Category: Outdoors

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)

Cool Summer Entertaining Tips to Keep Guests Happy

(StatePoint) Hosting friends and family for backyard barbecues, picnics and garden parties during summer carries its own challenges. Here are a few tips guaranteed to keep your guests cool, comfortable and happy when you entertain.

Create Shade

Entertaining outdoors? Remember, not all guests are going to want direct sunlight for too long. Take into consideration the sun’s position in the sky during the hours you will be hosting, ensuring your seating offers guests the option to sit in the shade. Create DIY shades by hanging curtains or fabric around or above your party location.

Protect Guests

Protect your guests from getting bitten and burned in your garden or yard. Be sure the space is clear of standing water in advance of the party. Also, create a small station with bug spray and sunscreen (kids’ varieties, too, if you’re hosting families). Keep it away from the areas where the food and drinks are being served. Consider adding citronella candles or tiki posts as an additional strategy for warding off mosquitoes and other insects.

Be Creative with Cold Drinks

Nothing is more evocative of summer than a cold glass of iced tea. Indeed, Iced Tea Month, celebrated in June, is a great time to create an iced tea bar that includes several varieties to suit your guests’ different tastes. Serve varieties like sweet tea, no calorie tea, tea mixed with lemonade, and peach tea. Label each clearly with small chalk boards or calligraphy name cards. Offer guests ready to drink teas made with high-quality, fresh, natural ingredients, such as Milo’s. They fresh brew all of their teas and do not add any extra “stuff” like colors, acids or preservatives.

A handy trick to keep beverages undiluted and impress your guests as things heat up? Create ice cubes out of Milo’s Tea in advance, then use those to cool down drinks. For recipe ideas, visit drinkmilos.com.

Serve Cool Snacks

You may have the grill going, but you can keep things otherwise cool and light with snacks and sides like crudité, dips, pasta salad, fresh fruit skewers and cold finger foods, like tea sandwiches.

Play Games

Take full advantage of your yard this outdoor entertaining season with a few simple, fun lawn games like cornhole, horseshoes and ladder toss. Want to make things more interesting? Create an elimination bracket and tournament for each game.

From refreshing drinks to fun and games, you can make the most of the summer with a few cool strategies.

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PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Jennifer Hagler

Safety Tips for Grilling Season

People have been cooking meals over open flames since the discovery of fire. Even today, when there are so many ways to cook a meal, many still insist there’s nothing better than the taste of food cooked on the grill.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, which tracks industry trends, points out that one-third of consumers plan to use their grill or smoker more often this year. Even though grilling is widely associated with summer, a growing number of people are embracing year-round grilling. HPBA’s CEO Jack Goldman has said, “Barbecuing is no longer just a pastime, but an integral part of the North American lifestyle.”

Seven in 10 adults in the United States and eight out of 10 in Canada own a grill or smoker. With so many people firing up their grills, it’s important to recognize the importance of grilling safety. Each year an average of 8,900 home fires are caused by grilling, and close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns, advises the National Fire Protection Association. Here’s how to stay safe.

• Only grill outside. Propane and charcoal barbecue grills should only be used outdoors. Grills should be placed well away from the home. Keep grills away from deck railings, eaves, overhangs, and tree branches.

• Keep the grill clean. Thoroughly clean the grill prior to first use, and keep it tidy all year long. Grease or fat buildup can ignite and cause a fire.

• Always attend the grill. Grill distraction-free and keep an eye on the food being cooked. Simply stepping away for a few moments can lead to a fire or accident. • Start fires safely. Charcoal grills and gas grills may be lit using electronic starters that do not require fire. If using starter fluid, only do so on charcoal, and do not add more fluid or other flammable liquids after the fire has ignited.

• Check for gas leaks. Whether the gas grill is hooked up to a propane tank or the natural gas supply of a home, ensure that the hoses or tanks are not leaking. Apply a light soap-and-water solution to hoses to see if they bubble from leaking gas.

• Keep baking soda nearby. Baking soda can control grease fires, but it’s also helpful to have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand on hand for other types of fires.

• Watch children and pets. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from grilling areas.

• Wait for the grill and coals to cool. Practice safety around the grill until all coals are cool and the grill is no longer hot to the touch. Only then should the grill be moved or relocated.

Grilling is a passion that is enjoyed throughout much of the year. Safely cook outdoors by heeding safety guidelines.

Create an Inviting Outdoor Living Environment

Be ready to enjoy the warm days of spring and summer with an “updated” outdoor dining/living/garden area that is welcoming and efficient. Woodcraft has the tools and supplies you will need, along with helpful advice at your local store and free how-to articles on Woodcraft.com.

Projects

Take stock of your outdoor furniture — do you need more? Would colorful new Adirondack chairs, a new picnic table and maybe a garden bench and planters be more inviting? Or perhaps a cleanup and new paint would bring your existing furniture to life for another season? Does your porch/patio/deck area need to be resurfaced or enlarged? Streamline your dining by building mobile carts to transport food for prep and for serving. Add a butcher block top to the food prep cart and storage drawers to both, and improve the efficiency and pleasure of your dining experience. Gardeners may want to build a potting bench and wooden flatbed wagon to haul plants and supplies.

