Category: Outdoors

Necessities for Your Next Road Trip

The travel industry is big business, annually generating hundreds of billions of dollars for businesses that cater to people who love flying the friendly skies and hitting the open road. Though many people might envision vacationers as international jetsetters, the U.S. Travel Association notes that four out of five domestic trips are taken for leisure purposes, proving that people with a love of travel need not book flights to indulge their wanderlust.

The National Travel and Tourism Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce notes that rural sightseeing is the fifth most popular leisure travel activity among domestic travelers in the United States. Travel aficionados who want to experience such sights for themselves should not forget the following necessities before embarking on their next road trip.

• Food: Rural countrysides might be idyllic, but such areas may not provide travelers with any dining options, so be sure to pack meals for everyone in the car if you plan to head far out into the country. Stopping along the way to enjoy a picnic can make the trip more enjoyable. If you plan to visit a less remote rural area with dining options, then some snacks might suffice. Pack non-greasy foods that won’t crumble, like carrots or grapes, so you don’t make a mess in the car.

• Comforts of home: Drivers may not need any comforts of home on road trips, but passengers, especially children, might. Blankets, pillows and toys for the kids can make long drives more comfortable for youngsters, while adult passengers who may want to nap on the way to and from the countryside will no doubt appreciate a pillow to make the car more comfortable.

• Printed directions: Thanks to smartphones and GPS systems, the days of printing directions are largely a thing of the past. But signals from cell towers may not be strong in remote locations, prompting drivers to get lost until they can reestablish a signal. Printed directions to predetermined destinations can help drivers avoid getting lost. Drivers without certain destinations in mind should pack local maps so they can pull over and find out where they are if their cell network connections suddenly disappear.

• First aid kit: A basic first aid kit that includes bandages, antibacterial cream, pain relievers, and medicine that treats motion sickness can help passengers who become ill or hurt themselves while on the trip. Jot down the addresses of hospitals or doctors’ offices near your destination and along your route and place this list inside your first aid kit just in case someone needs medical attention.

• Automotive supplies: Before embarking on a road trip, drivers should always take their vehicles to a mechanic for tuneups. But even vehicles that are tuned up and inspected can break down, so make sure you have road flares, flashlights, fresh batteries, jumper cables, and a spare tire in the trunk just in case your car does break down.

Road trips make for fun excursions, and such trips can stay fun if drivers prepare themselves for any potential obstacles while out on the road.

How to Reduce Risk for Lyme Disease

When the weather warms up and hours of daylight increase, few people can resist the allure of the great outdoors. Nature beckons each spring, and those answering that call must do so safely. Lyme disease is a potential threat for people who live in certain regions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Lyme disease cases have been reported in nearly every state, though residents in certain states are more vulnerable than others. For example, CDC data indicates that incidence rates were highest in several states in New England, including Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, while rates in Oklahoma, Missouri and Wyoming were especially low.

Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected tick. Playing, hiking, camping, or working in wooded or grassy places where instances of Lyme disease are high increases a person’s risk of being bitten. But that doesn’t mean those in areas like New England, the mid-Atlantic or the upper-midwest must avoid such activities. However, they should take steps to prevent tick bites when going out into the great outdoors.

• Recognize where ticks live. The CDC reports that blacklegged ticks cause Lyme disease and that such ticks live in moist and humid environments. In addition, the Lyme Disease Association notes that ticks are most likely to be in certain areas, including woods, areas where woods meet lawns and where lawns meet fields. Ticks also may be living in tall brush/grass, under leaves, under ground cover, near stone walls or wood piles, or in shady areas. Ticks also may be drawn to areas around bird feeders or outdoor areas designated for pets.

• Wear insect repellent. The CDC recommends wearing insect repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Repellents should contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. The EPA even has a tool on its website that can help people choose the right repellent products for them. That tool can be found at https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you. The CDC advises people to treat clothing and gear, including socks and tents, with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin, which can remain protective even after several washings. Pre-treated clothing may be protective even longer.

• Check for ticks every day. Ticks can be found anywhere on the body, and the CDC recommends checking for ticks every day. Pay particular attention to underarms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, the back of the knees, in and around all head and body hair, between the legs, and around the waist.

Ticks pose a threat when spending time in the great outdoors. Various preventive measures can help people reduce their risk for Lyme disease.

