Tag: summer

Explore These Budget-Friendly Destinations

Many people equate travel with high prices and some overindulgence. After all, for a lot of people, vacations come but once or twice per year. While it’s true the “go big or go home” mantra is never far from the mind while on vacation, ensuring a fun trip does not require emptying one’s wallet. The world has plenty of affordable destinations for those willing to do their research and think outside of the box. Plus, even locales billed as expensive can be made more affordable with some smart travel tips.

North American national parks

National parks across North America are budget-friendly destinations. These parks boast incredibly scenic vistas and plenty of activities for outdoors enthusiasts. Most feature modest entrance fees and affordable adjacent lodging. The trip can be even more frugal by camping on park lands.

Chattanooga, TN

The draw of Nashville may be strong, but nearby Chattanooga also can be an entertaining place to enjoy some southern hospitality. Chattanooga is centrally located to many areas in the United States. Chattanooga hosts the Tennessee Aquarium, which has a large freshwater aquarium and an opportunity to touch sturgeon, which is an ancient fish species.

South America

When seeking warmer climates and sandy beaches, many travelers immediately think of the Caribbean islands. But for the budget-conscious, countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica may be more affordable. These countries are home to rich jungles and ancient ruins as well.

St. Augustine, Florida

Theme parks may be a big part of Florida’s tourist draw, but such parks can be expensive for families. Looking elsewhere in Florida for dream destinations that are easier on the pocketbook doesn’t take a lot of work. St. Augustine in Northern Florida is America’s oldest city and is packed with historical monuments, quaint shops and great dining. The city also sits a mere five miles northwest of St. Augustine Beach, which offers miles of shoreline to explore.

Portugal

Plenty of people flock to the relaxing shores of Spain or enjoy the culture and nightlife of France. Nestled nearby, Portugal has its own beautiful beaches, delicious food, historic cities, and locally produced wines without the inflated prices of nearby countries.

Quebec City

Quebec City’s rich history makes it a must-see Canadian destination. It is particularly vibrant in winter when the snowy landscape creates picture-perfect memories. Accommodations also are very affordable.

Traveling doesn’t have to cost much when budget-friendly destinations are on the map.

How To Make Grilling Healthier

Summer is synonymous with many things, including family vacations and relaxing days at the beach. For foodies, perhaps nothing evokes the spirit of summer more effectively than grilled foods.

Grilling is a beloved tradition, but it’s not necessarily the healthiest way to eat. Traditional backyard barbecue fare like hot dogs and hamburgers likely won’t make physicians’ hearts flutter, but there are ways to enjoy the flavor of grilling without compromising a nutritious diet.

Replace burgers and hot dogs with healthy proteins

The occasional hamburger or hot dog won’t do much damage, but people who regularly grill should skip these summertime staples and replace them with healthy proteins. The American Heart Association reports that fish and skinless chicken breasts are healthy alternatives to hamburgers and hot dogs. Burger devotees can still enjoy their go-to grilled food, but replace ground beef with lean ground poultry, which contains less saturated fat than red meat.

Avoid overdoing it

Most people have overindulged at a backyard barbecue at one point or another. The relaxed, party-like atmosphere of the backyard barbecue makes it easy to snack on chips and other unhealthy fares before moving on to burgers and hot dogs. Hosts can do guests a favor by replacing snacks and sides like chips and potato salad with healthier fare like celery, fruit salad or chickpea salad. Keep portions of grilled fare as close to a healthy size as possible. The AHA notes that a healthy portion of meat is around three ounces and no more than six ounces.

Create a salt-free rub

There’s no denying salt makes food more flavorful. But that flavor comes at a high cost. The health care experts Piedmont note that excessive amounts of salt can contribute to inflammation from fluid retention and increase a person’s risk for hypertension, or high blood pressure. Salt may be a go-to for many grilling enthusiasts, but it doesn’t have to be. A salt-free rub made with chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and/or other spices is an effective and salt-free way to add flavor to meat, chicken, and fish.

Grill more vegetables

Grilled vegetables, whether they’re part of kebabs or simply grilled alongside the main course, add significant flavor and provide all the health benefits of veggies cooked in more traditional ways. The AHA notes that coating vegetables in a healthy oil like olive oil makes it easy to grill them directly over an open flame without sticking. Cooking in this way imparts that signature smoky, grilled flavor to vegetables.

This summer, grilling can be as healthy as it is flavorful. All it takes is a few simple strategies to make the menu at your next backyard barbecue one any doctor would love.

Free Up Your Summer With Simple Time-Saving Tips

Summertime is all about enjoyment, whether that means taking a vacation, spending time on the beach or enjoying the company of family and friends at parties and on patios.

