in greed, overconfidence, and conceit, which can be its downfall.” It can also lead to constant dissatisfaction, because they’re always looking for something more.

Sagittarians are overly fearless. Sure, the brazenness of a Sagittarius is inspiring. They know how to take risks, which can create magical opportunities. But because they have a one-track mind when it comes to their ambitions, they jump into things without weighing the consequences. “The lack of caution and free-spirited carelessness at times can bring all sorts of calamities to bear,” Dawn says.

What Is a Sagittarius’s Personality in Romantic Relationships?

When it comes to romance, Sagittarius signs tend to be a little cynical. While they can appreciate a steamy love affair (they are fire signs, after all), they love their freedom more than anything else. So it’s important that they can have their space from their partner. “If you’re the jealous type or have codependent tendencies, this is probably not the sign for you,” warns Ater.

Sagittarians are ever-changing, so they work well with people who can accept their whims and constant spiritual growth. They love to chase the thrill, which is just as true in love, so you can expect a Sagittarius to conjure creative dates and adventures.

“[Sagittarius zodiac signs] are fun, adventurous, and usually joyous to be around,” explains Ater, “but you’ll need to keep up with their desire for change and adventure.” In other words, Sagittarius zodiac signs need excitement in their romantic relationships – or they’ll easily get bored.

Don’t worry, you’ll get the hint when a Sagittarius is feeling a certain type of way, because they’re brutally honest. Communication is important for the fire sign, and they don’t typically hold back when it comes to voicing their truth. “Don’t ask a Sagittarius a question if you’re not ready to hear their honest answer!” Ater says.

While they can be somewhat intimidating as lovers, it’s hard to deny their optimism and curious minds. When they find someone who can grow with their whims and keep up with their hunger for adventure, they’re all in.


What Is a Sagittarius?

Sagittarius season falls around Nov. 22 and Dec. 21 of each year. It’s the ninth zodiac sign in the wheel and associated with the corresponding ninth house in astrology. The ninth house is related to higher learning, expansion, and philosophy, which is probably less than subtle in Sagittarius’s larger-than-life personality.

Symbolized by the centaur archer (you know, the mythological half-man-half-horse hybrid), Sagittarians are curious and ambitious. According to Ater, their archer archetype “further contributes to Sagittarius’s dual nature, while the arrow of the archer pointing in the air represents Sagittarius as a seeker of knowledge.”

These happy-go-lucky fire signs are the designated travelers of the zodiac, which helps if you’re ruled by Jupiter, the literal planet of luck.

“[Sagittarius placements] typically have a jovial, optimistic nature, and what seems like an unlimited stroke of luck because of their Jupiter rulership,” says Ater.

Jupiter also rules knowledge, long-distance travel, and abundance, which explains why a positive attitude and an infectious sense of humor are key traits of a Sagittarius. Plus, Sagittarius natives are one-third of the fire signs, who, according to Ater, “are energetic, creative, enthusiastic, and impatient.”

Needless to say, there’s nothing standing in the way of Sagittarius zodiac signs from getting their adrenaline fix.

Tomorrow, some Sagittarius traits.


Lifetime Guitar Maintenance Schedule

There’s lots of information out there on how to do specific procedures on your guitar, but there’s really no high level, bird’s-eye overview of what you can expect over the next 20+ years that you’ll own your guitar.

Before You do Anything Else

If you just bought a new guitar (and especially if you ordered it online), have your guitar set up properly by a qualified guitar technician or music store. If you don’t know what a “setup” is, check out my article:

Guitar Setups: What They Are and Why You (Might) Need One

Getting a setup will ensure your guitar is as physically easy to play as possible. That way you can focus on learning instead of physically fighting the guitar.

A setup will run about $40 – $60 depending on where you go.

If you bought your guitar in a music store, they may have already done a setup for you. If you’re unsure, call them and confirm by asking: “Did my guitar get a full setup before I brought it home?”

Good guitar stores will perform a full setup and install new strings as part of the purchase price. You’ll usually know if they’ve done this, because rather than letting you take the guitar home right off the wall, they’ll tell you they need anywhere from a few hours to a few days to get the guitar ready. Most of the time, that means they’re doing a setup for you.

Every Time You Play

Before Playing…

Wash your hands. Even if you think your hands are clean, wash ‘em anyway. It’s okay if you occasionally forget, but the more diligent you are about washing your hands before you play the cleaner your strings, fretboard, and frets will stay and the less work you’ll have to do later.