5 Reasons Kids Should Play Outside More

Whether it’s dance lessons, computer projects, art class or yoga, kids these days are busy bees. And while such activities are enriching and fun, experts say that many kids aren’t spending enough time doing something much simpler and every bit as important as structured programming: playing outdoors.

“Finding time for the kids to play outside can be such a challenge for parents,” says Keri Wilmot, a pediatric occupational therapist and an expert contributor to TheGeniusofPlay.org. “As a parent I worry about ‘stranger danger’ or whether my kids will be able to navigate social issues on their own. Without spontaneity, playtime has lost some of it’s fun.”

Outdoor play is necessary for healthy child development, according to The Genius of Play. The initiative, whose mission is to raise awareness about the importance of play and help parents make play a critical part of raising their kids, is sharing five benefits of unstructured outdoor playtime:

• Physical Development: Research has shown that physically active kids tend to be leaner and healthier, while an inactive childhood can lead to a sedentary (and likely unhealthy) lifestyle in adulthood. Furthermore, physical play builds gross and fine motor skills necessary for success in school and beyond. Hanging from the monkey bars, for instance, helps kids develop the hand muscles needed to grip a pencil.

• Risk-Taking: Through outdoor play, children are given the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones and try new things. While taking risks won’t always lead to success on the first try, moments like a first bike ride without training wheels, or the first trip down the big slide in the playground, are critical for building the confidence and resilience needed to pursue a future career, start a business, or handle life’s many challenges.

• Social Skills: Childhood games played outdoors can help build social skills and teach kids to follow directions. From games as simple as tag, to those with more complicated rules, like “Kick the Can,” “Capture the Flag,” and sports like soccer and basketball, communication, teamwork and other important social skills are developed during outdoor play.

• Problem Solving: Children’s imaginations are often stimulated by the world around them. Being outside widens their horizons and can encourage kids to tap into their creativity in order to come up with solutions to challenges, such as learning how to build a sandcastle or figuring out how to climb up a jungle gym.

• Reducing Stress: So much outdoor play involves physical activity, thrilling moments and a sense of freedom, all of which can boost endorphins, helping to lower stress levels and reduce anxiety and depression. Interestingly, simply touching dirt when creating mud pies or digging for worms can be beneficial. According to a Bristol University study, certain types of “friendly” bacteria in soil have been found to activate the group of neurons that produce serotonin, which contributes to a feeling of well-being and happiness. So, don’t be afraid to let your kids get a bit dirty out there!

For play ideas, expert advice and other play resources, visit TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

Playtime is essential for children. To promote health, happiness and confidence, be sure some of it is spent outdoors.

Classic Ways to Have Fun and Keep Cool this Summer

Downtime sounds fairly straightforward, right? Unfortunately, busy schedules often prevent many families from spending enough time together simply relaxing and having fun.

With an overwhelming 96 percent of people believing it’s important to have downtime together as a family, according to research from Mintel Trends, you may be looking for some ways to do just that this summer.

Check out these great ideas for the warm weather months ahead:

Picnic Time

Sunny day? A picnic can be extremely easy to prep on a moment’s notice. Pack some blankets on which to spread out, as well as lunch — which can be as simple as sandwiches, fruits, veggie sticks and dips. Bring along lawn games, such as a croquet, badminton or bocce set, or keep things simple with a couple of frisbees or a soccer ball. Then, find a shady spot in a nearby park to enjoy the afternoon. Don’t forget to take along some bags, in case there are no garbage cans around. You’ll want to leave the area as pristine as you found it.

Hit the Pool, Lake or Beach

Nothing says summer fun more than relaxing or splashing around at the pool, lake or beach on a hot day. And this is one activity that doesn’t require a lot of advance planning; just grab some SPF and a few pool floats and you’re ready to go. Easy to pack and inflate, the latest novelty pool floats from Intex are the perfect accessory to look cool while staying cool in the sun. Durable and trendy floats for all ages like the Angel Wings Mat, a Sit N Float lounger, Realistic Sea Turtle Ride On, even a juicy Strawberry Island or Watermelon Island, are available at select online, big box and specialty retailers. Just don’t forget to pack the camera because there will be plenty of picture-perfect selfies for any Instagram post!

Baseball, Up Close

Root, root, root for the home team at a minor league baseball game, where there are no bad seats and fans have more chances to interact with the players, pose with the mascot and even round the bases. A great activity for a weekend or even a family fun night mid-week, minor league baseball games are affordable, fun and local.

