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How to Host a Memorable Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day is a bittersweet day on the calendar. Memorial Day is a day to pay homage to the brave men and women who lost their lives defending the United States. However, over time, Memorial Day has evolved into the unofficial beginning of summer.

As temperatures start to heat up, so, too, do backyard grills. In fact, grilling is an essential component of a good Memorial Day barbecue. There are many other ways to put your mark on Memorial Day cookouts as well. These ideas can make your event all the more memorable.

Keep it simple

Guests have certain expectations when they arrive at Memorial Day barbecues, and simplicity often tops the list. A simple playlist of recognizable, popular songs playing in the background, classic yard games like corn hole or horseshoes, sack races or water balloon tosses for the kids, and tasty classic fare on the grill, including burgers, hot dogs and chicken drumsticks, is likely all you need to put smiles on the faces of your guests.

Prep the grill and yard in advance

Memorial Day may be the first big event of the season, and chances are that the grill and yard could use some attention. Make sure all the burners are clean and working properly. Clear clutter from the yard and give patio furniture a thorough cleaning. Add outdoor furniture if you need more seating. Have a spare propane tank on hand so you won’t run out of fuel. If you have a pet, be sure that the yard is cleared of waste.

In addition to cleaning the yard, stock up on citronella candles or insect repellents. Bugs may want to join the festivities, too.

Create a red, white and blue burger

No barbecue is complete without delicious burgers cooking over an open flame. Those burgers can give an extra nod to the Stars and Stripes by showcasing the nation’s well-recognized colors. Place your grilled burger patty on your bun of choice. Top it with raw or grilled tomato slices (red), a slather of mayonnaise or a more dressed up aioli (white), and some blue cheese crumbles (blue). Carry the color theme over into a side salad as well, with your favorite greens topped with beets, blueberries and chunks of feta cheese.

Serve buffet style

One of the easiest ways to serve a number of people is to put the food out on long tables so that guests can pick and choose what they want. Place condiments and beverages in a separate area to keep the line flowing.

Separate beverages

Make sure that alcoholic beverages are kept separate from non-alcoholic options so that children do not get into the wrong drinks. Coolers placed on opposite sides of the yard can eliminate confusion.

It doesn’t take much to make Memorial Day barbecues enjoyable. With delicious food and close friends and family in attendance, fun is guaranteed.

Outdoor Improvements That Boost Home Value

Whether home improvement projects are designed to improve the interior or exterior of a house, focusing on renovations that make the most financial sense can benefit homeowners in the long run. The right renovations can be assets if and when homeowners decide to sell their homes.

So how does one get started? First and foremost, speak to a local real estate agent who is knowledgeable about trends in the community. While a swimming pool may be something coveted in one area, it may impede sales in another. It also helps to study generalized trends and data from various home improvement industry analysts to guide upcoming projects.

The following outdoor projects are just a few renovations that tend to add value.

Firepit

A fire pit is a great place to gather most months of the year. Bob Vila and CBS news report that a fire pit realizes a 78 percent return on investment or ROI.

Outdoor kitchen

Many buyers are looking to utilize their yards as an extension of interior living areas. Cooking, dining, and even watching TV outdoors are increasingly popular. Outdoor living areas can be custom designed and built. In addition, prefabricated modular units that require a much smaller commitment of time and money are available.

Patio

Homeowners who do not already have a patio will find that adding one can increase a home’s value. Patios help a home look neat, add useable space, and may help a home to sell quickly. The experts at Space Wise, a division of Extra Space Storage, say that refinishing, repairing, and building a new patio offers strong ROI.

Deck

Decks can be as valuable as patios. A deck is another outdoor space that can be used for entertaining, dining, and more. Remodeling magazine’s 2018 “Cost vs. Value” report indicates that an $11,000 deck can add about $9,000 in resale value to the home, recouping around 82 percent of the project’s costs.

Door update

Improve curb appeal with a new, high-end front door and garage doors. If that’s too expensive, a good cleaning and new coat of paint can make an old door look brand new. These easy fixes can improve a home’s look instantly.

