Memorial Day Party Ideas

Memorial Day is the annual summer kick-off. We open our pools, fire up our grills and have great fun at our BBQs. It’s also important to keep in mind that this holiday is a day to remember all those that have served our country. Here are some party ideas to honor our armed forces, display your American pride and ensure that you host the best BBQ around!

For starters, raise your flag! Are there more beautiful colors than red, white & blue? There aren’t on Memorial Day (or 4th of July, so keep these in mind for later in the summer, too.) Let’s start with some easy decorations.

1. A Welcome Sign to remind guests why they’re there.


Going crazy with decorations can add up but you don’t need it to. When in doubt, as far as decorating, go with mason jars. They’re cheap and can be used for so many things.

2. Mason Jar Luminaries


This can be a great craft project for kids & the only other supplies you need for it are: red, white & blue tissue paper, a paint brush, glue (Elmer’s is fine), scissors & a candle. Make sure that the jars are clean & dry first. Next, cut up the tissue paper however you choose. Mix together a solution of 1 part glue to 1 part water. Paint the inside of your mason jars with the solution and stick on your tissue paper! It’s that easy & they look great!

3. Place Settings in a Jar


These not only serve a purpose but also look super cute on your table. Give each guest one of these place settings & they’ll have their utensils, napkin & glass all in one!

4. Red, White & Blue Carnations


This one needs to be started a couple of days ahead of time but is always a crowd pleaser. Start with white carnations. Next, get 2 glasses of water. Put a few drops of red food coloring into one of them and a few drops of blue into the other. Finally, put a third of your flowers into the red, a third into the blue & keep a third in clear water. Let them sit for a couple of days and voila! Red, white & blue carnations to decorate your tables!

5. Pool Noodle Decorations


You may remember these from this post, but when you use red, white & blue noodles, you’ve got a whole new set of patriotic decorations!

6. Hot Dog Bar


What’s a BBQ without hot dogs? You can go as crazy as you want with all the fix-ins that go along with hot dogs (and hamburgers for that matter.)

7. Patriotic Parfaits

Strawberry and Blueberry Cheesecake Parfaits 05

Have you ever met a person that you say hey, let’s go get some parfaits & they say oh hell no, I don’t like no parfaits? Parfaits are delicious. Red, white & blue ones are even better (maybe in those extra mason jars.)

8. National Moment of Remembrance


At 3 pm on Memorial Day, every American is asked to pause for just one minute to honor the fallen. It’s the least that we can do.

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Earth Day: All-Natural Swimming Pools

In honor of Earth Day, I wanted to write a post about all-natural swimming pools. They’re a fairly new concept, developed in Austria and Germany in the 1980s. I have mixed thoughts on them. When I first heard about all-natural swimming pools, I thought the idea sounded kind of disgusting. How can you have a swimming pool with no chemicals? On the other hand, they are stunning. Talk about a conversation piece!

25Waterworld_Piscine-naturelleI was recently watching the show “The Pool Master” on Animal Planet. All of the pools that he builds are natural swimming pools. If you’ve ever watched the show, you have seen the beautiful work that he does. The pools really do look like something you would find in nature. I wanted to look further into the idea of this type of pool, though, because you always want to make sure the water is safe and clean before you swim.

How All-Natural Swimming Pools Work


To start with, there are several zones that are used in natural swimming pools. The Regeneration or Filter Zone is filled with aquatic plants and haydite, a type of rock to which bacteria attaches. Depending on the climate that you live in, plants such as water lilies, lotuses, grasses or any species that thrives in moist wetlands will work. This zone acts as an ecosystem that cleans the pool water. Clean water then flows from there into the Swimming Zone, which I think is pretty self-explanatory. A skimmer removes large debris and leaves from the water’s surface. Sand filters are also generally used with natural pools. The best way to circulate and oxygenate the water though, is with waterfalls. bionovaIf you’re concerned with mosquitoes, it’s not an issue.  Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water whether it’s chlorinated or not.  Since the water in a natural pool is never stagnant, they don’t find it an attractive place to breed.


  • naturalpoolwoodhouseNatural swimming pools are completely chemical free, so they are excellent for the environment.
  • Natural pools are very adaptable and can look amazing, as if they’re something you’d find in the woods, complete with rocks, plants, boulders and waterfalls.
  • You don’t need to cover a natural swimming pool in the winter, instead you can ice skate on it when it freezes!
  • Natural pools require much less maintenance than traditional pools.  You also save money by not having to buy pool chemicals.