When the kids are out of school and the days are long, use all that downtime to your advantage, finding classic ways to unwind, reconnect and have fun.

Enjoy More Time Outdoors (Even When It’s Cold)

The amount of time people spend outdoors has dramatically decreased, as the Environmental Protection Agency now reports the average American spends 87 percent of his or her time in a residence, school building or workplace. Being outside is linked to better moods, more physical activity and less exposure to contaminants (concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher indoors). Also, people who spend time outside may not come into contact with surface germs or develop various illnesses spread as often as those who spend a lot of time indoors. Cold weather can make the desire to be outside less appealing, but it is important for one’s mental and physical well-being to get outside. The following activities might coax people outside for some crisp air.

Create snow critters

Why do snowmen and women get all of the fanfare this time of year? Just about any living or fictional creature can be molded from snow and embellish landscapes. Use food-grade coloring in spray bottles to added even more creative flair to snow designs.

Go on a nature hike

While many plants and animals hibernate in winter, there is still plenty to see. Bring along a sketch book or camera and capture nature in winter. White-washed hills can be beautiful to behold, and many small animals and birds look even more vivid against the white backdrop of snow.

Make an obstacle course

Turn an area of the yard or park into a homemade obstacle course. It’s much more difficult, — and a great workout — to try to jump over snow mounds or run down paths when decked out in warm layers. Engage in lighthearted competitions with friends and family members.

Build a bonfire

Children can set off in different directions to gather up firewood to craft a bonfire with adults in a safe location. S’mores taste equally delicious whether it’s warm or cold outside, and in winter they can be accompanied by toasty mugs of cocoa.

Get sporty

Sledding, skating, snowshoeing, and ice hockey are just a few of the winter sports that can get the heart pumping and muscles working outside. These activities are entertaining and also great exercise.

When venturing outdoors in winter, dress in layers. This way clothing can be put on or taken off to reduce the likelihood of hypothermia.

Tips to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

Studies show that summer brain drain can be a formidable force, setting kids’ progress back over the long break from the classroom. But you can help kids avoid losing their academic mojo. Here’s how.

Take a Hike

Not all learning has to happen indoors or while sitting still. Take a family nature walk and ask kids to pay special attention to the plant and animal species you encounter on your journey, as well as any special rock formations or other geological features you see, taking notes and photographs as you go. Once back home, do some research about the most interesting things that you saw.

Make Music

Music education is important for budding minds, and learning music at home in summer can be easy and affordable. Stock your household with a portable keyboard designed for students in mind. For example, the CT-X700 boasts a high-quality sound system, as well as features that are perfect for student musicians, like a six-track recorder, a library of 100 built-in songs, and the Step-Up Lesson system, which allows students to learn the songs with the display showing proper fingering and notation. Its USB-MIDI port connects to any Mac, PC, Android or iOS device with no drivers or installation needed. The included music rest is designed to support tablets, and the built-in smartphone shelf holds your device as you use the keyboard with favorite music apps.

Read Outdoors

Summer is the perfect opportunity for students to delve deep into what interests them most. Make a day of it. First stop: the library or bookstore, where kids can find reading materials dealing with their favorite topics. Then, pack a picnic lunch and find a shady spot in a local park or your own backyard, to read outdoors. At the end of the day, everyone can discuss what he or she read.

Math Fun

Make math more fun with a free, all-in-one web-based mathematics resource like Classpad.net, that allows users to draw geometry figures freehand and input calculations as they would on real scratch paper. Geared for K-12+ mathematics students, the app is designed to be equally usable by keyboard/mouse and touchscreen-based platforms, so that students can keep up their math skills wherever their summer adventures take them.

Take a Vacation

Going somewhere new and interesting? In advance of your trip, have kids spend some time learning about the history and culture of your destination. If you’re going abroad, they can even learn some basics of a foreign language.

To keep minds active all summer long, be sure to combine learning and fun.

Now Playing: Summer Movie Nights in Your Own Backyard

Looking for a way to get the most out of your summer evenings? Make it a night at the drive-in at home! With the right equipment and planning, you can easily enjoy your favorite movies under the stars, right in your own backyard. Here are a few simple steps for bringing your new favorite tradition to life.

The Setup

Designing your outdoor screening space is a simple process. To begin, determine where your screen should be placed. You will want your screen positioned where there is minimal light once the house lights are off and the sun has set. There should be ample space for guest seating, and room for the projector’s image throw distance. For optimal image quality, your projector should be elevated.