New landscaping

The National Association of Realtors says an outdoor makeover that includes well-thought-out landscaping can net 105 percent ROI. Installing a walkway, adding stone planters, mulching, and planting shrubs are ideas to consider.

Many different outdoor projects can add value to a home.

Summer Fun for Active Seniors

Seniors may have more time for leisure and recreation than working adults, and the summer months provide ample opportunities to get active. After months of chilly temperatures, seniors in various parts of the country may be eager to get outdoors and enjoy some fun in the sun.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults age 65 and older get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. There are plenty of ways for active seniors to meet this exercise goal and have some fun along the way. The following are some good starting points.

Join or start a walking club

Walking is a great way to stay in shape and work the mind as well. View new sights along the way by changing the route each time you go. Walking with friends can pass the time and provide the motivation to keep going.

Catch a sporting event

Attending a sporting event can be an entertaining way to spend several hours, and that includes amateur and recreational sports. Catch a grandchild’s swim meet or a baseball game for an action-packed way to connect with loved ones and get out.

Take a fishing charter

Casting a rod from a dock or pier is perfectly acceptable, but securing a spot on a fishing charter is a great way to spend hours out on the water enjoying the scenery and the sport of fishing. Plus, there’s the added benefit of enjoying the fruits of your labors by cooking the day’s catch for dinner once you arrive home.

Be a tourist

Many cities and towns have their own tourism boards and showcase interesting spots that have historical significance or appeal to other interests. Be a tourist for the day – even in an area with which you are familiar. Hop on a trolley or sightseeing bus to view the town as an outsider.

Spend time swimming

Swimming is a low-impact activity that can work the body in many different ways. Devote time to doing a few laps in the pool. Or make a day of going to a lake or another body of water to wade out and enjoy some strokes in nature. Stick to swimming areas that are monitored by lifeguards for optimal safety.

Tend to a garden

Gardening is a great form of light exercise that can produce rewarding results. If you don’t have a garden or enough space for one at home, many neighborhoods have community gardens in which you can secure a plot.

Visit a fair or farmer’s market

The warm weather months are a peak time for outdoor activities, including various community fairs and farmer’s markets. Chances are you can find a farmer’s market nearby most days of the week, but especially on the weekend. A town market or state fair is a great way to get out and walk, play games of chance or enjoy some live entertainment. Check your community calendar for local events.

Active seniors can embrace long, warm summer days to enjoy plenty of time away from home.

Serve Up Homemade Salsa This Cinco de Mayo

Much like St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by people with no trace of Irish heritage, Cinco de Mayo has become a day of celebration for people who do not trace their ancestry to Mexico. In fact, History.com notes that Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, where the day commemorates a symbolic yet not significantly strategic win by a heavily outnumbered Mexican army over French forces sent by Napoleon III to establish an empire on Mexican land. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to commemorate Mexican culture, including its much-loved cuisine.

Food is front and center at many Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Home cooks hosting friends or those who simply want to enjoy some homemade Mexican fare this Cinco de Mayo can try their hands at this recipe for “Fiery Corn Salsa” from Kelley Cleary Coffeen’s “200 Easy Mexican Recipes” (Robert Rose).

Fiery Corn Salsa

Makes 2 cups

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed

lime juice

2 teaspoons minced fresh

cilantro

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced

11/2 cups corn kernels

2 to 3 jalapeño peppers, seeded

and diced

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine oil, lime juice and cilantro. Add tomatoes, corn and jalapeño to taste. Mix well until corn mixture is well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Tip: In place of the corn kernels, you can used canned corn, drained; frozen corn, thawed; or corn from the cob, cooked on the stove top. For a smoky flavor, use corn grilled on the barbecue grill.

How to Plan a Special Mother’s Day as Pandemic Restrictions Are Lifted

Mother’s Day has felt a little less than normal over the last couple of years. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of many Mother’s Day gatherings in 2020, and while things felt more familiar in 2021, this year may mark the most normal Mother’s Day celebrations since 2019.

Pandemic-related restrictions have now been lifted in many towns and cities. Though it’s best to confirm if any rules and restrictions are still in place before making any plans, individuals who want to make sure Mom has a special day can consider these planning pointers.