  • The cost of putting in a natural swimming pool is much higher than a traditional one because they require more effort to build.  They’re also much less common than traditional pools, so finding the right contractor could be tough.
  • Natural pools require a lot more space than a traditional pool because of the regeneration zone.
  • Swimmers might also be turned off by the aesthetics of a natural pool because it will have a different look than your traditional sparkling, blue water.

Whether you opt for a natural or traditional swimming pool, the result is ultimately the same: summer fun for all!

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Pool Safety Tips

Good news! Summer is coming (but so is winter, apparently!)  With all of the wonderful things that summer brings, there are also some very important tips to remember in order to ensure a safe and fun swimming pool experience for you and your loved ones.


The Scary Facts

  • From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings each year in the United States — about ten deaths per day.
  • About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.  For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Factors & Fixes

  • Lack of Swimming Ability: Many adults and children report that they can’t swim.  By taking formal swimming lessons, you can greatly reduce the risk of drowning among children ages 1 to 4 years old.  Adults should also learn CPR so they are able to help out in an emergency.
  • Lack of Barriers or Close Supervision: Sometimes on those scorching hot days, it’s hard to keep people out of the pool.  If you’re not able to keep a close eye on those swimmers, you need to prevent access to the pool area.  Installing a gate or security cover will help patrol the area when you’re not around to do so yourself.  By having a fence that surrounds your entire pool, you can reduce a child’s risk of drowning by up to 83%.

LOOP-LOC offers a variety of high-quality products that can help make your backyard and home safer for kids and pets.elephant Only LOOP-LOC comes with the patented SAFEDGE® and GAPGUARD® Child Safety Intrusion Barrier.  It closes any dangerous gaps around the cover’s edge, so there’s no way any kids or pets could slip through. They’re also unbelievably strong!  I mean, hello!  An elephant can walk on the cover!

A pool alarm is also not a bad idea to install, just to be on the safe side.  It will let you know if somehow, someway, somebody got passed your barrier.  There are also pool alarms that go inside the pool that will alert you if the surface of the water moves.  You can never be too careful when it comes to your pool safety.sleek-sign-reads-pool-rules-yw1dv

  • Establish Pool Rules: An important thing to remember is this is your pool, so you have to be in charge.  You are the lifeguard and the sheriff.  Everyone using the pool needs to know and respect your rules for everyone’s safety. Don’t allow running around the pool, which can easily cause slips to occur.  Nobody swims alone or without a lifeguard…ever.  Prohibit horseplay, especially throwing or pushing people into the pool.  Safe behaviors, such as “no diving” and “swim with a buddy” are also good practices to enforce around your pool.
  • Alcohol Use: Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of drowning deaths.  The effects of alcohol are heightened by sun exposure and heat, so for everyone’s well-being…please don’t drink and dive.

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Oodles of Noodles! 10 Ways to Have Even More Fun with Pool Noodles

Holly Hill sells fun.  As a matter of fact, we guarantee it!  We also sell pool noodles.  Now I’m sure you’ve been having fun with pool noodles for years but I bet you never knew just how much fun they could be…especially when you add in a little craftiness, am I right?  We’ve all used them as water guns, swords and floatation devices, but here are some different ways of using them that maybe you never thought of before.

1. Pool Noodle Luminaries

Pool Noodle Luminaries

These are so easy to make and look so adorable floating around in the pool!  All you need is a noodle (obviously), LED tea lights, plastic wrap, a rubber band and scissors.  For a full tutorial, click here.

2. Floating Tabletop

Floating Pool Table

Another very easy, yet totally useful item to have in your pool is a floating tabletop.  Pick up a cutting board (or any other kind of thin, flat surface that’s waterproof) & guess what else?  Surprise…a noodle!  Cut the noodle so it matches the sides of your cutting board.  Next make slits down the noodle and insert the cutting board.  That’s it!  Now, go find a waterproof deck of cards and you’ve got yourself a party.

3. Beverage boat

Beverage Boat

I spoke too soon about the party.  Make your very own beverage boat, and NOW let the real party begin!  Here is a link for the full tutorial.

4. Party Curtains


Speaking of party…did somebody say noodle decorations??  I think so!  Cut your noodles into 1-2 inch sections and string them up using some fishing line.  Voila!  Pool party decor!

5. Party Straws


While you’re cutting your noodles into little pieces for decorations, why not use some of them to make some party straws?!  Use the same 1-2 inch sections and poke a hole through them for a straw.  Fun!

6. Stamps


Wondering what to do with your cut-up noodles after the party is over?  Well, wonder no more!  Grab some paper and paint and use the noodles as stamps!

