Category: Summer

North America Is Home to Many Beautiful Beaches

The warm breezes and crashing surf draw millions of beach-goers to coastal locales each year, making a day at the shore one of the most popular summer pastimes. It’s easy to forget your concerns while basking in the glow of the sun and counting the seagulls coasting over the horizon.

Even though people travel all over the world to dip their toes in the sand of beautiful beaches, many may not have to venture too far from home. Beautiful beaches make up the coastlines throughout North America. Here’s just a few of those awe-inspiring spots and what makes them unique.

• Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina: Visitors to the Outer Banks understand just how magical these barrier islands can be. This beach has the region’s hallmark sandy dunes and frothy surf, and stretches for 72 miles. It’s an ideal spot to get lost while beachcombing or diving through the waves.

• La Jolla Beach, California: Found in northern San Diego, this beach has something for everyone. The waves are great for surfers and the north end of the beach has scenic cliffs. For those who want to enjoy the beach without all the sand, there’s a palm tree-lined promenade.

• Waikiki Beach, Hawaii: No best beaches list would be complete without a mention of one of the most picturesque beach locales in North America: Hawaii. Vacationers flock to this island state for the azure waters and impressive surfing conditions. Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous surf spots in the world. It also provides the full Hawaiian tourist experience. There are endless restaurants, resorts and nightlife along this two-mile strip of sand.

• Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada: The white sands of Wasaga draw scores of visitors every year to create a party atmosphere similar to Florida beaches during college students’ spring break vacations. Cottage rentals are available and there are tourist-friendly shops selling mementos and beachside essentials.

• Main Beach, East Hampton, NY: When it’s time to get away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, A-listers and others flock to the eastern shores of Long Island, namely the Hamptons. With sprawling mansions and picturesque towns, this area is much quieter than Manhattan’s bustling streets. Plus the white sands and delicious foods are powerful draws.

• Clearwater Beach, Florida: The beaches of Florida’s eastern coast certainly are popular, with Jacksonville, Daytona, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami Beach high on visitors’ lists. However, the west side of Florida has its own vibe. Broad, sandy shores on the Gulf Coast, also straddling Tampa Bay, entice families and other vacationers year after year. Take a dolphin-sighting cruise or just enjoy the magnificent sunsets while you’re at Clearwater Beach.

Let’s not forget Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and several others. Vacationers don’t need to fly to the tropics to enjoy beautiful beaches. Many are very close to home.

Gear to Simplify Your Next Beach Trip

Days at the beach are tailor-made for anyone looking for a little rest and relaxation. If there was a recipe for calmness, it would no doubt include the sounds of waves crashing on the shoreline and seagulls flying overhead. Beach days are even more relaxing when beach-goers load up on the right gear. As beach season begins anew, people who can’t wait to dip their toes in the water can load up on these items to make their trips even more relaxing.

Beach wagon: Beach wagons make it easy to transport beach chairs, umbrellas, toys, and other must-have beach items, all in one convenient trip. There are many varieties of beach wagon, and consumers should look for ones with all-terrain wheels that can easily navigate sandy beaches. Load capacity is another factor to consider before buying a beach wagon, as beach-goers will want to make sure their wagons can tote everything they typically take to the beach in a single trip.

Beach coolers: A great beach cooler can make all the difference in regard to refreshment on hot days at the beach. Rolling coolers may or may not be able to take on the sand at the beach, but it doesn’t hurt to look for one with sturdy, all-terrain wheels. But cooling capacity with enough insulation to keep food and beverages cool during a long day at the beach should be shoppers’ biggest priority.

Beach bags: Water-repellent beach bags can protect devices like smartphones, tablets and e-readers from sand and surf. Separate such devices and other electronics, like a portable speaker or radio, in their own bags to reduce the risk of getting sand on them. Store items that will inevitably gather sand, like towels, clothing and beach toys, in their own designated beach bags.

Backpack chairs: Many beach-goers have a favorite beach. If it’s a long walk from the parking lot of your favorite beach to your preferred spot on the sand, bring along a backpack chair for each person in your group. Such chairs can free up space on your beach wagon, and chairs strapped over your shoulders like a backpack won’t be a nuisance to carry, even if it’s a long walk from the car to the sand.

