Tag: family

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

Making the Most of Family Vacations

Family vacations can seem like daunting endeavors to organize, as planners must cater to each member of the family and their individual needs. Family vacations can cost several thousand dollars, which only adds to the pressure planners may be under. But careful planning makes it possible to simplify the process so more time can be spent resting, relaxing and having fun.

Child-friendly hotel

One of the “musts” when booking a family vacation is finding the right accommodations. This often means booking rooms at family-friendly hotels. Things to look for when seeking hotels include amenities like swimming pools and recreation areas, nearby parks and other attractions that kids can enjoy, and easy access to stores that sell necessities. When booking a room, request one that is close to the elevator or the breakfast buffet. If you have youngsters who nap or go to bed early, try to book adjoining rooms or one-bedroom suites. This way the kids are tucked in but accessible, allowing adults to enjoy their downtime.

Plan the trip together

Get the entire family involved when planning a vacation and let children who are old enough to have a say in some of the travel plans. Let kids choose some activities, pick some restaurants or even select which seats to sit in on the airplane.

Pack as lightly as possible

Pack light and, if possible, buy some necessities when you arrive. Few things can be as headache-inducing as dragging along extra luggage with kids in tow. Choosing a hotel or resort with laundry facilities can be advantageous to active families who may get messy along the way.

Allow for downtime

While it’s beneficial to have an itinerary, leave some moments for spontaneity and rest. You don’t want to return home so tired from the trip that you need another break. Use downtime as opportunities for kids to lead the way.

Travel off the beaten path

Mature children may like sights and sounds that aren’t necessarily designed for kids. So while it may be tempting to stick to big-name resorts that cater to families, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had exploring lesser-known islands or villages. And while you’re at it, introduce children to native cuisines so they can broaden their culinary palates.

Relive the memories

Make lasting vacation memories more by putting together a photo album or scrapbook.

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.

Heart-Healthy Lifestyles Begin in the Kitchen

Weight-loss initiatives and dieting often go hand-in-hand, but healthy diets can do more than help women shed pounds. Heart disease is the primary killer of females, but embracing heart-healthy diets can help women reduce their risk of develop cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association reports that heart disease causes one in three female deaths each year in the United States. The AHA also notes that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. Heart valve problems, congestive heart failure, abnormal rhythm of the heart, and plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries can contribute to heart disease.

Fortunately, healthy choices, including the right diet, can help reduce women’s risk for heart disease risk. Here are a few easy ways to modify eating habits to be more heart-healthy.

• Avoid consuming too many calories. The Mayo Clinic says to control portion sizes so that you are not overloading on extra calories. Eat larger portions of nutrient-rich foods and go sparingly on high-calorie, high-sodium and/or refined foods. Being overweight can contribute to heart problems.

• Increase produce consumption. A variety of low-calorie fruits and vegetables can provide ample nutrition and plenty of healthy antioxidants. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get as many vitamins and minerals as possible. Make fruits and vegetables your largest portions when eating.

• Reduce sodium intake. Harvard Health points out that too much sodium consumption can increase blood pressure and cause the body to hold onto fluid. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

• Add more whole grains to your diet. Dietary fiber from whole grains may improve blood cholesterol levels, thereby lowering your risk for heart disease. Dietary fiber also can lower risk of stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

• Choose healthy fats. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, olive oil and flax seed reduce a person’s risk of developing arrhythmia and atherosclerosis. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week as a way to boost omega-3 fatty acid levels.

• Load up on berries. When choosing fruits, go heavy on berries. Health magazine reports that according to a 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, women between the ages of 25 and 42 who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries a week had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack compared with those who ate less. The authors of the study attributed the benefit to compounds known as anthocyanins and flavonoids,which are antioxidants, that may decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels.

• Indulge in smart ways. When eating sweets, choose dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help lower blood pressure and reduce clotting and inflammation. Select varieties that contain at least 60 to 70 percent cocoa.

In addition to a cardiac-friendly diet, women concerned about heart health should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Also, pay attention to food labels to make smarter choices.

Unique Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, and many more remarkable women often work tirelessly and without fanfare to provide for their families. Even though they may deserve to be recognized throughout the year, moms enjoy a special day nestled within the month of May when children, spouses and others celebrate Mother’s Day.

