Category: Spring

How Families Can Make Staycations More Unique

As a result of the economic downturn that began in 2008, many families found themselves forgoing traditional vacations in favor of “staycations.” In such instances, families spent time away from work and school together but did not travel far, if at all.
While the economy has bounced back since the dawn of the staycation, many families are still choosing to stay at home in an effort to save money. Staycations might not seem as glamorous as traveling abroad or as relaxing as spending a week in an oceanfront resort or condominium, but there are ways for families to make staycations more fun and seem like a true departure from everyday life.

• Experiment with new cuisine.

One of the joys of travel is the opportunity to dine out and experience cuisine native to particular locales. But families don’t need to travel abroad to enjoy this particular benefit of traveling. The internet is home to a wealth of recipes from countries far and wide. Parents and their kids can choose recipes online and prepare meals from a different country each night, or pick a “country or region of the week” and prepare a different dish native to that area each night. This provides a great departure from ordinary family dinners and can make for a fun activity for the whole family.

• Camp out.

Straying from the norm, even when staying at home, can make staycations seem more like a vacation than merely a week away from school or the office. Parents who want to add a dash of adventure to their families’ staycations can set up tents in the backyard and sleep under the stars or seek out local campsites that are free or relatively inexpensive. Tell stories around a backyard firepit when staying at home to provide a more authentic camping experience for everyone.

• Take in local culture.

Rather than spending the week lounging around the house or the backyard pool, families can explore the cultural opportunities in their towns or cities. Busy families tend to take such opportunities for granted when they get caught up in the daily grind, and exploring local history and artistic opportunities in the same way you would when traveling can provide a sense of excitement similar to that experienced during more traditional vacations. Visit a local zoo, take in a performance at a local theater company or take a guided historical tour of an area of your hometown or a nearby city.

• Indulge in an extraordinary activity.

While families typically choose staycations to save money, forgetting the budget to enjoy one extraordinary activity can make a staycation more fun and memorable. Spend one day during the staycation doing something the family would not ordinarily do, be it visiting an all-day amusement park, taking a helicopter tour of a nearby city or going to a ballgame. Such a break from the norm, even if it’s only for a single night, can make staycations feel more like vacations.
Staycations have become an economic necessity for many families, and there are many ways for parents to make such times as enjoyable and unique as more traditional vacations.

  The My Franklin Shopper App is your source for local shopping and the hottest deals in town.

Create a Safe & Enjoyable Backyard Play Area

Homeowners often aspire to have attractive backyards that look like they belong in a magazine. While these can be picturesque and functional for adults, they may not be entirely practical for homeowners who have young children, especially when the majority of the yard is covered with paving stones or concrete.

When young children are part of a household, homeowners may benefit by designing yards that are both functional and fun. Incorporating safe play areas for kids is one way to unlock the potential of both big and small backyards.

As children run off to enjoy a playground, safety is the last thing on their minds. Kids are most interested in scaling ladders to treehouses or coasting down slides. That’s why adults must take it upon themselves to keep injury prevention in mind.

SafestPlayground.com indicates that playground-related injuries routinely result in severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, and dislocations. In the majority of playground injuries to children younger than age 5, the head and face are affected. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 experience more leg and arm injuries than younger kids. The Consumer Product Safety Commission states 70 percent of children’s injuries occur on home playgrounds. More than 28,000 children are injured each year on playgrounds across Canada, according to Parachute, a national injury prevention organization.

When considering playground equipment for the yard, parents need to make safety a priority. The Canada Safety Society advises parents to follow the “5 S’s of Playground Safety”: Surface, structures, site, supervision, and safety.

· Surface: Parents should assume that children will fall. To lessen the blow of falls, choose playground equipment with a perimeter of six feet of a softer surface, such as sand, pea gravel, rubber pieces or wood chips. This material should be between six and 12 inches deep.

· Structure: The structure of the play equipment should be built from sturdy materials. Pressure-treated lumber was once the standard, but it’s not adviseable for kids’ playgrounds, as the chemicals used in the lumber can leach and young children may actually bite or pick at the wood. Use cedar or another wood that resists decay. Once the structure is built, inspect it frequently for damage.

· Site: Look around the landscape for an ideal place to locate the playset. There should be no obstacles that children can hit while sliding or swinging. Avoid overhanging branches and do not place equipment too close to trees or fencing. Try to keep the set out of direct sunlight, which can make components heat up and scald young bodies.

· Supervision: Do not leave children alone while they are playing. Prevent children from using the playset in an incorrect manner.