7. Sprinkler


Here’s a little twist on your boring, old sprinkler!  Grab a screwdriver and a hose and something to plug up 1 end of your noodle (a rag works.)  Poke holes all throughout your noodle, plug up 1 end and stick the hose in the other.  Turn on the hose and the fun!

8. Obstacle Course


You can really get creative with this one.  More noodles = more obstacles = more fun!

9. Race Track


Maybe your party got rained out but you still need to keep the kids busy indoors.  Once again, noodles to the rescue!  This one works as both an indoor and an outdoor activity and all you need to do is cut the noodle in half and boom!  Instant racetrack!

10.  Workout


Just because the party is over does not mean you should give up on your noodles.  They are a great addition to your pool workout!  For step-by-step instructions on all of SELF magazine’s ultimate noodle workouts, click here.

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Check Out Our Staten Islander of the Week!

Linda Aubrey does great work as co-president of the Staten Island Chapter of the JDRF.  NY1 covered their most recent successful event: Mardi Gras!  Check it out!  Our Staten Islander of the Week

For more information on how you can contribute to the JDRF, visit here.

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Insane Pools: Off the Deep End


There’s a new show on Animal Planet called Insane Pools: Off the Deep End.  I think it’s pretty clear as to why they added that last part…because they are nuts (and I mean that in a good way!)  That being said, that’s what makes the show better for me.  Obviously, as the owners of a pool store we had to check it out and yes, the pools that they build on it are absolutely incredible but the family dynamic is my favorite part.  It actually reminds me a bit of our very own Aubrey’s at Holly Hill.

As a family owned and operated business for more than 50 years, we at Holly Hill can relate to working with your crazy family.  Lucas Lagoons (the company behind Insane Pools) started out as a landscaping business, which is coincidentally also how Holly Hill began.  Al Aubrey started our business back in 1954 as a nursery and recreation center.  Fun fact of the day: that’s actually how the name Holly Hill came about…we sold holly trees up on a hill!

Enough about us though, back to the show.  Lucas Congdon is the owner of Lucas Lagoons and his mother, Jane Werley AKA “Woman” is the lead stone mason.  She is my favorite part of the show…Lucas, not so much.  In my opinion, I don’t find him to be a very good host for a TV show because he seriously lacks that likability factor and his voice is incredibly monotone.  Woman & the rest of the team, however, are quirky and fun.  Everyone has a nickname: Matt “Sunshine” Schuler (native Staten Islander!), John “Old Man” Messner and Chris “Crash” Warren.

In this last week’s episode “In Hot Water”, Woman and Sunshine find a snake among the stones they were putting on the grotto/waterfall.  This is where she won me over because she barely flinched when she saw it.  I guess once you’ve done landscaping for a certain number of years, you build up a tolerance for the creepy-crawly.  Lucas and Old Man have apparently not been at it long enough because they ran away like little girls…or more accurately in this case: like little boys.

The finished product from Episode 4: In Hot Water

The finished product from Episode 4: In Hot Water.

On to the piece de resistance: the pools.  Their work really is impressive.  They turn a backyard into your own personal paradise with their various lagoons, waterfalls, grottos, entertainment centers, swim-up bars, lighting fixtures, fire pits, etc.  You name it, they seem to be able to incorporate it into your backyard.  Lucas Lagoons is based out of Florida and although their work can cost a pretty penny, it’s worth it since people can use these pools year-round.  They certainly know their stuff and produce high-quality work.  If you want to check out the show, it’s on Fridays on Animal Planet at 9:00 (and re-runs quite frequently.)  If you want to check out a real-life pool family in person, go to Holly Hill!

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Mineral Springs: A Spa in Your Backyard!

Not only is it easy to maintain a Mineral Springs pool, but the benefits of it are countless.  The definition of the word “spa” actually is a place providing therapeutic mineral springs, so what does that tell you??  With this system, you can have your very own spa in your backyard!

If you have a chlorine generator, the best chemical system for you to use is Mineral Springs from BioGuard.  If you thought the 3-step chemical programs that we already discussed on this blog seem simple, this does one better: only 2 easy steps!  Mineral Springs takes only about 5 minutes per week to maintain and after your initial opening, it’s really more like 1 step.  It doesn’t get any easier than that!

image_ms_beginingsWhen you’re first starting up your pool or just opening for the season, your first step is to add Beginnings.  This special blend of essential elements is needed at start-up and to protect equipment throughout the year.  It is made with the highest quality salt that will keep your pool beautifully clear.  The silky feel of the water won’t irritate your eyes or dry out your skin or hair.  Beginnings also contains stabilizers to prevent the sun from eating up your free chlorine and scale inhibitors to prevent build-up on your equipment.

image_ms_renewalAfter your initial start-up, you can begin using your weekly dose of Renewal.  By adding this regularly to the water, you’re replenishing your mineral levels and keeping your water balanced.  You can even swim just 15 minutes after adding this product.  Renewal also contains BioGuard’s SilkGuard Technology to soften the water and SunShield to protect the chlorine from the sun.  The feel and quality of your water is improved even more by the built-in filter enhancer and water clarifier contained in Renewal.

