October 2012

Carve the Perfect Pumpkin

With Halloween just a few days away, decorate a perfect looking pumpkin with the help of these step-by-step instructions!

1. Pick out a pumpkin.

Examine the rind. It should be firm, uniform in color, and free of cuts, bruises, and blemishes.  Make sure that the stem doesn’t look brown and dry. And don’t use the stem as a handle, since even a healthy one can break off. Pick up a pumpkin by its base instead. Give the pumpkin a knock. A thumping sound means the pumpkin is solid, with no internal defects, rot, or soft spots. You should try to have an idea of what you want to do with your pumpkin before you pick it out. If you want to carve an intricate design in your pumpkin, it may be easier to carve on a flatter surfaced pumpkin. 

2. Carve your pumpkin.

Make sure you don’t carve your pumpkin too early! Once a pumpkin is cut, they usually last 4-5 days before they start to rot. With a serrated knife, carefully cut an opening around the stem of the pumpkin, leaving a small notch on the back. It will be easier to put the top back on the pumpkin when you’re finished. 

3. Scoop out the goop.

Use a large spoon to remove the pulp and scrape the sides clean of stringy pieces. Separate the seeds from the pulp for a tasty treat later. Make sure you don’t put anything down your garbage disposal. It will clog up the drain and be a big hassle!

4. Start drawing.

Use a marker to start drawing a face on your pumpkin. If you aren’t an artist, you can use a free pumpkin stencil like the ones shown here or here.



Fireplace Safety Tips

Nothing says Fall and Winter like snuggling up next to a warm, cozy fire in your Ball home. While it may be tempting to grab some firewood and make a fire the minute cooler weather sets in, it’s important to make sure your fireplace is fire-ready. 

According to the United States Fire Administration,
heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys. Instead of making your home a part of these statistics, follow these steps to make sure your fireplace is ready for action.

Keep Your Fireplace Clean

Before you start up that first fire of the season, make sure your fireplace and chimney are cleaned by a licensed professional. Keep the area clear of any debris, decorations, or flammable materials.

Know How to Burn

If you have glass doors on your fireplace, keep them open when burning a fire. Leaving the doors open allows for enough air to reach the fire, and will also burn off any creosote buildup. Use the mesh screen to keep embers and debris from escaping out of the hearth.

Fuel the Fire

Use only seasoned hardwood for your fire starter. Do not use flammable liquids to start your fire.  Do not burn cardboard boxes, trash, or debris. Do not leave your fire unattended. Extinguish your fire before going to bed or leaving the house. Allow the ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place the ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home.

Following these few simple fireplace safety tips will help you prepare your fireplace and safely operate a fire in your Ball home this season.


Fall Activities in the Knoxville area!

If you’re looking for some fun Fall festivities in the Knoxville area, here is a list of upcoming events that will be enjoyable for the whole family!

-Head over to Cruze Farm, a family owned Jersey Dairy farm in Eastern Knoxville for a tour through their corn maze. After you’re done, head inside for a glass of fresh milk or a scoop of their home-made ice cream! The maze is open Saturdays from 10-6 and Sundays from 12-6 now through October 28th. For more information, visit their website.
-Cheer on your University of Tennessee Volunteer football team as they take on Alabama this Saturday, October 20th. Can’t make it to this game? Check out the rest of the team’s schedule here.

-Be a part of Knoxville’s largest Halloween Event taking place at Boo! at the Zoo at the Knoxville Zoo. The event will celebrate 12 nights of safe and not-too-scary Halloween fun on October 12-13, 18-21, 25-30, 2012 from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. BOO! at the Zoo is a family event featuring devilishly good music and games, your favorite costumed characters throughout the zoo, and the only "haunted" carousel in East Tennessee, the Scary-Go-Round. And best of all, you can trick-or-treat down the BOO! trail for your favorite treats! Tickets are $6 per person, children under 2 get in for free. Parking is $5.

-A brand new event happening this year is the Cherokee Caverns first annual Trick or Treating in the Cave. This cavern will have face painting, hot dog vendors, and of course, candy! The path through the cave will be well lit and will be stroller and wheelchair accessible. Trick or Treating in the Cave will be open October 19th & 20th from 5:30pm-8:30pm and October 26th thru the 31st from 5:30pm-8:30pm.
-Get out to the Market Square Farmers Market before it closes for the season! The Market Square Farmers’ Market is an open-air farmers’ market located on Market Square in the heart of downtown Knoxville. Everything at the MSFM is grown or made by the vendor in the East Tennessee region. You can visit the Market Square Farmers’ Market every Wednesday from 11a.m. to 2p.m. and Saturday from 9a.m. to 2p.m., May through November on historic Market Square. Free parking is available in the Market Square, Locust St. and State St. Garages, and at meters, on Saturdays. Parking is $1 per hour on Wednesdays in all three garages.

Ball Homes Night of Hope

Ball Homes is again looking forward to one of our newer annual traditions, the fourth annual Ball Homes Night of Hope. It takes place Thursday, November 15th at 7pm, at the Lexington Opera House. This year's event, which is a fund-raiser for the Hope Center, features a much-touted speaker with an incredible story to tell: Chef Jeff Henderson.

A well-known executive chef at Caesar's Palace, and at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, he has also hosted the Food Network hit, The Chef Jeff Project. His newest television show, Beat the Chefs, premieres this month. His memoir was a New York Times best-seller and his follow-up book, The Power of Potential, will be released in Spring of 2013.

Jeff Henderson’s background, however, is what makes his story so remarkable. Jeff grew up in a rough inner city L.A. neighborhood. He became a drug dealer and at 24, he was arrested. While in prison, Jeff matured, got an education, and found his life's calling. With persistence, dedication, and a can-do attitude, he rose through the ranks to become the person he is today.

For tickets for this anticipated event, log on to the Hope Center's website at

Cleaning Your Granite Countertops

Granite has become one of the most popular types of countertops in kitchen décor. Granite countertops are gorgeous additions to a home, with each piece like a unique work of art. Because granite is available in so many colors, homeowners have many options to choose from. Granite is also very durable and resists heat. This makes it great for kneading dough, making roll-out cookies, and other tasks that need a cool countertop for best results.

There are many ways to clean granite counter tops and keep them looking shiny and brilliant. Just avoid using cleaners that are too harsh, they can damage the sealant and dull the finish. Here are some simple steps to clean your granite surfaces and restore their shine.

  • Granite is a porous surface. This means that stains can quickly set in and become trapped if not immediately wiped away. Be diligent of splashes and spills to avoid deep stains as these can often be nearly impossible to remove. Avoid letting citrus or alcohol products sit on the granite surface as it can etch and dull it.
  • To keep granite countertops clean, use a microfiber cloth to dust off the surface. Wipe down the granite countertop daily and as needed using water.
  • If you’d like to use more natural cleaning supplies in your kitchen, use a mixture of vinegar and water in a spray bottle for a safer alternative to harsh chemicals. Using common all-purpose cleaner or ammonia can scratch and pit the surface of your countertops.
  • Use coasters under all glasses to prevent stains on your granite surfaces. Keep hot items off of granite; always use a trivet or hot pad for protection.           

Although it may sound like an inconvenience, caring for your granite countertops is quite simple when made part of your regular routine. The better you exercise regular maintenance, the longer your countertops will remain pristine.