· Safety: Follow the directions for installation. Make sure all posts are anchored into the ground securely. Railings should be spaced so that children cannot get stuck between them. Check that metal components have not rusted and that there is no additional excessive wear. Be sure that no tools or other dangerous items are left around the yard.

Backyard playgrounds should be built with safety in mind. Learn the rules of play equipment and yard safety.

A Key Component of Spring Check-Up

When warm weather arrives, many people enjoy a collective sigh of relief. Just as people welcome the end of the cold, snow and ice, cars and trucks also can benefit from more moderate temperatures.

Salt, grime and pot holes can take a toll on tires over the course of a typical winter. Drivers will not get far this spring and summer without tires in good repair, which is why tire maintenance should be part of any seasonal repair checklist.

Inflation levels

Now is the time to use a tire pressure gauge to see if tires are at the ideal inflation levels. Many tires indicate the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) on their sidewalls. Cold temperatures may cause tires to deflate a little. Esurance states that winter weather can cause tire pressure reduction at about one PSI for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Driving on improperly inflated tires can be dangerous, potentially affecting handling and braking distances.

Check tires when they are cold for the most accurate reading. Properly inflated tires also will improve fuel economy, so drivers may even save a little money by inflating their tires.

Tire rotation/realignment

Examine the tires for tread wear. Any uneven or abnormal tread wear could indicate that the tires need to be rotated and the wheels realigned at the very least. Take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic to get their opinion on how to remedy the situation. Mechanics may recommend rotating tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, or about every six months for the average driver.

Wheel realignment may be necessary after a season of driving over potholes and other irregularities in the road. Misaligned wheels can cause handling problems, like the car “pulling” to one side.

Tire replacement

Drivers may discover extreme tread wear, bulges or even cracks in the sidewall during a tire inspection. These signs indicate that it’s time to replace the tires. Failing to replace old, worn down tires can increase the risk of automobile accidents.

Thorough cleaning

Once tires are inspected and possibly serviced or replaced, treat the car or truck to a washing and thorough detailing. This will help tires shine and get the vehicle road-ready for spring trips.

A More Eco-Friendly Lawn is Just Steps Away

Maintaining a lush lawn is a healthy and rewarding hobby that affords homeowners to spend some time outdoors in nature. Lawn enthusiasts can make their hobby even healthier by adopting several eco-friendly lawn care strategies that not only make for a healthier lawn, but a healthier planet as well.

Responsible landscaping has grown increasingly popular in recent years, as more and more homeowners are adopting eco-friendly lawn care practices in the same way they have embraced environmentally conscious behaviors in other areas of their lives. The following are a handful of ways lawn care enthusiasts can incorporate eco-friendly practices into their landscaping routines.

Maintain an appropriate grass height

When temperatures start to peak in summer, homeowners may be tempted to cut their grass as close as possible so they can reduce the number of afternoons they spend riding or pushing a mower in the hot sun. But cutting too low makes the grass increasingly susceptible to infestations and disease, and such problems may need to be remedied with potentially harmful pesticides if no other approach proves effective. Even if it means an extra afternoon or two mowing under the hot sun, maintaining an appropriate grass height can lead to a healthier lawn, as longer grass soaks up more sunlight, allowing it to grow a deep root system that will help a lawn survive drought and other potential problems.

Cut back on harmful pesticides

Many homeowners now prefer to avoid pesticides at all costs, but sometimes pesticides are a last resort when lawns are falling victim to harmful insects and organisms. Homeowners who want to embrace more eco-friendly lawn care practices can cut back on their use of pesticides, first trying more environmentally friendly options. For example, biopesticides are made from naturally occurring materials, including animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, biopesticides are often inherently less toxic than more conventional pesticides. In addition, biopesticides typically affect only the pest causing the problem, whereas broad spectrum pesticides may affect surrounding organisms, such as birds and mammals, in addition to the targeted pest. The EPA (www.epa.gov) advises homeowners hoping to use biopesticides first learn about managing pests so they can effectively remedy problems on their properties.

Harvest rainwater

Lawns need water, especially when temperatures rise in the summer. But watering lawns can have an adverse effect on your community’s water supply, draining that supply and hurting the community in the long run. Homeowners who can harvest rainwater can drastically reduce their impact on their community water supply, thereby helping the planet and their community, especially if they reside in locales where water resources are traditionally scarce. When rainwater is harvested, it is collected from downspouts before it washes into nearby sewage systems. Many lawn and garden retailers sell rainwater harvesting systems, which homeowners can install themselves or pay a landscaping professional to install for them.