Quick-dry beach towels: Soggy beach towels can take a while to dry, especially as the day wears on and the sun begins to set. Quick-dry beach towels typically employ microfiber technology that allows them to dry more quickly than traditional cotton towels. That saves beach-goers the trouble of lugging around heavy, wet beach towels and also ensures items like beach bags and chairs are dry by the time you go home.

Beach days are the epitome of relaxation, especially when beach-goers stock up on certain essentials designed to make such days more enjoyable.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Fire Pits

Many homeowners relish any opportunity to retreat to their back yards, where they can put up their feet and relax in the great outdoors. That retreat-like escape is made even more relaxing when sitting around a fire pit. Fire pits can be found in millions of suburban backyards across the globe. Fire pits have become so popular that a 2016 survey of landscape architects conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects revealed they were the most sought after outdoor design element. Fire pits remain wildly popular a half decade after that survey. Homeowners who are only now joining the fire pit revolution can keep these dos and don’ts in mind as they plan their summer s’mores sessions.

DO keep the fire pit a safe distance away from the home. Fire pits should be located a safe distance from the home at all times, but especially when they’re in use. Home design experts recommend keeping fire pits a minimum of 10 to 20 feet away from a house or other structure, such as a shed or a detached garage. The further away the fire is from houses and other structures, the less likely those structures are to catch on fire.

DON’T place the fire pit beneath trees or next to shrubs. Though fire pits should be kept safe distances away from a house and other structures, it’s important that they’re not placed beneath trees or next to shrubs. Shrubs and low hanging branches can easily catch embers and be lit ablaze, so make sure fire pits are not placed in locations that increase that risk.

DO clean out seasonal debris. It can be tempting to let seasonal debris resting inside the fire pit burn away during the season’s first s’mores session. But burning debris poses a serious safety risk, as embers can easily be blown out of the fire pit and catch nearby trees or shrubs or even a home on fire. The National Fire Protection Association advises homeowners that embers blowing from a backyard fire pose the same threat to homes as if they are from a wildfire.

DON’T let fire pits burn near flammable materials. Store firewood piles a safe distance away from the fire pit while it’s in operation. It may be convenient to keep firewood right next to the fire pit while the fire is burning, but that increases the risk that embers will land on firewood and start a fire outside of the pit.

DO check the weather report prior to starting the fire. Windy weather increases the risk of embers blowing around and potentially landing on the house, other structures around the property or trees. If the weather report is calling for gusting winds, burn a fire on another night.

DON’T leave a fire pit fire burning. Unattended recreational fires are illegal and incredibly dangerous. Homeowners should never leave fire pit fires burning unattended or allow fires to slowly die out overnight. Always extinguish the fire before going inside and stop adding wood to the fire roughly one hour before you plan to go inside. Water or sand can be poured on ashes to extinguish the fire. Once homeowners are confident a fire has been extinguished, ashes can be spread around to ensure there are no hot spots still burning. If there are, start the extinguishing process over again.

A night around the fire pit is a summertime tradition in many households. Safety must be as much a part of such traditions as s’mores.

How to be Safe in the Sun

A relaxing day outdoors soaking up some of the sun’s rays is how many people prefer to spend their free time when the weather allows. While the very vision of a warm summer afternoon spent outdoors can invoke positive feelings, it’s important that people take protective measures before going outside and continue to do so while they’re out there. According to the American Cancer Society, most skin cancers are the result of exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight. UV rays are a type of radiation that do not have enough energy to penetrate deeply into the body. As a result, they primarily affect the skin. Overexposure to these rays can lead to skin cancer.

Protection from UV Rays

The ACS notes that there are no safe UV rays, so it’s imperative that people take UV protection seriously. The following are some of the many ways to protect yourself while still enjoying sunny days outdoors.

• Go out at the right times of day. The ACS notes that UV rays are at their strongest in the middle of the day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so staying inside during these hours can protect your skin. This is especially important in the spring and summer, as the ACS says UV rays are stronger during these seasons than other times of year.

