Relaxation Day: 5 Ways to Relax Before School Starts

The first day of school is just around the corner. It’s a stressful time of year, but, luckily, August 15th is Relaxation Day and we’re using it as a reminder to loosen up before everything turns topsy-turvy with the new school year. Here are 5 ways to relax before school starts.

Dog

Image source: Chapple via Flickr

Take Time for Your Pet Having a dog or cat around to bond with has shown to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. In fact, at some university campuses, they’ve employed therapy dogs for students to visit when school becomes too stressful. At Harvard Medical School, you can even “check out” a dog just like you check out a book. If it works at Harvard, it may just work for you.

Exercise A good workout may not sound appealing, but aerobic exercise can actually help you relax. It lowers stress hormone levels and releases endorphins – the feel-good chemical. In addition to releasing endorphins, according to a study from Princeton University, exercise re-organizes the brain to shield it from stress. Take 30 minutes to jog down the street and you’re on your way to relaxation.

neck-massagerTouch There aren’t many people out there who would turn down a massage. In addition to feeling good physically, it can reduce anxiety, stress and aggression. Australian researchers examined the effects of daily massage on participants over seven weeks and tracked their anxiety and aggression levels. They found massage reduced stress and anxiety almost instantly. A daily massage may not be a reasonable activity, but the effects may warrant having a massage ball or neck massager handy at all times.

Play with Your Kids You only have a few weeks left to spend time with your kids, so playing with them is a no-brainer. What you might not know is studies show playing reduces stress. Researchers at Kansas State University found the more time mothers spent engaging with their children, the less overwhelmed they felt. You love being around them anyway, that they make you feel relaxed is an excellent bonus.

chocolate-cupcakeEat There are all sorts of soothing foods you can eat to relax. At the top of that list is dark chocolate. It contains Tryptophan which is an essential amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin which can help your sleep and improve your mood. Tryptophan is found in a variety of foods – honey, spinach, cheese, eggs, duck, to name a few. When you’re planning your next meal, make it a relaxing one and be sure dark chocolate is for dessert.

Anytime is a good time to relax, but sometimes we have to make a point of working it into our schedules. Make Relaxation Day your notice to slow down before things hit hyper-speed on the first day of school.

5 Summer Cocktail Ideas for Lounging on Hammock Day

hammock-1July 22nd is Hammock Day — which is perfect for the middle of July because all we want to do is lounge in a hammock and sip a cold cocktail. So we came up with a list of fun and easy cocktails to drink on Hammock Day.

CocktailsTea with a Kick

Peachy Hard Iced Tea 

  • 1/3 cup peach liqueur
  • ¼ cup TB spiced rum
  • 1/4 cup peach schnapps
  • 1/8 cup vodka
  • 1 cup sweet tea
  • Lemon wedges

Combine the first four ingredients and pour over two glasses of ice. Stir in tea. Squeeze in lemon to taste. Makes about 4 servings.

Citrus with Spice

Moscow Mule

  • ¾ cup vodka
  • Fresh lime juice from 1 lime
  • 3 cups ginger beer

Combine vodka and lime juice in a shaker with ice and shake it up. Pour over four glasses of ice and top with ginger beer and gently stir. Garnish with lime slices. Makes about 4 servings.

Cocktails-2

 

Berry with a Bang

Berry Shandy

  • 3/4 cup blackberries or raspberries, muddled
  • 4 bottles light beer (a lager like a pilsner is best)
  • 1 (12-oz.) container frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • 1 TB blackberry or raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup vodka

Stir together ingredients. Pour over ice. Garnish with lemon slices. Makes about 6 servings.

Melon with Marvel

Watermelon Sangria

  • 1 small watermelon, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 750ml bottle white wine (dry is best – a sauvignon blanc or a white Burgundy would be ideal)
  • ¾ cup vodka
  • ½ cup triple sec
  • ½ cup simple syrup

In a blender, puree watermelon into a juice and strain through a sieve or a cheese cloth to remove chunks. Combine the strained juice with remaining ingredients and refrigerate for two hours, stirring occasionally. Serve over ice. Makes about 7 servings.