Lay mulch down around trees, shrubs and flower beds

Trees, shrubs and flower beds need water, especially in the summer when rising temperatures pose a threat to plants. Homeowners can cut back on the water they use to protect those plants by laying organic mulch in the spring. Organic mulch conserves moisture in soil, promoting stronger roots in plants and helping homeowners cut back on the amount of watering they need to maintain a garden that’s both healthy and pleasing to the eye. Organic mulch, which might be made of bark, is also heavy, making it hard for ugly weeds that rob plants of water to thrive.

Natural Ways to Reduce Lyme Disease Risk

The great outdoors can be a wonder to behold. Parks, nature preserves or even some time spent in the backyard can help men, women and children reconnect with nature.

While there is plenty to enjoy about the great outdoors, certain hazards are lurking. Ticks can be both a nuisance and a danger, potentially contributing to illnesses like Lyme disease. Recognizing the dangers of ticks and how to avoid tick bites can help people reduce their risk for contracting Lyme disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that, after hatching from eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive. It can take up to three years for a tick to complete its full life cycle, meaning it needs quite a few hosts to feed on.

Ticks are part of the arachnid family, but unlike spiders, ticks attach to the skin of an animal and suck its blood. Ticks can be found just about anywhere, but they tend to gravitate toward wooded areas or tall grasses, which offer them protection and good vantage points to find an animal host. Dog owners have no doubt encountered ticks in their lifetimes, as ticks are routine problems for dogs that are not properly protected. But ticks also prey on humans.

Ticks are and their bites are relatively painless, which can make it difficult for people to detect when they have been bitten. Many tick bites are harmless and do not require treatment. However, if bitten by a tick that is carrying Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, people may need to take an antibiotic to prevent any lasting health effects. As a result, people should always visit a doctor when bitten by a tick.

Pesticide repellants are some of the more effective and well-known methods to prevent tick bites and subsequent side effects. Many repellants can be used without negative side effects, but those who prefer to go a more natural route can take the following precautionary measures.

· Watch habitats. Steer clear of grassy, wooded and brushy areas. Ticks also prefer humid conditions.

· Stick to trails. Stay on trails when hiking or walking to avoid brushing up against areas where ticks may be hiding out.

· Wear proper clothing. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks that may have made their way onto a person. Tuck pants into socks, as ticks tend to climb onto hosts from the ground up. Bare ankles provide easy access.

· Protect hair and heads. Wear a hat and/or keep long hair contained so that it isn’t an attractive hiding spot for ticks.

· Shower immediately. After coming in from areas known for ticks, shower and launder clothing immediately. While showering, do a spot inspection looking for ticks on your body. Remember to look in hidden areas like under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, on the back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist.

· Clean up the yard. Make your yard less habitable to ticks by mowing the grass regularly and removing leaf litter and trim shrubs. Also, use wood chips or gravel to serve as a barrier between lawns and wooded areas of the property.

· Use natural oils. Ticks may not like the smell of garlic, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, and rosemary, among others. Dotting your body with these infused oils may make you less attractive to ticks.


TF167255

How Families Can Make the Most of Festival Season

Summer is synonymous with many things, including festivals. Music fans love the festival circuit because it gives them a chance to see many of their favorite musicians in a single place while simultaneously enjoying the great outdoors. Foodies enjoy festival season because they have the opportunity to try a variety of new foods in a single day or weekend without having to travel far and wide.

Festival season also tends to be family-friendly, providing families with numerous chances to spend quality time together. Festival season is even more enjoyable when parents take the time to plan their visits so their Saturday or Sunday afternoons at festivals go as smoothly as possible.

· Do your homework. Festivals tend to offer an array of entertainment and cuisine, and that can be a lot to digest all at once. Parents can ensure they get everything they want out of a festival by studying the festival schedule and offerings ahead of time rather than arriving and trying to take in everything at once.

· Bring supplies. Conditions can be unpleasant during summer festival season, when rising temperatures and long lines can try families’ patience. Bring enough sunscreen to ensure no one gets sunburned, and explore the festival guidelines in advance to determine what you can bring onto the festival grounds. If it’s permissable to bring water onto the grounds, bring enough to keep everyone hydrated. In addition, bring hats and sunglasses as well as bug spray to keep potentially pesky insects at bay.

· Explore transportation options. Festivals can attract considerable crowds, and families who want to avoid being stuck in traffic should explore their options with regard to getting to and from the festivals they plan to visit. Use public transportation where available. Public transportation can help families avoid potentially costly parking fees and relieve parents of the stress of navigating traffic jams. If public transportation is not available, look for free or low-cost parking lots in the vicinity of the festival.