• Employ the shadow test when going outside. It may not seem especially scientific, but the shadow test is a simple way for anyone to gauge how strong UV rays from the sun are at any given moment. According to the ACS, if your shadow is shorter than you, that means the sun’s rays are at their strongest. This simple test can help people immediately determine how strong the sun’s rays are, compelling them to be extra cautious if necessary.

• Apply sunscreen early and reapply often. The ACS recommends using sunscreens with broad spectrum protection that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, and applying them before leaving the house and reapplying often while outdoors. When choosing a sunscreen, choose one with a minimum sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30. Understanding SPF can help people recognize the importance of reapplication. When an SPF 30 product is applied correctly, a person gets the equivalent of one minute of UVB ray exposure for each 30 minutes he or she spends in the sun. So one hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending two minutes totally unprotected. Reapplying SPF 30 sunscreen often can ensure you are protected at all times.

• Wear a hat. Hats with a brim that is at least two to three inches all around protects vulnerable areas such as the eyes, forehead, nose, ears, and scalp. Choose a hat with a dark, non-reflective underside, as such a hat can lower the amount of UV rays that reach the face from reflective surfaces such as water.

Sun protection is important year-round, and especially so during spring and summer.

Improve Comfort When Dining Outdoors

Warm weather entices people to enjoy long hours outside basking in the sun or relaxing on balmy evenings. Many of the activities people once reserved for indoors when temperatures were chilly, including dining, are moved outside as the weather warms. Even though outdoor dining can be quite enjoyable, certain factors need to be considered to ensure that each experience is as pleasurable as possible. This means focusing on comfort whenever meals are taken out-of-doors.

Address Insects

Insects are equal opportunity invaders. Once they smell sweet or savory food items, they quickly descend for an easy bite. This means extra steps are necessary to dissuade insects from coming by. Invest in citronella candles, which can be placed around the patio to repel flying bugs. Clean up crumbs and spills promptly. Bees and wasps can be lured away with sweet traps placed around the perimeter of the property.

Offer Shade

Too much sun can make outdoor meals less enjoyable. A patio umbrella, pergola or canopy can cut down on glare and make the dining area more comfortable. Check to see that the shade source can be adjusted to guard against the sun as it moves across the sky.

Dress Up Seating

Just because furniture is made for outside doesn’t mean it has to be uncomfortable. Many companies now produce very durable and attractive outdoor furniture. Weather-resistant fabrics mean rain or sunlight will not age items too quickly.

Reusable Place Settings

If you frequently dine outdoors, you may want to dine in style. Instead of disposable paper or plastic place settings, invest in colorful, durable, reusable plastic dishes, glasses and flatware, which will not break if dropped and can hold up to a dishwasher when it is time to clean up.

Create the Right Ambiance

Invest in outdoor lighting, candles and hidden speakers to pipe in music and create ambiance. Install privacy screens and foliage to establish a nice nook for outdoor dining.

Outdoor dining areas can be improved with some easy modifications to existing spaces.

Kid-Friendly Staycation Ideas

Adults may see staycations as great opportunities to catch up on summer reading and finish projects around the house. Children, however, may not always approach time off at home with that same enthusiasm.

Parents confronted with the challenge of keeping kids happy and engaged during staycations can try these kid-friendly ideas to ensure everyone enjoys their time off, even if the bulk of it is spent at home.

• Find a place to swim. Whether it’s a nearby lake or a day at the ocean, a weekday afternoon spent swimming is a great way to remind the family that a staycation is still a vacation. If swimming in a lake or in the ocean is not possible and you don’t have the luxury of a backyard pool, purchase an inflatable pool (or two) that the whole family can enjoy.

• Embrace your inner artists. Parents can visit a local arts and crafts store and spend a day painting or making projects with their children. Choose a theme, like making jewelry or painting a family portrait, and then exchange your masterpieces or create a family art exhibit when the session is over.

• Go fishing. Fishing can be a fun activity for the whole family and a great way to get out of the house without breaking the bank. Create a competition to see who can catch the most and/or the biggest fish. If you catch fish that you’re allowed to take home, involve the whole family in making a delicious fish dinner that night.

Staycations can be fun for the whole family, especially when parents take time to organize a host of kid-friendly activities.