You don’t have to have a cocktail to enjoy the day in a hammock, but if you have a hammock, this is a reminder to get out there and enjoy it while the weather is lovely.

Happy Hammock Day!

Who We Are Following

The Internet is exploding with new slants and twists to simplify and enhance our lives. We’re on Pinterest, Twitter and the blogosphere, watching for what’s trending, what’s useful and what we think you might like. Here’s our list of who we are following:

theidearoomAt  theidearoom.com, Amy, as a science teacher turned-DIYer-blogger-crafter, shares fun projects to inspire even the craftiest of people. She has tips on everything from dealing with a child’s temper tantrum to creating a DIY vertical flower bed. For June, our favorite was her 30 day photo challenge post. Inspiring indeed.

Every-MileEverymilesamemory.com chronicles Pat and Cindy Bonish’s travels in their RV. They’ve been on the road for the last two or so years, living, loving and taking pictures of all the places they’ve seen around this beautiful country of ours. Their story is inspiring and their pictures are enviable. Their latest adventure was to Cedar Key, Florida; check it out and you won’t be able to trade in your house keys for RV keys fast enough.

Pinterest

PinterestJen Simpson  pins and pinspires. Her boards vary – she throws a “pet-shaming” board in between her breakfast recipe and home improvement boards and you might even find a board dedicated solely to Valentine’s Day wallpaper. However unpredictable her pinning ideas are, the inspiration is always consistent.

Mandy Naranjo is full of tricks and tips to share and we’re so glad she shares them with us on Pinterest. She’s not short on ideas for what to do with a box full of buttons or what teens can do with their extra energy. DIY and crafts are what on Mandy’s mind and, you know, great minds think alike.

TwitterTwitter

@craftaholicanon If you have a DIY or craft question, @craftaholicanon will answer it. Really. Just tweet her – she’s standing by with a response or she’ll find someone who can give you the answer. In addition to answers, she also offers craft tutorials, creative ideas for the family and holidays.

@allthingsthrift tweets from every angle to keep things affordable whether you’re making holiday decorations yourself or you need a new blueberry recipe. Hair tutorials, DIY day bed pallet projects and a July 4th wreath are all on @allthingsthrift’s Twitter feed this month.

Pinners, tweeters and bloggers – there are a lot out there with great ideas; these are just a few we think are worth following.

Items We Adore: LTD Product Picks for the Week

Getting organized often seems like a daunting, as well as expensive, task. However, just a few quick changes can make your life more efficient, freeing up more time to relax with a pitcher of lemonade or iced tea. LTD’s Product Picks of the Week get you started without breaking your budget.

Slim-can-and-spice-racks

Get maximum kitchen storage in a minimum amount of space with the wooden Slim Can and Spice Rack.

Brick-or-siding-clips

Use these Brick or Siding Clips as an easy and simple way to decorate vinyl sided or brick walled homes.

2-pc-quilted-auto-organizer-sets

Keep everything a driver needs at hand with a 2-Pc. Quilted Auto Organizer Set.

set-of-2-silicone-counter-gap-covers

Prevent spills and dust collection in hard-to-reach places with a Set of 2 Silicone Counter Gap Covers.

Shatter-resistant-pitcher

The ergonomic design of the Shatter-Resistant Pitcher makes it easy for anyone to pour themselves a drink.

Fried Chicken Day: Best Places for Fried Chicken

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

July 6th is National Fried Chicken Day… Everyone has a different idea of how it should be done, but there isn’t a wrong way to do fried chicken. Here are some of the best places for fried chicken around the country.

Texas In Texas, Houston’s Barbecue Inn takes the top spot for fried chicken. It’s been in business for almost 70 years and everything is old-school – it’s the type of place where kale is used as a garnish, not in a salad and the only other green you might find on your plate is a side of creamy cole slaw. But you’re not going for the vegetables, you’re going for the fried-to-order chicken that is worth the wait.