Chlorine generators occasionally get a bad rep for causing things like pH drift or scale build-up on your equipment.  Mineral Springs is specially formulated to fight off both of these and it works with any type of chlorine generator.  pH drift is really just a fancy way of saying that it causes your pH to go too high.  Renewal off-sets this and works to balance your pH levels.  It also contains scale inhibitors and filter aids, to extend the life of your equipment.

Mineral Springs is great for any size, surface, shape or kind of pool.  Do you travel a lot during the summer and worry about your pool?  You won’t need to anymore.  With Renewal, you can add advanced applications, so you’ll have one less thing on your mind while enjoying your vacation.  And when you get back from vacation?  A nice trip to your backyard spa will be great to ease you back into reality.

Even though the minerals help to maintain a well-balanced pool, it’s always a good idea to have your water double checked every so often by a pool-care professional (like those at Holly Hill!)


To find out even more information on the Mineral Springs program, watch this video.

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Is SoftSwim the Best Chemical Program for you?

Yesterday, we took a look at the weekly 3-step chlorine program from BioGuard, so today we will dive deep into the world of SoftSwim.

SoftSwim is a non-chlorine sanitizing system from BioGuard.  If you have heard of baquacil or biguanide, it’s the same general idea.  It’s great for those people who have an allergy to chlorine or just prefer a non-chlorine system.   All of the same chemicals that you would use to balance pH or alkalinity are compatible with SoftSwim.  It is very important to remember, however, that chlorine and SoftSwim DO NOT MIX.  If you add chlorine to a SoftSwim pool or vice versa, you will find yourself with something that looks more like a swamp in your back yard than a pool.

SoftSwim can be used with any pool surface type in both above-ground and in-ground pools.  It is not recommended for pools larger than 25,000 gallons, though.  SoftSwim does just what the name suggests: it makes the water feel softer for swimming!  It’s amazing how nice your hair and skin feel after swimming in the biguanide pool.  Perhaps the only thing simpler than 1-2-3 is A-B-C…but let me explain.  Let’s go through the steps.

image_softswim_aStep A: Prevent Algae Growth

The first step in keeping your pool crystal clear and algae-free is by using an algaecide.  “A” is great to use every other week to inhibit any algae from growing.  It won’t evaporate due to direct sunlight and it works harder in high temperatures, so don’t worry about cranking up that heater!

Step B: Sanitize to Kill Bacteriaimage_softswim_b

Just as chlorine is your sanitizer in a chlorine pool, “B” is your sanitizer in a non-chlorine pool.  It contains biguanide, which was originally developed as a pre-surgery microbial scrub so you know it’s effective when it comes to killing germs and bacteria.  It is only added as needed but it is one of the most important steps in your A-B-C program (at least it’s in the top 3, anyway.)  It’s powerful, yet gentle on your eyes, skin and hair.

image_softswim_cStep C: Oxidize and Clarify for Sparkling Clear Water

C” is effectively your shock for a SoftSwim pool.  It is a pure form of hydrogen peroxide and generally should be added once a month to maintain your water clarity.  It has a built-in stabilizer so it lasts longer in the water and won’t burn off easily in hot weather.  “C” works great to eliminate body oils, lotions, sweat or any other undesirable contaminants that could dim your sparkle.

As with any other product, there are pros and cons.  It can be a bit more expensive to start up in the beginning of the season than a chlorine pool.  There can be other more stubborn types of algae that affect SoftSwim pools, particularly pink algae.  As with chlorine, the best way to get rid of stubborn algae is shock or in this case, “C“.

Or if you don’t want to read, you can just skip right to the video.

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Is Chlorine the Right Chemical Program for You?