Many people give heartfelt gifts on Mother’s Day to express their love for the mothers in their lives. The perfect gift may focus on Mom’s interests and the things that make her truly happy. With that in mind, the following shopping tips can help anyone find the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

Explore spa packages.

What mother won’t benefit from some rest and relaxation with a little pampering thrown in? Salons and massage therapists typically put together Mother’s Day packages that cater to mothers. Packages may include massages, facials, hair treatments, manicures, and pedicures. Gift-givers can customize the services depending on their budgets.

Dining out can be a treat.

A meal at a favorite restaurant can be a welcome change from kitchen duty. Mother’s Day is a busy day for restaurants, many of which have limited menus to better handle the crowds. As a result, if dining out on Mother’s Day, Mom may not get the full menu she desires. To ensure mothers have full menus at their disposal, gift givers can cook a meal at home on Mother’s Day and then choose another day of the week to enjoy a meal in an upscale restaurant.

 Schedule a paint and sip.

A paint and sip session is a unique gift. A session is typically two hours and includes step-by-step instructions. Patrons are encouraged to bring snacks and their favorite beverages. With the right planning, well-intentioned children can turn the evening into a “ladies night out” and encourage other moms to join in the fun. Or the entire family can paint masterpieces together.

Give tickets to a show or sporting event.

Whether Mom is a sports fan or she prefers the theater or live music, event tickets can make a wonderful gift. Unique gift ideas include tickets to Cirque du Soleil, Shen Yun or a Broadway play.

Give the gift of wine tasting.

Wineries can be found across the country and frequently open their doors to wine tastings and wine pairing events. A Mother’s Day wine tasting can be special for the entire family and support local businesses. Check the vineyard’s rules on guests. Many times those under 21 can attend but will not be permitted to consume wine, though other refreshments may be available.

Mother’s Day offers the perfect opportunity to lavish attention on special women. Gifts that cater to Mom’s interests will make the biggest splash.

The Secrets to Being an Organized Family

Modern families seem to be juggling more than ever before. When time seems to be a luxury, an ability to stay organized can help families manage the hustle and bustle of daily life more effectively. An online survey conducted by an internal research team on behalf of The Huffington Post polled more than 1,000 American adults in 2013, revealing 84 percent of recently stressed Americans say they worry that their home isn’t clean or organized enough.

Within that group, 55 percent cited disorganization at home as a source of recent stress. Disorganization does not occur overnight, and neither will getting re-organized. But with some motivation, all families can become more orderly.

Manage mornings

Families can usually use more help getting out of the house each morning in a timely manner. Each member of the household should have a designated area where they keep the items they will need for the next morning. Backpacks and briefcases should be prepacked, and lunches made the night before. In addition, sort the next day’s clothes before going to bed. Such efforts should make it easier to get out of the house on time each morning.

Sort the entryway

Home entryways are usually hubs of traffic. Such areas are the first and last place family members go when entering or leaving the house. As a result, these areas are in need of some routine organizational attention. Use sorting bins for shoes, hooks for coats, trays for mail or homework, and other sorting equipment to keep things tidy and orderly.

Embrace the purge

Take a hard look at what you use and what you don’t use around the house. Holding on to items you rarely use can contribute to clutter and create a disorganized home. Save only a few sentimental items, donating, recycling or discarding the others. Many organizational experts suggest going through items one by one and asking oneself if this is something that has been used recently. If it’s been collecting dust for a year or more, it can go.

Sensible storage

Analyze what you have and then find sensible storage solutions. Store belongings in the same place each day so items are easy to find when needed. Frequently used items should be easily accessible. Seldom used items, such as holiday decorations, can be stored out of the way.

It takes commitment and time to get organized. However, life tends to move along much more smoothly in organized homes than homes marked by clutter.

Creating Kid Friendly Spaces At Home

Maintaining a home that is welcoming and kid-friendly can be challenging. Kids are full of energy and oftentimes put fun ahead of tidiness. But no matter how energetic their youngsters are, parents can still employ several strategies to ensure their homes are both sophisticated and child-friendly.

Consider an open floor plan.

Rooms that flow into one another make it easier to keep tabs on children. Such rooms also allow residents and guests to mingle in separate rooms but not be too far away from one another.

Choose washable fabrics.