Florida Jumbo’s Restaurant in Miami serves up crispy fried chicken every minute of every day. The food is consistent and it should be – just about everyone who works there has been there for decades with an extensive menu to match; you don’t have to stop with the fried food (conch and shrimp are also favorites), you can get everything from a chicken liver omelette to sweet and tasty fried plantains.

fried-chicken

Image Source: Robyn Lee via Flickr

Pennsylvania Good ‘n’ Plenty in Smoketown not only gives you home-style fried chicken, they also serve it to you home-style – which means you might be seated next to a stranger, sharing a pitcher of iced tea, eating all you want for one price. But if you want to try the fried chicken, you have to keep up with their menu – it’s on a weekly rotation.

Ohio At Mya’s Fried Chicken in Columbus they keep it simple; they have to because they’re working out of a truck – and only on the weekend. Chicken, biscuits and a few sides are what’s on the menu, but do you really need more? Not in Ohio.

Fried-Chicken

Image Source: Maigochan via Flickr

California In Los Angeles, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is a classic spot to get breakfast any time. They serve just about every part of the chicken next to waffles, biscuits or potatoes smothered in gravy. But if you’re craving chicken and waffles while you’re in LA, be prepared to wait; the lines there are legendary.

Wherever you are on July 6th, there’s bound to be a great fried chicken place near you. Do yourself a favor and order a few drumsticks for the occasion; you won’t regret it.

Pinteresting Picks for June

It’s the last day of June and summer is in full-swing — we can tell just by looking at our Pinterest boards. We looked at our most pinned products — they’re all very different, but there’s definitely a summer theme to the selections. Here is our list of Pinteresting Picks for June.

Splish-Splash

Your kids will jump at the chance to make waves in this Banzai Splish Splash Pool. Overflowing with nearly 8 feet of fun, this inflatable water playground gives toddlers a cool retreat from the heat. Six activity stations include a rainbow canopy, whale slide, water-spraying starfish stacker, baby dolphin rider, clamshell sprinkler and water-spraying pool rim. Simply attach to your garden hose and let the fun begin.

 

Gnome-Tree

Solar Gnome Tree House will put a smile on the face of everyone who sees it. This whimsical garden accent features windows that light up using the power of the sun. Turns on automatically at dusk.

 

Smores-Grill-Rack

Prepare everyone’s favorite campfire treat on the grill with this S’mores Grill Rack. The stainless steel platform holds graham crackers and chocolate on top, while the sides can hold marshmallows on two of the four included skewers.

 

Body-Pillows

A 52″ Bright Body Pillow is a fun and comfortable addition to your bedroom. Cradle it for extra support while sleeping on your side. Lean back onto it when reading or watching TV. Works as a decorative pillow for your bed as well.

 

 

 

 

 

History of Cinco de Mayo

mexican-blanketWhen we hear the words “Cinco de Mayo” thoughts immediately go to tequila, tacos and mariachi bands, but the history behind the holiday has little to do with margaritas and mole.

Background

Popular belief is Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May) is Mexican Independence Day; it is not. Cinco de Mayo is the day in 1862 when Mexican forces overpowered the French Army in the Battle of Puebla. Mexico actually gained independence from Spain in 1821, but had internal struggles for several decades and accrued debt to Spain, France and England in its efforts to repair its economy.

Marching Orders

According to mexicoonline.com, France had ambitions grander than reclaiming money from Mexico. France wanted to take over the country and expand its empire, starting with Mexico City. The plan was for 6,500 French soldiers to march from the Gulf of Mexico toward Mexico City for the takeover.

Puebla

The French legion was met by Mexico’s army in the town of Puebla on May 5th. With only 4,500 soldiers led by General Ignacio Zar

agoza, Mexico was the underdog against the French army. Against all odds, the Mexican soldiers defeated the French army and thwarted the invasion of Mexico City. It was a cause for celebration for the Mexicans and, allegedly, word spread to Mexican workers all the way up the coast of California. In the United States and in Mexico, Mexicans raised a glass for the pride of Mexico.