Check yourself. If you care about your guitar’s finish, double-check yourself for things that might scratch the guitar like buttons, bracelets, rings, zippers, belt buckles, etc.

Tune up. Check the guitar’s tuning, and tune it if needed. It’s easy to be lazy and settle for playing a guitar that’s slightly out of tune but, it’s a bad habit to get into. Just tune. It only takes a minute and the more you do it, the better and faster you’ll get at it.

After Playing…

Wipe the neck and strings. With a clean, soft, dry cotton rag or microfiber cloth, give the neck and strings a quick wipe. Keyword: quick. This shouldn’t take more than about 30 seconds. To see exactly how this is done (and how easy it is), see my article:

How to Clean Guitar Strings

Wipe the body. With a different (soft, cotton or microfiber) rag, wipe the spot on the front edge of the guitar where your forearm was resting during play. No guitar polish is needed–simply fog the area with your breath and wipe… repeating 2-3 times. If you like to play guitar with your shirt off, you’ll want to wipe the back of the guitar too. Basically, wipe anywhere there was skin-to-guitar contact.

Wipe metal bridge components. If you’re playing an electric guitar with a tremolo or metal bridge parts, it doesn’t hurt to give them a quick wipe as well, to prevent buildup of corrosive sweat and salts that our hands leave behind. If you have metal volume/tone knobs, wipe those too if you touched them. Even if the metal parts are black or coated in some other color or finish, wipe them anyway.

Every 4 – 6 Months

Remove Old Strings

To be clear, 4-6 months is really just a “ballpark” time frame for changing strings. How often you should actually change strings depends on how much you play and other factors. For a more precise guide on how often to change your guitar strings, have a look at my article:

How Often to Change Guitar Strings

Wipe the Fretboard, Frets, and Back of the Neck

While all the strings are off, take this opportunity to give the fretboard, frets, and the back of the neck a quick wipe with a clean, soft, dry cotton rag. Keyword: quick. This is not meant to be a deep cleaning. We want to get through this string change and get back to playing asap. You should be able to do all these tasks in under 5 minutes.

First, lay the cloth on the fretboard and run it quickly up and down the fretboard a couple times, end-to-end. If there are any spots that are especially dirty, wrap the cloth over your finger and give those spots special attention, rubbing with the direction of the woodgrain. If you can’t quite get it all off, don’t worry. You’re going to do a more thorough fretboard cleaning at the 1-year mark anyway. Next, quickly buff each fret. Lastly, give the back of the neck a quick wipe as well.

Brush Dust & Dirt Off Body & Headstock

Next, carefully brush or blow off any loose dust, dirt, hair, etc. that’s sitting on the surface. If you use a brush, don’t use a standard paint brush–most aren’t quite soft enough for a glossy guitar finish. My favorite brushes for sweeping away surface debris are a women’s powder brush or a specialized tool like the Music Nomad String, Body, and Hardware Cleaning Tool.

If you don’t have a very soft brush, you can get by with just blowing in really short, hard bursts. The key is to remove the big nasty stuff first, so you don’t just smear it around and potentially scratch your glossy finish.

Give the Body a Quick Wipe

Using a different rag than the one you used to wipe the fretboard, frets, and neck, give the body a quick rubdown. A soft microfiber cloth is my first choice for this, but my next-favorite type of cloth for general cleaning and polishing are 100% cotton cloth baby diapers. No joke. Wash and dry baby diapers 2-3 times before you use them on your guitar to ensure maximum softness (never use fabric softener when washing any guitar rags).

You can follow-up with a good guitar polish if you choose, but guitar polish really isn’t necessary at this stage.

Install New Strings

Once the basic cleaning is done, string it back up with a new set of strings, and don’t forget to stretch them thoroughly so they’ll stay in tune. If you don’t know how to stretch strings you can read my tutorial:

How to Stretch Guitar Strings

If it’s an electric guitar, set intonation if necessary. If your intonation was fine before the string change and you’re using the same brand and gauge fo strings, then you’re probably fine and don’t need to set intonation. 

There’s more guitar info here: Lifetime Guitar Maintenance Schedule [The Definitive List] (

Legoland© Another Reason to Visit Florida

Located in Winter Haven, FL and just 45 minutes from the Orlando theme parks and downtown Tampa. LEGOLAND is a brand of interactive theme parks dedicated to families with children between the ages of 2 and 12.

Ticket info here: LEGOLAND Florida Tickets | Official Website

Vacation packages here: (You stay on site) Hotel & Tickets Vacation Packages | LEGOLAND Florida

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