· Consider the viability of strollers. Parents who typically transport their tots in strollers may want to reconsider taking strollers to summer festivals. Large crowds can be difficult to negotiate with strollers in tow, and parents may find strollers more frustrating than functional at popular festivals. If you must bring a stroller, leave the large jogging stroller at home in favor of a compact stroller that’s comfortable for kids and easy to push through crowds.

Summer festival season tends to be family-friendly, and parents can take certain steps to ensure the coming festival season is even more enjoyable.


TF167243

Tips for Safe Home Grilling

Millions of grilling enthusiasts take to their backyards each year to cook delicious foods over an open flame. Grilling is embedded in the history of many cultures, and to this day many people feel nothing beats the savory flavor characteristic of grilled meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables.

Although many people safely enjoy outdoor barbecues every day, accidents can happen. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, roughly 6,000 grill fires take place on residential property every year in the United States alone. Many grilling accidents can be prevented with some safety precautions and a little common sense.

When grilling, place the grill in a safe location. Grills should be at least 10 feet away from the house when they are in use. Also, keep the grill away from wooden overhangs or other structures attached to the house, such as garages and porches.

Before using a gas grill, inspect it to make sure there are no gas leaks. Ensure hoses are properly connected and that the grill looks in good repair.

Use propane and charcoal grills outdoors only. Never bring such grills into your house, even if it seems like there is ample ventilation. Potentially fatal carbon monoxide can build up quickly.

Keep children and pets away from the grill area. Grills can be knocked over easily, and kids and pets may burn themselves if they bump into a hot grill.

Clean the grill regularly. Grease and fat buildup forms in the tray below the grill and can be quite flammable. By brushing off the grates after each use and periodically removing food and grease buildup, you can prevent flare-ups that may ignite the grill.

Always tend the grill while cooking. Walking away for even a minute may lead to accidents.

Store unused propane tanks upright at all times to prevent leakage. Keep them outdoors and beyond the reach of children. Never smoke near propane cylinders and never move a lit grill.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy in the event of a flare-up. A hose may not prove effective on a grease fire.

It’s also important to emphasize food safety when grilling. Invest in a food thermometer so you can test the internal temperature of foods and prevent foodborne illnesses.

Grilling is a great and flavorful way to cook. But safety must remain a priority when grilling.


TF167219

Always Practice Summer Sun Safety

When the weather is warm, many people take time to relax at the beach or poolside. While such relaxation can provide a welcome break from busy schedules, it’s important that men, women and children prioritize protecting their skin when spending time in the sun.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, is the most common form of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society notes that each year there are more new cases of skin cancer in the United States than the combined incidences of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Despite that prevalence, many people still engage in risky behaviors in the name of outdoor enjoyment. Being safe in the sun won’t take anything away from enjoyable outdoor activities, but exercising such caution will help summer revelers reduce their risk for skin cancer and other conditions.

· Know the risks of UV exposure. Sunlight is needed to engage vitamin D production in the body, but too much sun exposure can do more harm than good. Ultraviolet, or UV, rays from the sun and other sources, such as tanning beds, are the primary cause of skin cancer. Exposure also can lead to sunburns, premature aging/wrinkling and eye damage.

· Use only broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen. Look for a sunblock product that boasts an SPF of at least 30. The FDA requires any sunscreen with an SPF below 15 to carry a warning that it only protects against sunburn, not skin cancer or skin aging. Find a sunscreen that works against UVA and UVB rays as well. UVA rays are mostly responsible for contributing to skin cancer and premature aging. Reapply frequently, especially when swimming or engaging in activities that cause sweating.

· Know the difference between water-resistant and waterproof sunscreens. Manufacturers are no longer allowed to claim that their sunscreens are waterproof or sweatproof. A sunscreen may be able to repel water for a short time, but it should be reapplied when leaving the water or when spending long stretches in the water.

· Cover up whenever possible. It may seem counterintuitive in hot weather, but covering up can be beneficial to the skin and actually keep a person cooler. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeve tops and light-colored pants. Some materials are made with reflective properties, while others actually boast their own SPF.

Summer fun does not need to be threatened by overexposure to the sun. By exercising caution, everyone can spend quality time in the great outdoors all summer long.


TF166124

How to Spend More Time Outdoors

Getting outside to enjoy the great outdoors can reduce the likelihood that a person will live a sedentary lifestyle that can negatively affect long-term health. But many adults are spending too much time indoors.

In its 2014 OUT is IN national survey, the National Recreation and Park Association found that 28 percent of adults in the United States do not spend time outside daily. The survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of the NPRA, asked 1,005 adults to share their opinions and behaviors regarding outdoor time. While 35 percent of respondents said work was getting in the way of their spending time outdoors, 39 percent said their computers, tablets, smartphones, and televisions were keeping them indoors.