Upholstery will need to stand up to the abuse kids can dish out. Sofas and chairs with slipcovers can be advantageous because many slipcovers can be easily removed and laundered. Patterned fabrics will hide some stains, while treated fabrics may resist liquid spills for easier cleanup.

Create a catch-all spot.

Special bins or other organizational tools in the entryway can help to cull clutter when children come in the house from school or play. Be sure the keep cubbies, containers and coat hooks at a child-friendly height.

Look for high-traffic rugs.

Rugs designed for high-traffic areas will be more forgiving when children march across them several times per day. There are no rules that say you can’t bring an outdoor rug inside, and these rugs tend to be easier to clean. • Ensure there is plenty of seating. Sectionals give children ample room to spread out. And ample seating ensures there is enough room for kids to invite their friends over to hang out.

Think outside pink and blue.

For children’s rooms, make sure they’re colorful, but consider other hues to give the rooms some personality. Focus on a hobby or activity and borrow the color scheme from the accessories used for decorating. • Hang whimsical artwork. Employ framing and lighting to make kids’ artwork look like professional pieces. Routinely change the pictures when a new look is desired.

Designate a place for play.

Devote an entire room or a nook in a house for imaginative play. Store toys here so these items will not create clutter in individual bedrooms. Creating child-friendly spaces while ensuring a home maintains a sophisticated feel is easier than parents might think.

Eco-Friendly Outdoor Activities

Months spent indoors avoiding the harsh weather outside makes winter a difficult season for people who love the great outdoors. While skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports make it possible to get some fresh air even when that air is frigid, many people find it difficult to consistently get outside when temperatures drop.

That difficulty no doubt contributes to the popularity of spring, a season widely seen as a time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Time spent in the great outdoors is often its own reward. But taking measures to be eco-friendly while spending time outside can make such leisure time even more rewarding. People who want to get out and be eco-friendly at the same time can try the following activities.

Cycling

Cycling is a fun activity that’s also great exercise and incredibly eco-friendly. While it’s certainly an enjoyable leisure activity, cycling also can provide a great alternative to more popular modes of transportation like driving. According to Bay Area Bike to Work Day, a movement dedicated to promoting cycling as a means of commuting to and from work, drivers of small vehicles (those that get 35 miles per gallon of gas) who commute 10 miles per day, five days a week can expect to consume 68 gallons of gas in a typical year during their commutes. During those commutes, their vehicles will produce 0.7 tons of CO2. SUV drivers will consume nearly double that amount of fuel while their vehicles produce nearly three times as much CO2 emissions. Cycling to work won’t consume any fuel or produce any emissions, and cyclists won’t be forced to sit idly in rush hour traffic.

Hiking

Hiking is another eco-friendly outdoor activity that can pay dividends for both the planet and the people who call it home. Lawmakers in towns and cities with thriving hiking communities may be encouraged to support legislation that preserves hiking trails and parks and prevent potentially harmful construction from taking place. And individuals can reap a number of benefits from hiking through the great outdoors. A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that outdoor exercise such as hiking can decrease feelings of tension, confusion, anger, and depression. In addition, hiking provides a great full-body workout that might appeal to people who have grown tired of more traditional gym-based fitness regimens.

Fishing

Fishing devotees tend to be wildly devoted to their craft, but one need not be an expert angler to enjoy fishing and help the planet. According to the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, fishing supports wildlife and fisheries management. The DGIF notes that anglers help to set seasons and creel limits, ensuring that wildlife populations remain stable and even flourish. Many anglers also find fishing is a great form of stress relief that provides a peaceful escape from the daily grind.

Running/walking

In lieu of running or walking on a treadmill indoors, men and women can get outside and do their jogging or walking in the great outdoors. While treadmills are not necessarily big energy consumers, running or walking outdoors consumes no energy and provides a great opportunity to spend time outside, especially for professionals who spend most of their days in office buildings.

The great outdoors comes calling for many people when temperatures begin to climb. Answering that call can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your mood.

8 Tips for Maximizing Garage Storage

Most people are pressed for garage space, regardless of the size of their house, from DIYers overwhelmed with tools to moms searching for places to store holiday decorations.

Toter, a leading manufacturer of carts, cans and containers for use in a wide range of home and work waste management and storage solutions, is offering the following tips for making more of precious garage space.