Revisit old traditions

There’s many ways to let Mom know she’s special, but after two years of living under the specter of a pandemic, few things might be as meaningful to Mom as a return to pre-pandemic traditions. Book a trip to a destination you’ve visited on Mother’s Day in the past. If possible, visit a locale where Mom spent her first Mother’s Day as a parent, ideally staying in the same hotel or rental home that hosted you back then. If it was once tradition to spend Mother’s Day in a big city, return there and enjoy a day that recalls pre-pandemic life.

Book a special trip

Millions of people canceled or postponed travel plans during the pandemic. Now that many places, including foreign countries, have lifted travel restrictions, families can feel safe taking off for parts unknown. Such a trip can be even more special if it’s a surprise for Mom on Mother’s Day weekend.

Make it a family affair

Even Mother’s Day celebrations in 2021 were likely smaller affairs than some moms might have preferred. If Mom spent some time wishing more family could be around on Mother’s Day over the last two years, make a concerted effort to include as many family members as possible this year. Encourage grown children to travel home for the holiday and invite Mom’s parents and siblings over to celebrate as well.

Get out of the house

A homecooked meal might have warmed Mom’s heart in recent years, but a day out of the house might be especially welcomed this Mother’s Day. Book a reservation at Mom’s favorite local restaurant so no one has any cooking or cleaning to do this year. Just be sure to book a reservation early, as the competition for a table figures to be especially stiff this year.

Start the day off with a spa visit

Moms might have put pampering on hold during the pandemic. Now that public health agencies have given the go-ahead to lift restrictions, a good pampering is undoubtedly in order. A Mother’s Day morning spa trip can start the day off right.

Mother’s Day celebrations in 2022 should feel more normal than they have in years. Families can capitalize on that by planning a day Mom won’t soon forget.

Clever Ways to Find More Time for Reading

The benefits of reading are undeniable. However, in the digital era, many individuals, even those who love to read, are finding it hard to make time to cuddle up with a good book.

Numerous studies have examined the benefits of reading, and one of the most prominent findings is that reading can improve mental cognition. In fact, according to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, reading has the potential to slow the progression of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. Reading also can improve memory, promote stronger analytical thinking skills, improve focus and concentration, and build vocabularies.

Women tend to be well read. Data from Pew Research Center has found women read more than men, with the average woman reading 14 books in a year compared to nine for men. Women hoping to find even more time for reading can try these strategies.

Read what you enjoy

It’s tempting to pick books based on what others are reading or what you believe will make you seem more erudite. Choose subjects that appeal to you rather than ones you think you should read. Books should spark your interest and curiosity, no matter the subject, and you’re more likely to finish a book when you find it engaging.

Join a book club

A book club can open you up to a variety of titles. Book clubs tend to stick to deadlines and schedules, meaning you’ll already be encouraged to read more to meet the minimum requirements of the club. Furthermore, an opportunity to discuss the book with others can motivate you to read the book in a timely fashion.

Change your commute

Letting someone else do the driving frees up commuting time for reading. Even if the bus or train ride is longer than driving to work, it may present an opportunity to relax and turn some pages along the way.

Invest in an e-reader

Some purists feel that reading ink on page is the only way to devour books. While books are portable, e-readers are even more so and you can have an entire library on a single device, enabling you to move between books simultaneously if that’s how you operate. Stowing the e-reader in a purse or work bag enables you to read whenever free time arises, such as in waiting rooms, idling in the school pick-up line or while sitting in the car waiting for a spouse to come out of the grocery store.

Set your own rules

When reading for pleasure, establish your own rules. Don’t hesitate to stop reading a book if you find it’s not as engaging as you’d initially hoped.

Reading promotes brain health and mental well-being. Various strategies can help you find more time to cuddle up with a good book.

The Origins of Easter Sunday

Easter takes place on a different Sunday each year. In western Christianity, Easter follows the Gregorian calendar and is thus considered a “movable feast” that is always celebrated between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Orthodox Christianity adheres to the Julian calendar, so Easter will fall on a Sunday between April 4 and May 8 each year. In 2022, the western Christian Easter celebration occurs on April 17 and the Eastern Orthodox Easter is observed on April 24.