While the battle was won by the Mexicans, the war wasn’t. France returned to Mexico with 30,000 soldiers and took over Mexico City within the year. Finally, in 1867, Mexico took back control of Mexico City and restoration of the country began again.

Today

Today, Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. National Geographic reports the holiday didn’t start gaining popularity in the United States until the 1950s and ‘60s through efforts by the US to connect with Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and the Chicano movement to strengthen Mexican pride. Though the only big Cinco de Mayo celebration is held in Puebla, people all over the world celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

margarita-mexican-foodLittle Known Fact:

While Americans toast to Mexican Pride on Cinco de Mayo with a generously poured glass of margarita, the history of the drink isn’t quite as long as the holiday we celebrate it with.

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, there are a couple of claims to the cup that runneth over with tequila. In 1938, the owner of Rancho la Gloria near Tijuana, contends he concocted the drink for a regular at his restaurant – an actress who was allergic to all alcohol except tequila, but couldn’t stomach the elixir by itself. The proprietor says he mixed the tequila with lime juice, triple sec and salt to make what we now know as the margarita.

Another story is a Dallas socialite named Margarita Sames came up with the combination as the signature cocktail for her vacation home in Acapulco around 1948. Legend has it one of her guests, Tommy Hilton, liked it so much he put it on the bar menu at his hotels.

No matter how you mix it, the margarita is the signature cocktail for Cinco de Mayo.

Items We Adore: LTD’s Product Picks for the Week

It’s the first weekend in May and we are so excited to enjoy the weather and two days away from the office. Here are our product picks for the week we think will inspire fun and productive weekend activities.

muffin-cooker

Make a breakfast favorite quickly, easily and healthier with an egg muffin cooker. Use this set of 2 microwave cookers to cook a perfectly round egg to fit an English muffin. Just beat 1 or 2 eggs right inside the cooker, then add all the extra ingredients you love. The eggs cook in 1 minute! Plus, you avoid the grease and fatty butter or margarine that comes with pan frying.

bottle-lantern

Handpainted bottle lantern changes colors as it lends ambiance to your yard. Solar-powered lantern requires no cords or wires, so you can hang it anywhere. The light continuously cycles through colors from shades of red to green to blue. Automatically turns on at dusk. On/off button.

table-covers

A Textured Custom-Fit Table Cover brings a fresh new look to a worn or damaged surface. Use it every day or put it on for those special occasions. The textured design and secure fit make it a more stylish option than tablecloths. It’s an environmentally sound choice too, as no inks, dyes or chemical finishes were used in its making. Fade-resistant cover is great for indoor or outdoor use, and it easily wipes clean.

garden-friends

Add a touch of playfulness to your yard with this Set of 5 Decorative Garden Friends. Place these statues together or scatter them around. You can even put them in outdoor planters. Each is decorated with colorful flowers and leaves.

pet-playpen

Soft-Sided Pet Playpen gives dogs ample room to play or nap as they stay safely contained. Portable and lightweight, this 8-sided pen has mesh panels for maximum comfort and ventilation. Easy to set up–just set it upright and unfold. The roof provides shade and security and zips off to give you access to your pet. 2 Double-zippered doors can be left open or closed with fabric-magic tabs. Removable floor panel is secured with fabric-magic and lifts out for cleaning. Playpen also features 2 side pockets to keep toys and snacks handy, an additional mesh side pocket, water dispenser hole and holder, water-resistant outer cover and interior floor, and stake straps to secure the playpen to the ground.

Pinteresting Picks for April

It’s the end of April and it seems as if the spring cleaning will never end. We’re always looking for new ways to refresh our homes and so are our Pinterest followers. Here’s a list of our most pinned products for the month — our Pinteresting Picks for April.