For seating, an assortment of lawn chairs, floor chairs, outdoor ottomans and outdoor rugs will accommodate preferences for guests of all ages.

Since you will be limiting ambient light as much as possible, keeping pathways lit for safety purposes is a sensible exception. Solar LED pathway lights are a tasteful accent that will keep guests safe around tripping hazards.

The Basics

Select the right projector. Since outdoor settings include a number of light sources that are not always within your control, such as street lights and moonlight, choosing a projector with the right lumen level for your space is critical for clear image projection. As a rule, the more ambient light in your backyard, the higher you will want your projector’s lumen level to be.

The second component to consider is sound. No home theater system is complete without quality sound, and your outdoor screening experience is no exception. Your guests will appreciate an audio source with enough output to cut through ambient noise.

For simplicity and convenience, consider an all-in-one outdoor movie theater kit, such as the one offered by Improvements, which is Wi-Fi enabled and features everything your backyard home theater needs, including a 1,200 lumen projector with 800×480 DPI, Bluetooth speaker and a 90-inch screen.

The Extra Details

Since you’ll most likely be waiting for the sun to set before starting the movie, get creative with activities for both kids and adults to pass the time. It’s a smart step to spray the area for bugs before guests arrive, and keep additional pest control solutions on hand.

Hosting an outdoor movie party is a fun opportunity to put a twist on movie theater snacks, especially ideas that can be prepared in advance. However, fresh popcorn is an absolute must.

Creating a drive-in theater in your backyard is easier than you think. With the right equipment, and some planning, the most difficult step will be picking out the movie.

Tips for Hosting a Fun 4th of July Party

The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate in the United States. Much about July makes the fourth day of the month the ideal time to celebrate. School is out, the weather is warm and the generally relaxed attitude of summer has typically set in by the first week of July. People tasked with hosting Fourth of July festivities may not feel the same pressure when hosting such gatherings that they would when hosting more formal affairs. The relaxed nature of summer often pervades Fourth of July festivities, but hosts can still take a crash course in summer hosting to ensure everyone has a good time.

Don’t try to break the mold.

Some hosts may be tempted to think outside the box in regard to the foods and beverages they’ll serve at their Fourth of July parties. While hosts can still experiment and serve new foods and creative cocktails at their parties, many guests will be anticipating some Fourth of July staples, such as grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and cold beer and lemonade. Making sure such foods and beverages are served alongside more experimental fare won’t disappoint traditionalists, and those looking for something beyond the norm won’t be disappointed, either.

Embrace the red, white and blue.

When decorating, opt for red, white and blue decorations. This gives the party a distinctly Fourth of July feel. Red, white and blue napkins and tablecloths are readily available come July, and hosts with a gift for crafts can even create their own decorations to use year after year.

Prepare to entertain.

Unlike holiday season gatherings that typically begin in the evening, Fourth of July parties tend to begin in the afternoon and extend into the night. That means hosts must not just feed their guests, but entertain them as well. Since Fourth of July parties tend to take place outdoors, plan lots of backyard games, such as badminton, bocce, Wiffle ball, horseshoes, and more. Hosts with swimming pools should have pool games readily available as well.

Leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Hosts should not succumb to pressure, real or perceived, to supply fireworks at their Fourth of July parties. Fireworks can lead to injuries and accidents and are best left to the professionals who put on community fireworks shows. Discourage guests from bringing their own fireworks by making it known they will be asked to leave the party if they do.

Arrange transportation home for guests.

To make sure everyone gets home safe and sound, arrange in advance for some guests to serve as designated drivers. Hosts also should abstain from consuming alcohol during the party so they can get people home safe if necessary. Keep a list of local taxi company phone numbers on hand and encourage guests who plan to consume alcohol to use ride-sharing apps to get to and from the party.

Fourth of July festivities typically are less formal than other celebrations, but hosts still must plan their parties to ensure everyone has a fun, safe Independence Day.

Go Green When Spending Time Outdoors This Summer

The great outdoors beckons people year-round. But nature is especially enticing in summer, when warm weather compels people to leave their couches and soak up some sun. Spending time outdoors is rewarding, and it can be even more so when men and women take steps to make their outdoor recreation as eco-friendly as possible. Whether it’s choosing certain activities or taking other measures, there are various ways to go green when spending time outdoors this summer and beyond.

Leave the car at home.