Easter is the most important celebration on the Christian liturgical calendar. While commemorations of Jesus Christ’s resurrection likely occurred earlier, the earliest recorded observance of an Easter celebration was in the second century, according to Britannica.

Initial Easter celebrations weren’t known as “Easter,” which is a word that was borrowed from Pagan spring celebrations of Eostre, the goddess of spring and fertility. It only became associated with Christian usage later on – long after biblical scripture was written. In fact, the word “Easter” only appears in one Bible, the King James Version. But it is likely the word was used as a translation of pascha, or Passover, and not what has come to be known as Christian Easter.

The earliest Easter celebrations were a version of Passover. According to leading sabbath scholar Professor Samuele Bacchiocchi, Christians universally kept Passover on the biblical date of Nisan until 135 A.D. Early commemorations focused on the crucifixion, and the pain and suffering of Jesus. Bacchiocchi says that eventually the resurrection emerged as the dominant reason for the celebration that would be known as Easter, and also as the main message of weekly Christian Sunday masses. By the fourth century, the Easter Vigil and celebration were well-established and a symbol of joyful anticipation of the resurrection.

Easter is now celebrated annually by faithful Christians. While Easter is not mentioned in the Bible, scripture depictions helped shape the holiday that would become an integral component of the Christian faith.

Budget-Friendly Ways to Upgrade a Landscape

An inviting, well-tended landscape can add significant curb appeal to a home. Such a landscape also can serve as a point of pride and welcome homeowners each evening as they arrive home from work.

Landscaping projects run the gamut from simple changes that can be accomplished on a weekend afternoon to more significant and costly undertakings that require the work of a professional. Budget-conscious homeowners may be looking for simpler projects, and the following are some less costly ways to upgrade a landscape.

Add a pop of color with planters. Awe-inspiring colors can make a landscape stand out from surrounding properties. Flowers, bushes and plants may be the first thing homeowners consider when trying to add color to their lawns, but planters can provide a more immediate way to give exterior grounds some color. Bold planters won’t lose their color in a matter of weeks like many flowers do, and homeowners can switch planters so the colors align with the season. For example, some pastel planters can evoke the spirit of spring, while orange planters can be filled with mums to give a landscape an autumnal feel.

Plant perennials around the property. Well-maintained perennials grow back each year, making them ideal for homeowners who don’t have the time or desire to map out new gardening arrangements each spring. Planting perennials also is a great way to add color around the property without breaking the bank.

Upgrade walkways. Though it’s more expensive than adding planters and planting perennials, upgrading old and cracked walkways is a great way to give a property a whole new look. According to the renovation experts at HomeAdvisor, homeowners typically pay between $6 and $12 per square foot for new concrete walkway installation. Homeowners working on a budget can target spots where walkways have already cracked and fix those areas first before continuing the project piecemeal until all the old walkways have been replaced.

Plant to create privacy. Homeowners spent more time at home than ever before during the pandemic, and some might have grown tired of seeing what their neighbors are up to. Fencing might be the first solution homeowners consider when looking to make their landscapes more private. But new fencing installation can be expensive, costing homeowners between $1,667 and $4,075 on average, according to BobVila.com. A more costly and natural solution is to plant trees around the perimeter. Speak with a local landscaping professional, who can survey the property to see which trees might thrive and provide the privacy homeowners want.

Creating an inviting landscape doesn’t have to break the bank. Various small and relatively inexpensive projects can change the look and feel of a home’s exterior.

6 Ways to Better Yourself

Aspiring to continue to learn and grow is one of the keys to a fulfilling life. Sometimes it can be eye-opening to look in the mirror, examine oneself and figure out where there may be room for improvement.

Self-improvement is a noble endeavor, and there’s no limit to what one can achieve. These six strategies can serve as catalysts for change.