Sunglasses Buyers’ Guide

Blue skies and ample sunshine help makes summer special. Come summer, many people spend more time enjoying recreational pursuits and everything seems a bit more laid back. Even though people may take a more relaxed attitude in summer, the National Eye Institute says people should wear sunglasses that block UV radiation whenever they head outdoors in daylight hours. This is essential for men, women and children. Sunglasses are necessary during the times of day when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, but wearing them anytime the sun is out can protect one’s vision.

Sunglasses present a great defense against UV rays that can cause short- and long-term eye damage, states the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Diseases such as cataracts, cancer and growths on the eye all can result from prolonged exposure to UV rays, which can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. Prolonged exposure to UV rays also may affect retinal cells. When purchasing sunglasses to protect the eyes, consumers should consider these important factors.

• Ultimate protection: The American Optometric Association says that sunglasses should offer 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Some glasses will simply list a numerical indicator. In such instances, sunglasses that offer protection against UV 400, which will encompass the wavelengths for both UVA and UVB rays, are best.

• Buy from a reputable retailer. Not all sunglasses live up to their claims. Sunglasses sold at doctors’ offices, department stores and sunglass speciality shops often meet the standards for protection, advises The Vision Council, a trade organization for the optical industry.

• Choose tint for activity. Tint will not affect UV protection, but it can make certain activities more enjoyable. Darker lenses may help at the beach, where there is more reflective light. Orange or yellow lenses increase contrast while driving or fishing. On cloudy days, amber or rose lenses can help improve contrast. Customers should choose a tint that makes them feel comfortable.

• Polarized lenses help fight glare. Polarized lenses and those with anti-reflective coatings can alleviate glare. Such lenses work by only letting in specific amounts of light at certain angles, which helps to reduce the brightness of that light, says the Discovery Eye Foundation.

• Go big. Bigger frames or wrap-around designs can further block UV light from different angles, particularly the side of the eye. Consumers should consider various factors when shopping for their next pair of sunglasses.

For more eye safety tips for the summer , visit www.aao.org.

5 Delicious Low-Carb Recipes Perfect for a Cookout

Food on the grill, carb-loaded side dishes and high-sugar desserts are at the center of most seasonal cookouts. But this doesn’t mean you need to avoid those countless neighborhood barbecues to ensure you stay on track with your healthy lifestyle.

Courtney McCormick, manager of Clinical Research & Nutrition for South Beach Diet, recommends these five lower-carb recipes that are great to bring along to any cookout.

Shredded Chicken Chili: Just toss some chicken, beans, tomatoes and a combination of chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano in your slow cooker and let that magic machine do all the work. Six hours later, you’ll have perfectly cooked chicken and plenty of flavorful fixings for fewer calories than a chicken prepared in a sugary or cheesy sauce.

Avocado Tuna Sandwiches: Mix lemon juice, avocado, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and add canned tuna fish. Scoop onto a slice of whole grain bread with arugula, sliced cucumbers and red onions and you’ve got yourself a delicious sandwich to eat in place of that hamburger.

Skinny Shrimp Fajitas: You won’t miss the tortilla with this recipe! Combine shrimp, onion, bell pepper, olive oil and dry fajita spices such as chili powder, garlic, onion, cumin and paprika in a large bowl. Pour into a veggie basket or place on skewers and let the grill do the work for you.

Pesto Cilantro Dip: Bake walnuts at 275 degrees until golden brown, then chop cilantro, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor for about 25 seconds. With the machine running, pour olive oil in a steady stream. Add sour cream, lemon juice and salt. Pulse a few times to combine and you’re done! Serve with fresh veggies.

“This recipe is quick and simple,” says McCormick. “It contains minimal ingredients and it is packed with healthy fats. Plus, it keeps five days in the refrigerator and freezes for up to a month.”

South Beach Coleslaw: Coleslaw is a BBQ staple and this recipe for a lighter version of it is easy as 1-2-3! Whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, celery seed and a sugar substitute. Add cabbage and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For more details on these recipes and other great tips and tricks to lose weight and live healthier, visit South Beach Diet’s website The Palm at palm.southbeachdiet.com/cookout-low-carb-recipes.