Whether you are a pool pro or just a beginner, knowing all the information about pool chemicals will help you make the right choices when it comes to deciding which chemical program you want to use.  This series will focus on the 4 different programs offered by BioGuard to help you determine which is the best fit for you.  We’re going to start with the most common: chlorine.  I promise you, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

BioGuard tries to make caring for your pool as simple as possible so Step 1 in their 3-step chlorine system is to Sanitize.image_silk_guard

Chlorine is your sanitizer, which is what kills bacteria and controls algae in your pool.  One of the best things about BioGuard chlorine is the SilkGuard Advantage.  It not only sanitizes your water but it also protects your pool equipment, prevents staining and scale buildup, and best of all is that it makes the water feel like silk.  There are several options when it comes to which type of chlorine/sanitizer is best for you.

  • Silk Smart Sticks: If you’re looking for a low-maintenance option, this is for you.  Smart Sticks only dissolve when your pump is running, so in order for these to work properly, you need to run your filter at least 8 hours per day.  (There’s no such thing as over-filtering your pool so this is the minimum recommended amount.)  You just add one stick into the skimmer each week and let them do the rest.
  • Silk Tabs and Silk Sticks: These are also slow-dissolving but will dissolve continuously, whether or not the pump is on.  They also contain SunShield Technology to prevent the sun from burning the chlorine out of the water.
  • Super Soluble: This is a powder form of chlorine that dissolves quickly, leaving no residue in the water.  You would just add a little bit each day, depending on the size of your pool.  This is great for small pools because you can measure out the perfect amount without over-chlorinating your water.

Step 2: Shock.


  • Smart Shock: This is the best maintenance shock to use.  It’s an oxidizer and a clarifier in one.  There’s no need to pre-dissolve it and you can swim just 15 minutes after adding it to the water.  It helps keep the water sparkling and fights off any bacteria or algae.
  • Burn Out: If you’re dealing with a green or cloudy pool, other alternatives are Burn Out 35 or Burn Out 3 for really stubborn chlorine blocks.  These will really get rid of any contaminants in the water.  It’s shocking how well they work!


Step 3 in the Weekly Program: Preventative Algaecide.

  • Back Up: There are many different algaecides on the market but we recommend using Back Up.  It’s a preventative algaecide and is highly effective when it comes to blocking a wide variety of algae growth in pools of all sizes.  It’s non-staining and won’t affect any of your other chemical levels in the water.

If you prefer this explanation in video form…here you go!

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5 Ways to Prevent “Pool Hair”

We’ve all been there: you’ve been swimming in the pool all day and when you get out, your hair is knotted and brittle and it takes forever to get a comb through it.  Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough de-tangler in the world that will fix your problem.  Luckily there are a few tricks that you can try to help you combat these summer woes.

1. Optimizer Plus®

There’s a reason this product from BioGuard® is #1 on the list: it’s the best way to protect your hair.  It was originally used in the Olympic swimming pools for both water softness and clarity.  It works like a conditioner for your hair and skin and will leave both feeling soft after a long day of swimming.  Another great thing about it is that it’s a one-time addition to the water and will last you from year to year.

2. Wet your hair before getting in the pool.  

Think of your hair like a sponge.  There’s only so much water a sponge will hold; same goes for your hair.  If it’s already wet, then it will absorb less of the chlorinated water and save you a bit of a headache later on.  Do NOT shampoo it before diving in though, because that could strip away the natural oils that act as a shield against the chlorinated water.

3. Try a conditioning mask.

This goes along the same lines of wetting your hair but this is a trick used by celebrity hair stylists.  All you need is a large spray bottle and a wire whisk.  Mix 4 tablespoons of your favorite conditioning mask into 4 cups of warm water.  Use the whisk to make sure you break up all the chunks of conditioner.  Pour that mixture into your spray bottle and shake it up some more, for good measure.  Once you arrive at the pool, drench your hair with the spray before jumping into the water.  It’s also a good idea to tie your hair back in a bun or braid to avoid some nasty tangles later on.

4. Opt for All-Natural Remedies

Before going in the pool, you can try treating your hair with natural oils like jojoba or coconut to help seal the hair cuticles and create a barrier from the chlorine.  If you’ve already gone in, try using apple cider vinegar, which acts as a natural clarifier.  Clarifiers help to remove any buildup in your hair like chlorine or dirt.  Just mix one part vinegar to four parts water and pour over your hair after it’s been washed.  Then you’ll want to rinse it out again to avoid your hair smelling like a salad.

5. Rinse & Repeat.

Sounds like an obvious solution but when you get out of the pool, go and rinse off in the shower.  Now is when you should definitely wash your hair (maybe with a clarifying shampoo.)  The quicker you get the chlorine out of your hair, the better.

What are some of your favorite remedies to prevent “pool hair”?

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October 2022
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