Keep trash in its place.

To keep trash and odors contained, select a mobile trash cart with a tight-fitting lid that’s compatible with your haulers’ pickup requirements and comes with a warranty. Some manufacturers also offer cart and can liners and deodorizers to keep your garage smelling fresh.

Invest in a multi-purpose job box.

Most people tend to have the wrong size toolbox for their needs. Consider the shape, capacity and compartments needed for your tools. Rolling options are great for work done only at home, while a job box may be better for those who do work elsewhere. If portability is important, look at lighter-weight options. New plastic job boxes, such as the Toter HardHead, combine the strength, durability and security of a large metal box with enhanced maneuverability.

Build up, not out.

Ceiling storage racks are an excellent way to use what would otherwise be dead space. Many racks are designed to fit directly above the area where an automatic door goes up and down. Peg boards for tools and stackable totes are also good choices.

Choose multipurpose storage.

Needs can change over time, so invest in storage that can be used for a variety of items in multiple ways. For example, large, durable totes can hold lawn gear, tools or camping equipment.

Think mobility.

Being able to move containers within the garage is important. However, the ability to move them into your vehicle and hit the road quickly also makes life a lot easier.

According to Jeniffer Coates, director of product development and warranty for Toter, “Heavy metal containers are difficult to move, and cheap plastic bins are often too flimsy to stand up to long-term or outdoor use. Consumers will get the most mileage from durable, impact-resistant plastic containers.” These can cost a bit more upfront, but will stand the test of time.

Protect items.

Moisture and pests cause problems in even the cleanest garage. Look for durable storage containers with tight-fitting, critter-resistant lids.

Categorize.

Assign and color-code dedicated areas for each type of item — tools, decorations, lawn equipment, etc. — to avoid the hassle of searching.

Allow room to grow.

While it can be tempting to stuff every square inch, try to leave room for future additions. To ensure everything deserves the space it’s occupying, do a yearly purge of unneeded or unused items.

For more information on finding the right storage solutions for your needs, visit toter.com/storage-solutions.

Keeping the garage in order is a necessary evil, but with a solid game plan and the right equipment, it’s easier than you think. (StatePoint)

Flu-Fighting Tips to Keep You Healthy

Sniffles, sore throat, fever, and aches and pains may accompany a number of illnesses, but during the wintertime such symptoms are typically indicative of influenza. Throughout much of North America, flu season peaks between December and February. But flu season can occur anywhere from October to March, advises the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu is contagious and can sideline people for extended periods of time. The CDC says that each year one in five Americans gets the flu. Taking steps to fend off the flu can help men and women and the people they routinely come in contact with.

Foods

Food can be used to fend of the flu. Common foods that many people already have in their pantries can be powerful flu-fighters. Garlic, for example, contains compounds that have direct antiviral effects and may help destroy the flu before it affects the body. Raw garlic is best. In addition to garlic, citrus fruits, ginger, yogurt, and dark leafy greens can boost immunity and fight the flu, according to Mother Nature’s Network. The British Journal of Nutrition notes that dark chocolate supports T-helper cells, which increase the immune system’s ability to defend against infection. A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics showed that carnosine, a compound found in chicken soup, can help strengthen the body’s immune system and help fight off the flu in its early stages.

Flu shot and medications

Annual flu shots administered in advance of flu season can help protect people and their families from getting the flu. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that, in select situations, antiviral medications — which are usually prescribed to treat the flu and lessen symptoms — can reduce the chance of illness in people exposed to influenza. Many over-the-counter medicines can alleviate symptoms of the flu, but cannot fend it off.

Stop germ proliferation

Germs can be spread easily between persons through direct contact and indirect contact with surfaces sick individuals have touched. Doctors recommend staying home for at least 24 hours after a flu-induced fever has dissipated. Well individuals should avoid contact with sick people. Frequent hand-washing with soap and water can stop germs from spreading. When soap and water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help. People also should avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths after being in public places or around someone who is ill.

Rest and restore

Those who feel symptoms coming on should begin drinking more liquids to keep the respiratory system hydrated and make mucus less viscous. Remember to get adequate sleep, as a tired body cannot effectively fight the flu virus.

People of all ages should take steps to protect themselves from the flu.
 
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