Tools, Supplies and How-Tos

“Make anywhere your workspace with the Kreg Mobile Project Center,” Woodcraft senior product manager Peter Collins said. “It’s a portable workbench, sawhorse, assembly table, and clamping station all in one that provides a versatile work space for DIY, repair, and woodworking projects.” The large 273⁄4″ x 311⁄2″ polypropylene work surface supports a 350-lb. load capacity, and two centers can be connected to double the work area. Collins also suggested adding the new Kreg In-line Bench Clamp and Bench Clamp System for Dog Holes to make almost every clamping task possible. Visit Woodcraft.com to see Building Plans for Outdoor Furniture, as well as Adirondack chair templates.

Woodcraft.com also offers a large number of how-to articles such as “Laid Back in a Classic Adirondack” that shows how to build with Adirondack chair templates, while “WoodSense: Spotlight on Outdoor Projects,” describes woods that work well outdoors. For building projects, the Freeman 11⁄4″ 18-Gauge Brad Nailer is a professional quality, innovative home improvement tool that is great for furniture. Its oil-free operation requires no regular maintenance and eliminates the risk of stains on project surfaces.

If your joinery choice requires screws, the Groz Insta Drive Screwdriver features a patented retractable, rotating bit cartridge that makes it easy to find, store and change driver bits. For hauling lumber or other large items to your project site, use the Xstrap Heavy Duty Ratchet Tie Down to hold up to 1,000 pounds in place on a truck bed. To finish new furniture or recolor existing pieces — and brighten your outdoor landscape — choose one of the 28 premixed General Finishes Milk Paint colors that can be mixed, lightened, glazed, layered, antiqued, or distressed.

Other good choices for outdoor surfaces include General Finishes Outdoor Oil Finish (use over exterior oil stain or exterior clear oil finishes for additional protection) and General Finishes 450 Varnish (minimizes fading, retards mold and fungus growth).

For painting guidance, watch “Hand Applied Milk Paint from General Finishes at Woodcraft” and read “Create a Milk Paint Masterpiece” on Woodcraft.com. HOMERIGHT’s Finish Max HVLP Sprayer will spray most solvent (except lacquer and conversion varnish) or water-based products — latex paint, milk paint, chalk paint, furniture paint, stains, and finishes. It’s easy to set up, use and clean. When painting furniture, consider using the HOMERIGHT Large Spray Shelter. When painting small accessories, opt for the Small Spray Shelter.

For furniture that needs some TLC, read “Restoring Outdoor Projects” on Woodcraft.com to learn how to determine what needs to be deep cleaned, repaired, rebuilt and repainted. Handy helpers for the TLC process include Blue Bear Paint and Urethane Stripper, Krud Kutter No-Rinse Prepaint Cleaner, Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue, SculpWood Putty, and Briwax ChaiRX.

Garden & Game Projects

Turn a unique transplanter, cultivator and weeder with the three-piece WoodRiver Garden Tool Turning Kit constructed of durable, cast aluminum. Turning blanks for the handle, sold separately, may be made from wood, acrylic or another man-made material. Build a wooden croquet set with help from “Picnic Perfect Croquet Set” in Issue 65 of Woodcraft Magazine. Subscribers can download the article free, or the issue can be purchased at Woodcraft.com.

To learn more about these and other products, visit your local Woodcraft store, call (800) 535-4482 or visit www.Woodcraft.com.

Early-Blooming Spring Flowers

The arrival of spring is a welcome occurrence for many people. Budding flowers are among the harbingers of spring. Spring flowers can revitalize winter-weary people just when they need it most — and provide reassurance that brighter, warmer and longer hours of sunlight are just around the corner. Cold-tolerant flowers are hardy enough to start blooming before the last frosts have dissipated. Other flowers will begin to fill in as days warm a little bit more, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Home gardeners looking to warm up their gardens with early blooms can use these flowers in their early-season containers, window boxes and planting beds.

Pansy

Pansies prefer cool weather, which can make them one of the best flowers to plant in early spring and late fall. Pansies come in a variety of colors, so there’s bound to be an offering that will blend with any homeowners’ landscape design.

Creeping phlox

Also known “moss phlox,” creeping phlox is a short ground-cover that is a herbaceous perennial. Phlox produces small, fragrant flowers in dense clusters, which can attract wildlife, such as butterflies, to their mats across the soil surface.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops can peek out even when there is snow still on the ground — sometimes as early as January and February. But their name is actually a reference to their appearance, as snowdrops have three white petals that hang down like drops dripping off the stem.

Violets

These flowers are closely related to pansies and, as a result, prefer cool seasons. Violets are generally slightly smaller than pansy blooms, but they can be just as beautiful. But as with pansies, violets will start to fade when the heat arrives.

Crocus

Crocus plants are relatively small, only reaching three to six inches in height. However, their grass-like leaves are some of the first sprouts that can be seen among bulb and corm plantings. Preferring full to partial sun, these gold, purple, lavender, white, or yellow flowers can be enjoyed during the earliest days of spring.

Daffodil

Daffodil bulbs produce cheerful, yellow flowers in early spring. They’re one of the most recognizable flowers thanks to their familiar shape and fragrant aroma.

Lenten rose

Hellebores, also called the Lenten rose or Christmas rose, can tolerate light frosts. These blooms get their name from the time of year when they bloom, which is typically around the Christian Lenten season. Despite their name, these delicate flowers are not actually related to roses, however.

Early-blooming flowers give winter-weary gardeners hope that spring has arrived.