1. Make good habits even easier

Individuals can be their own worst enemies, procrastinating in regard to personal goals. Some habits require consistency, and they include exercising, waking up earlier, drinking and eating healthier, and reducing stress. One way to make sure you stick to healthy habits is to prioritize them and make a concerted effort to overcome your uncooperative side. Lay out workout clothes the night before if you want to exercise in the morning. Meal plan on the weekends and create healthy lunches to take to work. Set phone reminders to breathe and meditate several times during the day to calm stress. Eventually these habits will be as easy as brushing your teeth.

2. Read every day

Books have the power to educate, inspire creativity, strengthen cognition, and so much more. Think of reading a book as a daily multivitamin for the brain. Even if you can’t devote hours on end to reading, plan 20-minute sessions each day to tackle some pages.

3. Learn a new skill

One way to grow is to continue to learn new things. Many people like to explore new languages, not just for the potential for travel or employment, but also for personal betterment. Other skills to learn include baking, woodworking, accounting, crocheting, or anything that requires practice to master.

4. Boost positivity

There’s something to be said about maintaining a positive outlook no matter your positivity baseline. Rather than seeing what went wrong in a day, figure out what went right. Memorize positive words and personal reflections to help build stronger neural connections to positive concepts, which may help you become even more positive.

5. Overcome persistent fears

Fears reflect areas where you can grow and often indicate areas that need attention. Pick at least one fear to tackle. If that is public speaking, make a concerted effort to speak in front of a crowd, whether it’s during a work meeting or at a school function.

6. Make your bed each morning

Admiral William H. McRaven said that the first step to changing yourself and potentially the world is to make your bed every morning. You will have accomplished the first task of the day and it can give you a small sense of pride to tackle task after task. All it takes is one step to start a long journey.

Personal growth involves taking inventory and making gradual improvements and alterations in areas that require attention.

Behind the Jokes of April Fools’ Day

Pranks, practical jokes and various goofs abound at the start of April, when celebrants around the world mark April Fools’ Day – a tradition that dates back several centuries.

Even though April Fools’ Day, also known as All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for centuries, no one is completely sure of its exact origins.

According to History.com, many historians speculate that April Fool’s Day traces its origins to the transition from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one in 1582. At this point, the start of the new year had been moved to January 1 from the last week of March. Those who were slow to get the news still celebrated the new year from late March into April and became the object of pranks as a result. One of the more notable pranks included having a paper fish placed on the backs of unsuspecting individuals and being referred to as poisson d’avril (April fish). This symbolized a young, easily fooled, or hooked fish.

During the 1700s, April Fools’ Day spread northward throughout areas of Britain. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event. One feature was sending people on phony errands called “hunting the gowk.” Gowk refers to the cuckoo bird, which often has been used as a symbol for fools. Tallie Day followed, which included pranks like pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on unsuspecting people.

The earliest mass April Fools’ Day hoax on record occurred in 1698, according to Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes.

“People in London were told to go see the annual ceremony of the washing of the lions at the Tower of London,” said Boese. “They showed up at the Tower of London, but there was no annual lion-washing ceremony.”

Mass media later became a prime vehicle for some April tomfoolery. In 1957, the BBC told viewers there was a great spaghetti crop in Switzerland that year due to the disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, and people of Britain, who were largely unfamiliar with spaghetti at the time, believed it. Faux advertisements, broadcasts and interviews eventually crop up as well. National Public Radio did a piece on how Richard Nixon was going to run for president in the 1992 race and used the voice of a man who sounded like Nixon. People were outraged, and thousands believed it.

Many companies have gotten in on the foolishness in recent years. The popular dating app Tinder once announced they put an end to men lying about their height on the app with a “height verification feature.” And Lego purportedly introduced a “Find My Brick” app to make building more efficient. Even National Geographic got in on the fun when, in 2016, the media company announced via Twitter that it would no longer be publishing photos of naked animals, stating “the media group will no longer degrade animals by showing photos of them without clothes.” Those who clicked through were greeted with “April Fools” and photos of adorably dressed puppies and kittens.

April Fools’ Day is an opportunity to have some lighthearted fun, even if that fun comes at the expense of others.