This 4-tiered, wall-mounted Spice Rack is an economical space-saver that every kitchen needs. Metal rack fits in any decor and it's easy to mount with the included hardware. The 4 levels of storage let you keep all your spices in one place, along with other small bottles or containers. 19-5/8" x 15-1/4" x 2-1/8".

We’ll take more kitchen space anywhere we can get it — this wall-mounted Spice Rack can store small bottles and containers taking up valuable real estate in your kitchen cabinet. It makes the kitchen more organized and cooking easier with the spices so accessible.

Memory-shadow-box

You keep every ticket stub to every concert, play and movie. What do you do with them all? Put them on display on a wall or table with the Ticket Memento Storage Box! It’s a decorative way for ticket collectors to remember all of their favorite evenings. The wooden box has an acrylic window so you can see the tickets and a slot on top allows you to easily slip them inside.

Easy-change-artwork-frames2

Dress up your child’s artwork with a frame and hang it on the wall with Easy Change Artwork Frames. These frames are specially sized to hold the standard sizes of artwork created at school or home. Each frame holds up to 50 works and can be hung vertically or horizontally.

This Hair Station Organizer keeps all of your styling appliances together in a compact, space-saving piece. There are 3 front compartments to hold a hair dryer, curling iron, straightener or other items. The metal organizer can be set on a counter or vanity or tucked away in a cabinet, and the back hook can be used to wrap appliance cords when not in use. Or you can use the back hook to hang the organizer from a towel rack. The unit comes with hanging hardware so you can also hang it on a wall. 10" x 9-1/8" x 6-1/4".

Save yourself space and time in the bathroom with the Hair Station Organizer. It  keeps all of your styling appliances together in a compact, space-saving piece. There are 3 front compartments to hold a hair dryer, curling iron, straightener or other items. The metal organizer can be set on a counter or vanity or tucked away in a cabinet, and the back hook can be used to wrap appliance cords when it’s not being used.

Taking Care of Your Kitchen: 5 things you need to know to keep your food safe

Cooking is fun to do at home, but there are a lot of risks that come with preparing food. Microorganisms grow quickly in food and can make people sick, but you can prevent them from becoming a problem in your kitchen. Here are 5 things you need to remember to keep your food safe.

Acidity

Microorganisms grow very quickly in foods that don’t contain much acid. Items like egg salad or tuna salad contain very little acid so, left in the wrong conditions, they can spoil very quickly. By adding acid like lemon juice or vinegar to low-acid foods, you can reduce the risk of microorganisms spreading.

Temperature

Microorganisms develop fastest when food temperature is between 40°F and 140°F. This range is considered the temperature danger zone. Refrigerators are typically set at less than 40°F and most food is cooked to a temperature higher than 140°F. Your biggest concerns would be for food left out at room temperature (about 60°F to 90°F). Tip: keep the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold.

Time

Microorganisms require time to flourish. When food is left in the temperature danger zone, it grows quickly – multiplying every minute it’s left out. After four hours, microorganisms can grow to levels high enough to make someone sick.

Oxygen

Most microorganisms need oxygen to grow. Keeping food sealed in plastic and glass containers helps keep oxygen out and prevent bacteria from growing.

refrigerator-interiorMoisture

Microorganisms need water to grow. Many microorganisms die in dry conditions, so spoilage can be controlled by dehydration.

Foods most likely to spoil:

  • Milk and dairy products
  • Sprouts
  • Cooked rice, beans and vegetables
  • Baked potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Soy products
  • Sliced melons and cut tomatoes

There are also some foods that won’t spoil easily. Food like bread can be left out at room temperature because it contains little acid, but it contains moisture so it will spoil eventually. Cookies and crackers don’t have much acid in them and contain little moisture, so they can be left out at room temperature for extended periods without spoiling. Most fruit have acid in them so they can be left at room temperature for a period as well, but both bread and fruit won’t spoil as quickly if they are refrigerated.

Food is fickle. While you can manage all of the factors that cause food to spoil, the only two things you can control are time and temperature. So if something is sitting on the counter and you didn’t put it there remember one thing:  when in doubt, throw it out.