With so many fun things to do, who wants to stay cooped up indoors with housework and a to-do list? Make sure you’re able to take advantage of everything the season has to offer with these tips that can help you spend more time under the sun.

Avoid shopping on weekends. If you work a typical nine-to-five schedule, you probably do your grocery shopping and home renovation store visits on the weekend because it’s when you have more time on your hands. Since that’s true for most people, you’ll face longer trips and more crowded spaces. Try to carve out some time on a weekday evening, especially Monday or Tuesday, and you’ll free up precious weekend time and avoid long lines.

Simplify meal prep. Don’t sacrifice eating healthy, nutritious food when you’re pressed for time. Instead, look for low- or no-prep meal options like Mann’s Nourish Bowls at the grocery store. These ready-to-eat single-serve meals feature superfood veggies like sweet potato, kohlrabi and kale. Developed by chefs, the bowls are ready in just a couple of minutes in your microwave. Serve as a standalone meal or as a base with your favorite protein.

Clean as you go. When it comes to keeping your home clean and organized, it pays to do a little bit at a time rather than spend a whole day or weekend on chores. Wipe down your shower after each use to avoid the build-up of mold and mildew. Dust surfaces in your closet regularly to keep items and clothes clean longer, and wipe kitchen surfaces while cooking. Regular maintenance goes a long way towards keeping your home tidy and ready for spur-of-the-moment summer gatherings.

A Summer Dessert That Is Just Peachy

Peaches are a nutritious summertime favorite. Peaches are antioxidant-rich, include a wide range of vitamins and minerals, and are rich in fiber. And there is no denying how sweet and tasty peaches can be, whether they’re plucked right from a tree or enjoyed in any number of recipes.

Cobbler is a type of dessert that gained popularity in the United States during the 19th century. It is made by putting fruit in a deep baking dish and then topping it with a drop of biscuit batter and sometimes a crumb topping. Any number of fruits work well in cobblers, including apples, pears, and various berries. However, peach cobbler is the quintessential summertime treat.

Cobbler gets its name from the fact that early American settlers didn’t have strict recipes with exact measurements for ingredients, so they took what they had and “cobbled” them together.

Today’s cobbler bakers enjoy the benefits of having more direction when putting together their desserts. This recipe for “Southern Peach Cobbler” comes courtesy of Paula Deen.

Southern Peach Cobbler

Serves 15

11/2 cups self-rising flour

1 stick butter

1/2 cup water

2 cups sugar, divided

4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced

1 cup milk

Ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place it in the oven to melt.

Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir.

Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to the top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

How to Cut Costs on Your Summer Road Trip

The most memorable road trips are often the byproduct of ample planning. Careful examinations of maps months before a trip begins can help vacationers find the best sights to see and uncover must-visit restaurants. In fact, many people find pre-trip planning nearly as enjoyable as the trip itself.

Vacationers who planned road trips months ago likely did not think they would be forced to contend with extraordinarily high gas prices, but that’s precisely the position drivers find themselves in this summer. The average gas price in many parts of North America exceeded $5 U.S. dollars per gallon by early June, and economic forecasters predicted prices could climb even higher as June gives way to the summer travel season.

High gas prices likely won’t compel most vacationers to cancel their travel plans this summer. And those who are staying the course can rest easy knowing there are plenty of ways for them to cut costs and still enjoy a memorable summer road trip in the months ahead.

Book a vehicle maintenance appointment

Prior to heading for parts unknown, visit your local auto body shop and have your car or truck serviced. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that regular engine tune-ups to ensure a vehicle is running efficiently increases fuel economy by an average of 4 percent. Schedule an oil change and tune-up shortly before your departure date so your car won’t be forced to work extra hard, and thus consume extra fuel, during your trip.

Reconsider your ride

Vacationers with more than one car to choose from may want to reconsider which car they drive on their road trip this summer. For example, families with one SUV and one sedan may save money by driving the sedan instead of the SUV, which is likely less fuel-efficient than the smaller vehicle. In addition, consider the type of fuel each of your cars requires and let that inform your decision. For instance, certain vehicles require more expensive high-octane fuel. If you own a car that requires the more budget-friendly regular 87 octane fuel, take that one on the road with you this summer.

Look to save on lodging

Roadside motels have undergone something of a rebirth in recent years. Many motels have been given full makeovers but remain budget-friendly lodging options for road trippers. Motels won’t offer all the amenities of five-star hotels, but they’re affordable places for vacationers to lay their heads for a night before traveling on to the next adventure the following morning.