Remember, cookouts don’t need to wreak havoc on your healthy diet. By making some simple swaps and choosing healthier options, you’ll stay on track while still enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

Favorite Fair Foods

State and county fair season has arrived, and that means there will be rides and games galore. While many people are drawn to fairs by the entertainment, just as many are willing to stand in line for the unique and tasty foods that seem to embody fair and carnival fun. If it can be served on a stick or deep fried, chances are you can find it at a fair. Everything from chocolate-dipped bacon to deep-fried butter may turn up on fair stand menus. The following are some of the more coveted foods revelers can expect to find at their local fairs and carnivals.

Funnel cake: Funnel cake and its close cousin, zeppole, have long been fair favorites. Topped with powdered sugar, funnel cakes can be pulled apart and shared with others.

Corn dogs: Corn dogs are essentially hot dogs on a stick that have been covered in cornmeal and fried. Like funnel cakes, corn dogs have become so synonymous with fairs and carnivals that few people have ever enjoyed them anywhere outside of their local fairgrounds.

French fries: French fries are a favorite at fairs, and carnival-goers can choose from savory shoestrings to hearty steak-cut potato chunks.

Cotton candy: What fair would be complete without a cotton candy vendor? Cotton candy is made by heating up granulated sugar until it is liquified enough to be blown into thin threads. Those threads are collected and wound into a sweet treat that is loved by kids and adults alike.

Pie: Fair-goers are likely to happen upon a pie-eating contest or pie-tasting tent. Many prefer to indulge in a piece of pie while at the fair, preferring such treats to sweeter, heavier desserts.

Corn on the cob: Corn on the cob is proof that carnivals and fairs provide some healthy fare for customers in addition to the many decadent treats on display. Corn on the cob is most popular in corn-producing areas and can be the ideal complement to burgers and other fair foods.

Anything on a stick: Each year fair vendors experiment with culinary oddities that can be served on a stick. One day it may be skewered pork chops and the next a sleeve of cookies. Those who want the full fair experience should consider trying something served on a stick.

Gas vs. Charcoal: Dishing on Popular Grilling Methods

Any time of year has the potential to be grilling season. Grilling is not only a way to prepare meals; for many, it’s also a passion. “Barbecuing is no longer just a pastime, but an integral part of the North American lifestyle,” said Jack Goldman, president and CEO, Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. “We expect consumers’ passion for flavorful food and entertaining their family and friends to continue to increase.”

The HPBA’s 2017 industry survey found that 70 percent of adults in the United States own a grill or smoker. Those numbers are even greater in Canada, where 80 percent of adults have a grill to call their own. Flavor, lifestyle and entertainment are the prime reasons people grill.

When it comes time to replace or upgrade a grill, the age-old question remains: Do I choose a charcoal- or gas-fueled grill? That decision can spark heated debate among grillmasters, but for many it may boil down to a number of factors.

Cost

Charcoal grills tend to be the less expensive than gas grills. The food and beverage trend reporter Chowhound indicates that a low-end grill can be purchased for around $25. However, deluxe charcoal kettles and other charcoal alternatives tend to be considerably more expensive. The most popular gas grills may cost anywhere from $130 to $300. Those who prefer more options and high-end offerings can pay between $800 and $1,500.

High heat searing

When cooking expensive, well-marbled steaks or other dishes that benefit from high-heat searing, charcoal grills seem to outperform gas ones, at least according to the experts behind The Sweethome, a product recommendation site owned by The New York Times Company. That isn’t to say gas counterparts can’t come very close. And deploying a cast-iron pan on top of the grates can help concentrate the heat and allow the meat to cook in its own fat.

Convenience

There is no doubt that gas grills are a marvel in regard to convenience, especially when they are directly tied into a home’s propane or natural gas system. In such instances, one never has to worry about running out of gas. Gas fuel tends to be cheaper than charcoal and easier to clean, and some gas grills come with side burners that enable cooks to prepare side dishes right next to their grilled entrees.

Portability

For those who want to grill at home and on the go, then a charcoal grill is the right investment. A charcoal grill can be brought to a campsite or a park without going to great lengths.

Clean-up

Gas grills generally are easier to clean, and home chefs do not have to wrangle much ash or leftover coals once they’re done cooking.

Charcoal and gas grills each have their merits. It is up to consumers to decide which features reign supreme as they shop for new grills.