Though it might be difficult to cut back on hours at the office, adults do have the capacity to cut back on their screen time. Using that newfound free time to get outdoors can pay dividends for years to come, as the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability notes that the potential consequences of living a sedentary lifestyle are severe. According to the NCHPAD, one study indicated a 40 percent decrease in cancer mortality among physically active persons compared to those who were inactive. Physical activity also helps to prevent insulin resistance, which is the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes.

While you don’t need to get outdoors to be physically active, men and women who find themselves bored by workouts at the gym or at home may be more likely to embrace physical activity if they can get their exercise outdoors. The following are three great ways to spend more time enjoying all that nature has to offer.

· Take up hiking. While some hiking trails are best left to seasoned hikers, many are built for hikers of all ages and abilities. Men and women who are overweight should not be intimidated by hiking, as even the simplest trails can help them get back on a healthy track. Men and women who incorporate hiking into their regular routines can lower their risk of heart disease and improve their blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The American Hiking Society also notes that research has shown that hiking can positively affect mood by helping to combat the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

· Ride a bike to work. Adults whose homes are in close proximity to their offices may want to try riding a bike to work instead of relying on their cars or mass transportation. Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness and increases muscle strength and flexibility. In addition, the stress-relieving properties of exercise can certainly be ascribed to cycling, which may even help adults prevent stressful episodes by relieving them of the burden of sitting in rush hour traffic.

· Grow your own foods. While the cost of fruits and vegetables may not be busting your monthly budget, growing your own fruits and vegetables is a cost-effective way to find more time for the great outdoors. In addition, a study from researchers in the Netherlands suggested that gardening is better for fighting stress than reading indoors.

Nature awaits, and adults should know that some playtime in the great outdoors is not just for kids.


EL166162

How to Make Spring Projects More Eco-Friendly

The arrival of warmer weather means different things to different people. Some anticipate opportunities for outdoor fun, while others may be considering redecorating or remodeling their homes. For the latter group, home improvement season provides a great opportunity to make homes more eco-friendly.

When planning home improvement projects, it’s best to first choose a project and then look for ways to make the project more environmentally friendly. Such an approach may not only benefit the environment, but it also may benefit homeowners’ bottom lines.

Interior decorating

Longer days and warmer temperatures often translate into wanting to freshen up the interior of a home. Heavy draperies and comforters are put away, and lighter fabrics are taken out of storage. Whenever possible, reuse or repurpose items you already have rather than purchasing new items. Longer drapes can be cut and hemmed to be used as window treatments in other rooms. Making a patchwork blanket out of old T-shirts is a crafty project that makes use of items that would otherwise be destined for landfills.

When laundering linens, skip the energy-using dryer and let items line dry in the sun and fresh air.

If you decide to purchase some new items, look for products made from sustainable or organic fabrics. Hemp and bamboo textiles have grown in popularity. Hemp and bamboo plants grow quickly, and their durability makes these materials smart choices.

When replacing items around the house, donate older items to a charitable organization.

Flowers and plants

Spring and summer call to mind beautiful blooming plants. Relying on native, sustainable plants is practical, environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, sustainable plants are native plants. Native plants sustain local wildlife more effectively than non-native alternatives, so include native plants in your sustainable garden. Native plants also are less reliant on pesticides and herbicides to keep them healthy and viable.

Don’t forget to bring plants indoors as well. Even though you may be opening the windows more, indoor plants can filter and purify indoor air. The NASA Clean Air Study, led in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, found that certain common indoor plants naturally remove toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. Efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.

Proper disposal

Spring cleaning is another tradition for many families come the end of winter and dawn of spring. Many people use spring as a time to go through closets and garages to remove items they no longer use or need. In an effort to clean up fast, some people may dispose of chemical products, paints, treated lumber, and many other items in ways that can be damaging to the environment. Always learn local municipal guidelines for proper disposal of potentially harmful products. Area recycling centers may have drop-off areas for stains and paints, used motor oil and other potentially harmful products.

Before discarding something, see if it can be donated or sold. This will result in fewer items ending up in landfills.

Exercise caution outdoors as well. Runoff from cleaning products used on home siding or driveways can leach into the surrounding soil or find its way into sewage drains that ultimately direct fluids to public waterways. Choose environmentally responsible products whenever possible.

Springtime renovation and cleaning projects provide the perfect opportunity to adopt eco-friendly practices that pay dividends for years to come. TF164031