Take your foot off the gas

Another way to conserve fuel during a summer road trip is to resist the temptation to drive too fast. Avoiding excessive speeds isn’t just safer; it’s also more fuel-efficient. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy reports that fuel economy for a light-duty vehicle traveling at 80 miles per hour is about 27 percent lower than when traveling at 60 miles per hour.

Vacationers may be worried that high fuel costs will bust their budgets during road trips this summer. But there are various ways to cut costs and still enjoy memorable trips, even when fuel prices are especially high.

How to Conserve Energy While Keeping the AC On

Air conditioning is a welcome luxury come the dog days of summer. Few people can imagine getting through a hot summer afternoon without turning their AC on, which can make July and August some of the more costly months on the calendar regarding energy consumption.

Though the months of July and August may not seem well-suited to cutting energy consumption, there are ways to conserve that doesn’t require turning off the AC.

Reconsider the location of your thermostat

The Performance Building Institute, Inc. notes that thermostats are sensitive to heat. Thermostats located near heat-generating appliances like lamps, televisions, and computers may be fooled into thinking a home’s interior is warmer than it actually is. That will keep a temperature-controlled AC running longer and more frequently than is necessary. If necessary, move the thermostat to a part of the home where there are no electronics and appliances.

Emphasize maintenance of the AC unit

Even the most energy-efficient AC unit will be forced to work harder, and consume extra energy if it’s not well-maintained. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy notes that ENERGY STAR-certified HVAC equipment can yield annual energy savings of 10 to 30 percent. But such products must be maintained. Annual maintenance appointments with an HVAC technician can ensure the unit is clean and refrigerant levels are correct, helping it run as efficiently as possible.

Embrace natural ways to keep a home’s interior cool

Cranking the AC is not the only way to maintain a comfortable temperature inside a home during the months of July and August. Closing curtains on hot days keep the sun out and makes it easier to maintain comfortable temperatures inside without lowering the temperature on the thermostat. Avoiding the stove on hot nights and preparing cold meals or firing up the grill outside is another way to keep the house cool.

Address insulation issues

Cracks around windows and doors affect the temperature inside the home, making it colder in winter and warmer in the summertime. Seal cracks around doors and windows to keep the cool air in during the summer. Keeping that air in should allow you to raise the temperature on your thermostat without compromising comfort.

Come the dog days of summer, conserving energy needn’t come at the cost of comfort. Various strategies can help people reduce their energy consumption and keep their air conditioners on.

Scenic Campgrounds Across North America

Thousands of campsites litter the North American landscape, providing an opportunity for campers of all ages and interests to find a place to call home for a few days. Many campsites feature some spectacular scenery and other attractions that make them coveted spots to pitch a tent. Here’s a look at a few camping locations that boast incredible views.

• Bartlett Clove Campground, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska: This remote and stunning campground offers views of crystal blue glacial water with a thick forest that surrounds the shoreline. Visit in the summer when the days are long and warm.

• Hanakoa Campsite, Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii: The Napali Coast is recognized as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, and camping here can feel like you’re camping in paradise. Cliffs, waterfalls and streams make this location picturesque.

• Garden Key, Tortugas National Park, Florida: Tortugas National Park is a remote series of islands which are accessible after a two-hour ferry ride from Key West. It offers a tropical camping experience under mangrove trees, sitting on the edge of beautiful blue waters. Lighthouses and historic forts are adjacent, while one of the world’s largest barrier reef systems can be steps from your tent.

• Jedediah Smith Campground, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California: If you’re intrigued by the opportunity to camp beneath towering, ancient redwoods, look no further than this campground. Camp among the natural beauty with plenty of solitude and space. It’s possible to spot black bear, river otters, bobcats, and other indigenous animals while traversing 20 miles of hiking trails.

• Buttle Lake and Ralph River Campgrounds, Strathcona Park, Canada: Visitors can behold the view from Golden Hinde, the highest peak on Vancouver Island, which towers at 7,210 feet. Also worth checking out is Della Falls, the highest cascade in Canada, which requires a multi-day excursion by boat and foot. Soaring mountain peaks, waterfalls and rivers also are accessible within these campgrounds.

• Assateague Island, Maryland National Seashore: The scarcity of tree cover on the island offers nearly unblemished views of miles of ocean. Campers can enjoy herds of wild horses and the siren’s call of the beach and ocean. While open year-round, late summer and early fall are the most comfortable time for camping.

• Watchman Campground, Zion National Park, Utah: This campground is surrounded by rocky peaks, juniper woodlands and massive sandstone cliffs. Bike trails along the Virgin River and other hiking opportunities help set this campground apart. Breathtaking sunsets also attract thousands of visitors to this area of the country.

Camping is made even more special when visitors spend time at a stunning campsite with awe-inspiring views.

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.

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.

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.