The Longest Day

The summer solstice marks the official start of summer. It brings the longest day and
shortest night of the year for the 88% of Earth’s people who live in the Northern
Hemisphere.

Astronomers can calculate an exact moment for the solstice, when Earth reaches the
point in its orbit where the North Pole is angled closest to the sun. That moment will
be at 15:54 UTC on June 21. Six months from now, the sun will reach its southern
extreme and northerners will experience their shortest day of the year, at the winter
solstice.

The angle of the sun around the time of the solstice changes so gradually in relation to
the equator that the everyday observer almost can’t tell it is changing. Without
instruments, the sun appears to be in the same place for about 10 days. This is the
origin of the word solstice, which means “solar standstill.”

This slow shift means that June 21 is only about 1 second longer than June 20 at midnorthern
latitudes. It will be about a week before there’s more than a minute change to
the calculated amount of daylight. Even that’s an approximation – Earth’s atmosphere bends light over the horizon by different amounts depending on weather, which can introduce
changes of more than a minute to sunrise and sunset times.

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Clean Sweep

Having a morning and evening routine can make a big difference in how your day comes together. Sure, you might get away with rinsing your cup on the way out the door and leaving it out to dry every now and again, but those little shortcuts all add up. Follow this basic guide to keep things running smoothly:

• Morning: Make your bed, throw the dirty laundry in the washing machine, empty the dishwasher, and put away any slippers, socks, or robes that are left out after getting dressed for the day.

• Afternoon: When you walk in the door from your day out at work or running errands, take ten minutes to go through each room and gather loose items, return things to their proper place and restore each room to basic functionality. This is as simple as making sure that towels are straightened out in the bathroom, your keys are in the correct place, pets have fresh water, and the mail is all opened and dealt with for the day.

• Evening: Don’t go to bed with dishes in the sink! Take a couple of minutes to start the dishwasher, including any containers that came home in lunchboxes or have been in the refrigerator for more than a few days, wipe the counters clean, and make sure that the trash cans are all emptied. Before you head off to bed, turn off any extra lights and plug in electronics that need to be charged for the next day.

Beauty in Nature

So many beautiful May blooms pop up in gardens! Creating a classic mixed-flower arrangement doesn’t have to be difficult. Use your intuition (and incorporate a few basic guidelines) to arrange gorgeous bouquets.

• Begin with the flowers. Start by arranging the flowers in your hand and place the larger flowers near the base of the group. Incorporate dark blooms for drama or use flowers in lighter tones for a softer effect.

• Consider the size. Pay attention to the height and shape of the flowers that you’re using and arrange taller stems near the top and back.

• Work with the stems. Strip stems of any leaves that would otherwise be standing in water. Choose a vase or container that is appropriate for the height and proportion of your flowers.

• Give it shape. Lightly bind the stems with twine or floral wire and place in a vase, or use moist floral foam in shallow containers to give short stems more stability.

• Add some depth and interest. Fill in the gaps with smaller blooms. Blue or violet flowers often act as a neutral and can fill out an arrangement without overwhelming your color scheme.

• Add greenery. Insert a few leaves of greenery near the bottom to form a casual “rim” for the arrangement. Once you have your arrangement looking pretty, be sure to put it in a location where you can change the water every day, and stop and smell the roses (or peonies or lilacs) along the way.