Americans and Canadians consume more gasoline per capita than any people in the world. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the United Nations, Americans consume 4.39 liters of gasoline per capita each day, while Canadians consume 3.62 liters per capita each day. In lieu of driving everywhere this summer, men and women who want to be more mindful of the environment can leave their cars home more frequently. Rather than driving the family to a nearby ice cream stand, walk or bike there instead. Run as many errands on foot or on a bicycle as possible. Walking or cycling is a great way to get some time outdoors on warm summer days, and reducing fuel consumption is an equally great way to help the planet.

Vacation locally.

Another way to help the planet when spending time outdoors this summer is to vacation locally. People who vacation close to home typically do not fly, and that’s a significant benefit to the planet. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that aviation emissions release black carbon, nitrous oxide and sulphur oxide, which contribute to the greenhouse gas effect. And while the EIA notes that automobiles and airplanes produce relatively similar amounts of carbon dioxide per gallon, airplanes burn considerably more fuel than cars, thanks in large part to the considerable amount of fuel planes burn on the runway. By vacationing locally, outdoor enthusiasts can reduce their reliance on airplanes, thereby reducing the effects those airplanes have on the environment.

Embrace eco-friendly activities.

Various activities, from organic gardening to planting trees to beach cleanups, provide a great way to get outdoors and help the planet at the same time. Men and women who grow their own vegetables can take solace knowing that the vegetables they’re eating each night did not require the depletion of any natural resources to go from garden to table. Signing up for beach cleanups can prevent trash, including harmful plastics, from making its way into the world’s oceans, and such cleanups provide a great excuse to go to the beach.

Volunteer with a local park service.

The National Park Service offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to individuals who are enamored with the great outdoors and are interested in protecting their local and national parks. Such opportunities can be explored by visiting www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm. Parks Canada (www.pc.gc.ca) offers similar opportunities to outdoor enthusiasts.

Outdoor enthusiasts can make their summers more rewarding by taking steps to be as eco-friendly as possible when spending time outdoors.

Inspiration and Ideas for Summer Gardening and Home Improvement

With longer days and shorter nights come warm weather opportunities to make home and garden improvements. Become inspired to start working on projects, both indoors and out, with these new seasonal books.

Caring for Cacti

There’s much more to your little green plants than just keeping them alive, according to “Happy Cactus: Cacti, Succulents, and More.” Unearth the secrets of different cacti and succulents with profiles of more than 50 popular varieties — from the cute, flowering pincushion cactus to the wacky prickly pear. Discover what makes your plant unique and find out where to put it, when to water it, what to feed it, what to look out for, and how to encourage its distinctive traits, from flower stalks to fast growth.

Simplify Your Life

Living simply can mean living better, according to “Less: A Visual Guide to Minimalism.” Using, flow charts, icons and other graphics, the book demonstrates how to apply minimalism to your home, wardrobe, decor, cooking, cleaning and finances, to give you more time, space, money, clarity and overall enjoyment of your experiences.

Understanding Tools

Are you a DIYer or aspire to be one? Get a better handle on tools with “The Tool Book: A Tool Lover’s Guide to Over 200 Hand Tools.” This visual guide highlights how to use, understand and properly care for over 200 hand tools, and includes a foreword by Nick Offerman, host of NBC’s “Making It.” Discover why each tool is perfect for the job, through step-by-step illustrations and scientific explanations, and why it deserves a prominent spot in your shed, workshop, studio or makerspace.

Gardening Indoors

Learn where to place houseplants for the best effect in your home and how to properly care for them, with the trusted advice, creative inspiration, strong visual aesthetic and step-by-step detail found in “Practical Houseplant Book.” Two-hundred plant profiles provide information and care instructions for a variety of plants, including ferns, orchids and succulents, while a dozen photographic projects offer ideas for using plants to decorate your home or greenhouse — from eye-catching terrariums to a living succulent wall. With information on plant care, propagation, pests and diseases, pruning, and problem-solving, this is a useful guide for any indoor gardener.

Growing Food

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned grower, “Grow Something Different to Eat: Weird and wonderful heirloom fruits and vegetables for your garden,” can give you confidence to grow, cook and preserve some unusually tasty crops. Learn to grow unique fruits, vegetables and grains, such as orange eggplants, quinoa, chia, and white strawberries. All plants can be started indoors and kept as houseplants, or grown outdoors in the garden.

This summer, discover creative ideas for improving your indoor and outdoor spaces with gardening, DIY projects, and more. (StatePoint)